Suffer the little children
Jesus, of course, was conceived out of wedlock, but when one considers the sacrifices made by Mary and Joseph to ensure that he was properly nurtured, one is struck by the undeniable reality that the rearing of children in this day and age is largely devoid of the notion of sacrifice.
There is a culture of the ‘self’ which derives from the obsession with ‘rights’, and thus the interests of the child may no longer adversely affect the careers or ambitions of parents. Of course, in many families both parents work out of economic necessity, but this is by no means a universal truth. Cranmer can’t hear Joseph talking about his ‘work-life balance’, of see Mary trying to find ‘quality time’ with Jesus, and the fact that such jargon has arisen when talking of the most crucial building block of society shows how far we have drifted.
As sure as night follows day, what is being sown today will be reaped tomorrow. When the emotional and educational input of parents is supplanted by the internet, television and computer games, it is the child’s spirit that suffers. Children who are neglected by their parents today will be the deprived, addicted, destitute and criminal of tomorrow. And it is no more their fault than it is the fault of the thousands of babies who are born with HIV to drug-addicted mothers. They are the innocent, corrupted by the sins of their parents.
The only remedy is to instil them with hope, and there is no better time of the year to find this anew, or discover it afresh, as we consider the greatest gift to mankind . As we move towards celebrating the birth of the Saviour, let us reflect on the wonder of God becoming man; omnipotence and omniscience condescending to a crib in Bethlehem, in order that man might be redeemed, and all the vulnerable and needy children of the world might know that they are loved, watched over, cared for by the one who was himself born in a lowly shed, the son of a humble tradesman, and whisked from pillar to post himself fleeing persecution and death.
Donne encapsulated the Christmas mystery when he wrote: ‘Twas much that we were made like God, long before, but that God should be made like us - much more.’ And the question we must ask is do we still have the capacity to be surprised, enthralled, awed by this wonderful story? Do we still have the capacity to see it through the eyes of a child?
Though Christ a thousand times in Bethlehem be born,
If he's not born in you, your heart is still forlorn.