Beliefnet
Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

Some would say religion is child's play. I agree: true religion is.

Some would say religion is child’s play. I agree: true religion is. Schleiermacher said it better though.

Yesterday I visited my daughter’s kindergarten class to present our family’s “holiday traditions” at this time of year.

A small circle of 14 eager five and six-year-olds sat cross-legged on the floor as my daughter Sam and I, on stools, unearthed the various Christmas surprises we had brought to share. They watched as Sam set up our family’s nativity set, a gift from one of my dad’s many trips to Africa that now sits on our mantle every year, its hand-carved figurines in their rosewood garb garlanded by mistletoe and Christmas lights.

“Why are there sheep?,” one child asked.

“Why are there camels?”

“Who are the men with the crowns?,” another wanted to know. (These were the wise men, I explained.)

And as is often the case, there was one very enthusiastic kid in the bunch who always raised her hand and had a wrong answer for every question I asked …

… And then there was the kid who always had the right answer.

I was impressed — not just by all of the right answers from this one little boy, Milo, the budding theologian in our midst, but by the unaffected and unselfconscious enthusiasm with which each of these kids entered in to the motley scene before us, its little wooden people and animals all gathered around an even tinier, rough-hewn shape in the middle of the clearing in front of us.

And a little child shall lead them were the words that flashed through my mind from the book of Isaiah, a reading from the day before in a special church service of “Lessons and Carols.”

Those kids sat with rapt attention as I told the Christmas story again — in a way that would probably have made Eugene Peterson’s The Message sound like the King James Bible …

We were drawing near the end of our time together with a last call for questions.

The hands quickly shot up, each paired with an angelic face looking plaintively back in an expression that could only be taken to mean, “Pick me, please.”

How could I resist?

“I’m getting a Star Wars advent calendar for my birthday!,” said Mick, one of the especially talkative participants in the bunch.

“What are the names of the wise men?,” Emilia, a heart-shape-faced little girl with full cheeks asked. (Earlier I had shared how these wise men from the East had followed the star until it led them to the baby Jesus.) I couldn’t remember all three names, but thankfully the teacher did.

Last question?

Milo’s hand was still up, clamoring for another right answer.

“Yes, Milo?”

“And you know what?,” Milo said, his eyes getting big. “God is actually the star.”

“Uh huh,” I said peremptorily, glancing up at the teacher. She and I exchanged a quick knowing look: the dubiousness of this last statement signified it was time to wrap up …

A few minutes later, after collecting my props and saying a quick goodbye, I was walking out to my car thinking how kids say the funniest, most peculiar things some times.

God is actually the star, I thought. What would’ve possessed him to say that?, I wondered …

But then it dawned on me …

Wasn’t Jesus the “star of David” Scripture had longed for and prophesied — the Anointed One, the Messiah? Wasn’t He the same One of whom the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he pointed to a day when “the Lord” would be “an everlasting light”? Of that light, Isaiah said “nations would come to it” and “kings to the brightness of [its] rising” (Isaiah 60:1-5.). This same Light and Life of the world would one day rule over all the earth, and one sign of this God’s rule would be this: “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them” (Isaiah 11:6).

So Milo had been right again: God is the star of the Christmas story — in so many more ways than one, albeit with the sort of cross-shaped celebrity that the great majority of us sinners and saints would never wish upon ourselves.

In a season when today’s Herods and Caesars clamor for our attention, money and votes …

God is actually the Star.

And when at the so-called center of life our own pursuits and plans and busy forms of self-justification claim prime importance …

God is actually the Star.

In a time when everywhere I turn, senseless warfare between peoples and the turbulence of the human heart declare only a manifesto of despair …

God is actually the Star.

And yesterday a little child led me there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus