Scary children and barn animals

Published 10:12 am Monday, December 23, 2013

I used to be terrified of children. Like, it was a truly legitimate fear. I didn’t know what to do around kids. What to say. They were so small and unpredictable.

For instance, the first time I helped lead a children’s message, the senior pastor at the church introduced me as one of the new pastors. She told the kids that I lived in the house across the street from the church. It was at this point that one of the children raised his hand and asked, “Is that the one with the ‘Do Not Trespass’ sign?” How do you respond to that?

Because of this, for years I did whatever I could to stay away from kids. I would do the children’s messages during church and other child-related responsibilities that went along with being a pastor. But other than that, I kept a safe distance.

Fortunately, after I got married, I realized that I was being a fool (something my wife has helped me to realize on several occasions). As a person who worked with kids on a daily basis, she helped me to see the unpredictability of children not as something to fear, but as something exciting.

As adults, we get so focused on what is right, or cool, or smart. But kids don’t have that filter.  They do what they want, say what they want, simply because they are curious, because they are just trying to enjoy life.

It must be for reasons like this that Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Luke 18:17). What Jesus is pointing out is that children have this amazing ability to embrace what is given to them without question (not always, of course – as evidenced by my lifelong refusal to eat split-pea baby food – but most of the time).

This is why, these days, I love being around kids at Christmas. My wife and I have twin nephews, and I can clearly remember the first year they opened gifts. They had tons of boxes in front of them, but after they opened the first one, they didn’t care about the other gifts. They were happy with what was right in front of them. They embraced it as the most amazing thing in the world. They had no concept of what it should have been, no awareness of what other kids had gotten. They just loved it for what it was.

This is the same reason I’m so excited to see the kids of our church, Courtland United Methodist Church, perform our Live Nativity before our 5 p.m. Christmas Eve service in just a few days. They don’t fully understand the history and theology behind the birth of Christ. They don’t entirely realize how goofy some of the costumes they’re wearing look. They just know that they’re celebrating the birth of Jesus. They love Him because they know that He loves them. And, in the end, that’s all that really matters.

How amazing it would be to feel like that again. How wonderful to be satisfied at Christmas by simply celebrating the love of Jesus. To love him simply because He loves us?

Maybe it’s not too late to do that? Maybe there is something we can learn from the children? Maybe there is a way to feel such simple satisfaction this Christmas?

What if we decided that we weren’t going to put our satisfaction in gifts, but instead in Jesus?  What if we told our family that we only wanted one gift, and choose to be satisfied, no matter what it is? Or what if we asked for nothing, and instead encouraged those we love to give to people who truly need it? What if, this year, we chose to simply make Christmas about Jesus?  What if His love was enough for us, all that really mattered?

When I look at kids, I realize that the only reason they want things for Christmas is because, over time, we teach them to want them. I’m not saying that’s entirely a bad thing. I, for one, love the looks on the faces of children who receive gifts they love. I’m just saying that before we taught this to them, they were happy with simplicity, which means that we all have this capacity. We’re all able to be satisfied with simple things – like spending time with family, receiving the occasional gift, decorating the house, listening to music, celebrating the birth of Jesus (which, though simple, is so amazing, I hesitate to call it such). We can all be happy with simplicity; we simply have to make simple changes and important decisions that allow us to do it.

So even though there are only a few days until Christmas, may you choose simplicity. May you enjoy and learn from the children around you, being inspired by their simple happiness. And may you celebrate the simplest and most amazing thing of all this Christmas: the love of Jesus that bring hope, peace, and light into a world that so desperately needs them.

Brandon Robbins is the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. He can be contacted at 653-2240 or