Christmas is the season of recalling Emmanuel, God in human flesh, come as a newborn baby to grow into a man who would offer the perfect sacrifice of himself to redeem us from our sins. It’s a sacred season, a season to remember Jesus.
At a time when children were largely ignored or regarded as material assets to dispose of at will by Roman fathers, Jesus came adoring children, welcoming them, and giving their youthful faith and exuberance as the example of those who inhabit the kingdom of heaven. Even giving a drink of water to one of these little ones merits a reward for the giver, according to Jesus.
Jesus carried forward into the Gentile world in which the church would be born the Jewish Old Testament ideal of families built upon trust in the Lord and children as a treasured inheritance, not a liability. Psalm 127 gives us a family model that first Jesus and then Paul fleshed out as the church took root in the wider Gentile world. Their words continue to transform the world today.
Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves. Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.
When the quiver is full of children, the house is often in a state of chaos, even among the most orderly of families. A bout of the stomach flu can sweep through the family, derailing an entire month. A simple trip to the grocery store with babies and toddlers in tow can result in a migraine. A trip across country requires as much planning and laying in of provisions and supplies as an African safari. Nothing is simple.
If you are a parent raising a family, I’m writing to you today.
Let me tell you a secret: These are the best days of your lives.
The years of raising our six children flew by. As we were nurturing, teaching, and driving them hither, thither, and yon, those days were filled to the brim. We passed one another like ships in the night, heading in opposite directions with our kid cargo, big ones and littles.
Those days, it turns out, were the good old days. Those were the heydays of our lives, the years we look back upon now with fondness, gratitude, and nostalgia. Did we stop to notice the details?
The soft curve of cheek. The sweet young voices with which they spoke. The masterful artwork they produced. The perfection of their singing and playing. The composition of their dreams. The things that made them cry. The actions that filled them with confidence. The fears that haunted them. The misunderstandings that occurred. The things that were important to them.
Did we notice? As often happens with harried family raising, we missed things, all important. Our recollections have missing and forgotten details. Our recall is not perfect.
Could we go back in time, we’d etch everything in stone. We thought we’d never forget the tiny details, so momentous were they. But we were crunched by the ticking clock, collapsing into bed weary and worn and satisfied, uninitiated in what the future held for us. It brought their adulthood. Of course we knew this in theory, but not in practice.
Now they are grown, and we are all scattered across the country. Time truly flies when you’re having fun, joy, heartache, blessing, hurt, accomplishment, defeat, victory, and trial. It blows through like a storm, and then the children are gone.
My words to you are to walk in Jesus steps. Hold the children. Rock them. Slow down and notice. Thank God for every single day, even the tragic ones, for you are privileged to serve your children with the type of care you won’t be able to offer later. Now you can hold them when they’re sick, rock them when they need comforted, sit with them in the ER, wait upon them in the hospital – intimate care you are privileged to offer.
They will spend decades as your precious adult friends, supporters, encouragers, and forever beloved children. But their childhood and adolescence is brief in comparison. Slow down and notice. Emmanuel, God with us, brought our heavenly Father near. Take the time to be near to your children, during this season and always.
Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:13-14).