A child from our orphanage in Bethlehem celebrates Christmas. (photo: P.W.P.D.)
A young boy from the Franciscan Orphanage in Jerusalem, who believes that God is good, in spite of all the surrounding pain and strife. (photo: P.W.P.D.)
Altar boys form part of the Christmas Eve procession in Bethlehem. (photo: P.W.P.D.)
In Greece, two little sisters enjoy Christmas morning. (photo: P.W.P.D.)
The Nativity scene comes alive for some other Near Eastern children. (photo: P.W.P.D.)
Christmas is for children.
How often have we thought that as weve watched little children on Christmas morning. How many times have we commented that their trust and belief is refreshing, disarming, and touching, while secretly finding their attitude silly, naive, and something to be outgrown in a years time.
Only a child would believe that a fat old man in a red velvet suit could easily slide down a narrow chimney. And who else could accept, without question or doubt, that a team of reindeer can leap through the wintry sky, and park on an impossibly slanted roof?
Think, too, about. how a child knows that his requests have been answered, before he even opens the packages under the tree; and how, when his prayers arent answered, he believes that what he had wanted would not have been good for him, anyhow.
Its amazing how a child can accept such unlikely things; incomprehensible to logical adults how he can ignore the obvious facts and contradictory evidence.
But when you really think about it, dont the actions and attitudes of children at this one time of the year tell us about faith more eloquently than any number of words ever could? Accepting incredible happenings; ignoring certain facts; believing that if we ask, we shall receive, and that if we dont receive, He knew what was best for us, after all isnt that what Christianity is all about?
Christ himself always remained childlike never questioning or doubting the Father, always trusting and accepting His will. And far from condescending to be with children, He actually treasured their company, and set them up as models for all Christians to imitate:
Let the little children come to me, and forbid them not, for such is the kingdom of God.
It was to children that He gave the power to look into a tiny manger, cluttered with roughly-carved figurines, and see through the centuries and past the crudeness of the display, to the real Nativity scene in Bethlehem. To them, also, He gave the task of showing their elders how to find the true meaning and spirit of Christmas.
And so, this Christmas, as we watch children, we should learn a lesson from these wise teachers. It will be easier for us to believe those things which no evidence can prove, if we imitate the ones whose faith comes without any difficulty.
To grasp the mystery of Christmas, then, we must become like little children.
After all, Christmas is for children whatever age they may be.
F.C. Edward is a student of Oriental Ecclesiology who travels frequently in the Middle East.