The Child You Were – and the Child You Still Are

Eleanor Lewin, parishioner of St Mary’s and Diocesan President of MU introduced Jesus the Child We Worship to the parishioners of St Mary’s Busselton on Sunday October 19.

She encouraged her fellow-parishioners to use the book during Advent, describing it as a ‘beautiful book’ that will take us into the mind of children to help us walk through darkness to light.

Here are some extracts from Eleanor’s remarks:

Have your Bible alongside you and read the passages before reading the meditation.

Gateway to St Marys_smlEach day through the meditations you will find a paragraph entitled ‘Let us Play’. Stop at each ‘Let us Play’, read carefully what is suggested and if you wish carry out the suggested activity – you will be surprised at how often you find yourself taking part in the ‘play’ or you may simply sit quietly and reflect on what you have just read – the choice is yours.

Throughout these meditations and as we continue to read the passages of scripture Ted constantly takes us into the life of a child and children enlightening us to their thoughts and reasons for their actions – so simply explained and in so many examples so very enlightening – this is all part of our Advent Journey.

Ted encourages us to ‘think as a child’ – for us as parents and now as grandparents this is a challenge – but the walk of life often through darkness into light is a daily challenge, however, we are also to remember we are God’s children, God’s heirs, and there is nothing that can separate us from God’s love.

As we progress on our journey of meditations we are reminded from our reading from Isaiah that ‘the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined and we read of the prophecy: For a child has been born to us, A son has been given to us, He shoulders responsibility and is called……Prince of Peace, He will rule on David’s throne and over David’s kingdom.

Ted reminds us so much is invested in a child, and with great confidence. All children are a promise of the future, but this child in particular is a focus for all God’s goodness and love.

As we continue our journey Ted pays humble homage to Archbishop Desmond Tutu referring to his human warmth and strength and as someone who had gained ‘a beautiful maturity in Christ’.   When I read this I found it to be awesome only to be more impressed as I continued to read. Ted went on to say there are also children who put their own desires to one side, and who, for the sake of Christ, pour out their lives in generous service of others. Because they are little people, these saints are easily overlooked, but once recognised, like Archbishop Tutu, these children are inspiring.

Returning to the ‘Let us Play’ Ted suggests playing on YouTube songs from our youth, I would recommend you do this, I played Elvis singing ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ which was released in 1956 the same year George Beverly Shea launched ‘How Great Thou Art’ which he sang before Billy Graham’s Crusades for more than 60 years. And yes, my feet were dancing to ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ and yes, I sang my favourite hymn ‘How Great Thou Art’.   I never got to see Elvis perform live, but I did hear George Beverly Shea sing at the Billy Graham Crusade at the Claremont Showgrounds in 1959.

There are many ‘Let us Play’ suggestions throughout the meditations, as you progress with your readings you will find yourself wondering what the ‘exercise today will be’….could this be the excited anticipation of the child within? We will be listening to Mozart and Bach on YouTube, wrestling with play dough, going to the local park with a child, writing a short poem or simply recording our daily thoughts in a notebook.

As we now approach the final days before Christmas Ted reminds us we recognise again the Christ-child as we remember his birth, the bright gift of God’s love. We are reminded God spectacularly shows his love for us by sending his Son who was born a childthe Christ-child we have been seeking.

A couple of weeks ago on a very wet cold Sunday afternoon I was home alone and so watched an old favourite movie ‘The Inn of the Sixth Happiness’. Gladys Aylward the English parlour maid saved and paid her own way to China to become a missionary to children. When she eventually set off to the outpost where she was to assist an elderly English missionary lady. How did she get there? On a donkey.

man on donkeyOf course it was a donkey, much safer and sure-footed than a horse. Imagine if she had found herself trying to get on a horse; she had enough trouble getting on the donkey.   Remember it was a donkey that Joseph led the heavily pregnant Mary on into Bethlehem; once again imagine how difficult it would have been on a horse.   And when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, he was on a donkey. Another aspect to consider is that sitting on a donkey the person is literally at the same height as those walking alongside and so making eye contact and greeting people would have been very important.   When you go to fair grounds, it is not horses that children pay to have rides on but ….donkeys. Have you been to Clovelly in Devon?   The only way you can get from the top of the steep hill to the village below is to walk or have the sure-footed donkeys assist you.

In all of these instances the donkey was carrying very precious cargo: a missionary going to teach children, Mary about to give birth to the greatest child of all, Jesus riding into Jerusalem, children having rides, food and goods for children in Clovelly. As you explore Ted’s meditations on Wednesday 17 December you will come to the passage about donkeys … what will you think of here? …perhaps you might draw a donkey with a child sitting on it.

The Christ-child grew up and loved us, and gave himself for us as a fragrant offering to God, a new kind of sacrifice He invites us to imitate him – we may do this by our kindness to one another, by our tender-heartedness, but our willingness to forgive.

In this Advent time, a circle is complete.   The beloved Child has offered his life as a sacrifice, a fragrant aroma, for us.   We are beloved children too, as we imitate his self-giving.

***

There are 2 very powerful ‘Let us Play’ examples I would like you to all take part in now:

  1. Hold your left hand palm upward in front of you and lay your right hand, also palm upward, across your left hand in a cross, as you might do to receive the bread of communion. Watch your hands as you gradually make a cradle. Remember the times the bread has been placed in those hands, and be silent as you remember the wonderful ways God works through you and your hands.
  1. Bring your hands together with palms facing and wrap the fingers and thumb of each hand around the other. Remember the ways you have been embraced by your mother, or whoever cared for you as a baby. Hold onto that love. If you don’t remember being loved and held, hold that sadness in your two hands and remember God’s embrace of you and hold your hands together for some moments in a comfortable tightness.

Ted’s closing words in this beautiful book are:

Franciscans keep together humility and joy, poverty and celebration. This impossible juxtaposition of grit and glory is Christmas!

I hope in reading this book of meditations you will re-discover the ‘child you were’ and indeed perhaps the ‘child you still are’.

Triad banner St Francis Ted

Photo: Sally Buckley

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All God’s Children

Friends have today drawn my attention to an article about the lack of balance in reporting the Israeli/Palestine conflict. Children on the Israeli side, it said, were also traumatised by the rockets landing on Ashkelon and on kibbutzim near Gaza.

Followers of the Palestinian Jew Jesus should be blind to “sides”. God sees no Israeli “side”, nor does he see a Palestinian “side”. There is only the “side of humanity”. Children are traumatised, and it matters not where they live. We weep for each child. No child should see the devastation a rocket or a bomb brings; broken bodies, homes destroyed, adults fearful. If young Daniel or Mohammed, or little Fatima or Eva is killed in an explosion, parents will experience almost unbearable grief, and struggle with anger against those who lit the fuse – the “side” they are on is equally meaningless.

I take “sides” against those who divide up humanity. I am on the side of children who curl up in fear. I am on the side of those children who look for their parents and cannot find them. I am on the side of those parents who carry their child’s broken body to be buried today.

I pray for the grace to continue to weep for the children of Israel/Palestine.

Children in Ashkelon crying in fear after a rocket lands near their home.