Amy Jones,
Agape Coordinator
Dear God, we come to worship you today. 
We come to pray, and listen.
You always hear us. 
Help us to hear you. Amen
Scripture
Matthew 18:1-5

1At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2He called a child, whom he put among them, 3and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
Devotional
This month many people in my township gave toys and games to organizations that provide Christmas presents to children in difficult circumstances. I saw the photos all over Facebook of pick-up trucks filled with toys, toy drop-off bins overflowing, masked and socially distanced men and women making toy deliveries to thankful families. This was a beautiful demonstration of generosity and concern, particularly this year when so many families have seen a reduction in their monthly income. 

Christmastime, in particular, seems to drive our desire to provide as much joy for children as possible. I think this must be fueled in part by the legend of Santa Claus that looms large in the Christmas narratives of pop culture. We want every child to know that they are “nice” and that there is an unseen, unknown entity that sees them and loves them in tangible ways. 

Food insecurity among children is up 81% in Union County according to a webinar on hunger in Union County presented this past November. This is pretty alarming when we consider that most adults will go hungry themselves before their children experience hunger. For children to not have enough food means that the whole family has not had enough food for some time. Food bank leaders explained that the situation was even worse for children whose parents did not have a car. Many food pantries have provided curbside pick-up out of concern for COVID safety. If you don’t have a car, it is much harder to have access to these food pantries. 

Jesus raises up children as the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and most Bible commentaries will tell you that this is because children were regarded as inferior and without status or rights in the ancient world. The statement of this fact presumes that the situation is much different today. While it is true that children, as an idea, are regarded as a vulnerable class of people deserving protection in our society, an 81% increase in food insecurity among children in our community doesn’t communicate such an elevated social status in the actual experience of childhood.

Jesus says we must become children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, but how do we become little children? This is the paradox of Jesus’s enigmatic statement. None of us can turn back the clock to become children again. I also don’t think Jesus wants us to become dependent or vulnerable people. I’ve often wondered what it would have to be demoted in value in order to elevate the status of the most vulnerable people among us so that they have everything they need to be safe and cared for. What would we need to be more humble about in order for every child to have dinner tonight?

Christmas is a twelve-day celebration of the infant savior entering the world, enlightening all to the love of God. The Christ-child entered the world without a bed or a home. In the 2000+ years since then, have we humbled ourselves enough to change that?
Prayer
God of light, give us eyes to see the child of God in the spirit of ourselves and others, and ears to hear the call to serve. Soften our hearts to humble ourselves to the most vulnerable in our midst. Amen.
Amy Jones
Amy Jones, Agape Coordinator
Amy Jones our Agape Coordinator is an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church. In this tradition, deacons are ordained clergy who bridge the ministry of the church with the needs of the world, and vice versa. In more than 15 years of ministry, she has worked in churches, in children and family ministry, higher education, and nonprofits. In each setting, her focus has been on matching the resources of the church with the needs of the world. Agape Community Kitchen is exactly the type of work she was called to do. 

Amy can be reached by email at: agape@westfieldpc.org.
The Presbyterian Church in Westfield continues to burn as a light in the darkness as our community weathers this fearsome storm of illness. Our reach of care continues to extend far beyond our immediate borders. You can help us make a real impact in the lives of others by joining in our work through your time, your talents, and also in the fruits of your labors.
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