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?