[#pictureAdvent] December 24: CHILD

22 Dec 24 Child-01.jpg

By Ashley Murphy    
Carter Memorial United Methodist Church    
Needham, MA

First, read Luke 1:31-38

“You’re going to be a mother.” Six short words; and yet perhaps one of the most powerful, emotion-filled sentences imaginable. “You will conceive and bring forth a child,” and never again will the world be the same. A child changes everything.

As I rock my own baby boy to sleep this Christmas Eve, this tiny child who in an instant changed everything I knew about the world, I cannot imagine the thoughts and feelings that Mary experienced as she awaited her son. 

What will people think and say?

Will my family understand?

How can I raise the Son of God? 

Like every parent that anticipates the arrival of a new life into the world, I am certain both Mary and Joseph were filled with excitement and apprehension, joy and fear, honor and uncertainty. As they journeyed toward Bethlehem, they were as prepared as they would ever be to welcome a tiny babe. In our modern context we can imagine that they had read every “What to Expect” guide, downloaded every app, and purchased every gadget and gizmo designed to perfect the parenting experience. And yet they could not possibly have fathomed the ways in which the world would change that very next day. After all, a child changes everything.

Mary could not have fathomed what it would be like to hold the child that had been moving inside her womb for months in her arms for the first time. Joseph could not have been prepared to be the primary role model for a growing young man. The world could not have had any idea what the next 33 years would hold. No one understood, as Mary wrapped her newborn son in swaddling clothes and sheltered him in an old barn, what this new life would mean to the world.

This child, who would change everything.

He would grow up to teach, to heal, to comfort, to befriend, to lead, to praise, to guide and to love. He would grow up to be God on Earth, the Kingdom come. He would grow up to give the greatest gift of selfless love ever known, that we may all see God’s face and experience God’s grace forevermore. That child, that tiny babe, that changed everything. 

On this Christmas Eve we wait, just as Mary did, in restless anticipation. Tomorrow is filled with excitement and apprehension, joy and fear, honor and uncertainty. Tomorrow, we welcome the child. And He invites us to change everything. 

Prayer: Creator God, in Mary’s womb you formed the perfect child: Jesus, Son of the Most High, Christ our Lord. This tiny babe, born to the most humble beginnings on that first Christmas day, changed the world forever. As we welcome in a new Christmas day, fill us with the anticipation and excitement of Mary. Help us to see the world through a child’s eyes so that we, like that tiny Christmas babe, may be the force of love and spark of life that changes everything. In the precious name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

Discussion/Reflection Questions

1. We hear little about Jesus’ formative years, but we can assume that in many ways he grew up like any other child in first century Palestine. Though he would have been recognized as an adult man on his 13th birthday, Jesus did not begin his formal ministry until the age of 30. Why, then, was it necessary for Jesus to arrive on earth as a newborn baby? 
2. Mary was certainly shocked by the angel’s message, and yet she responds with great faith saying, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Has God ever called you to serve in a way that is shocking or uncomfortable? How have you responded?
3. Through the celebration of Christmas, we are reminded that we are all children of God, filled with hope and promise. How is God calling you to be a child that changes everything this Christmas?