By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentar | Published January 12, 2024
It’s always fun to watch a toddler unwrap gifts at Christmas. The first gift is enormously interesting, and the second one is also fine, but after that, the fascination starts waning, and soon the child is mesmerized by the bows and boxes.
A little child is so simple that a pad of paper and a cluster of crayons can unlock a world of wonder. I still cherish a memory of a little boy named Jude, who had made a drawing in Sunday school, using crayons and cotton balls. He couldn’t wait to interpret this work of art for me: “This is the Good Shepherd,” he earnestly explained. Then, indicating the cotton balls, he added: “He goes after the sheep.”
Jesus came into the world as a baby to remind us about simplicity and smallness. An infant in a crib is the most gentle, dependent, sweet and loving being imaginable. When the baby is held, he smiles, and when he is given a treat, he chortles. Babies have a way of softening the most hardened heart and changing sorrow into joy.
Children were precious to Jesus at a time when they were generally demeaned. Imagine the shock onlookers experienced, when the apostles asked Jesus who was the greatest in the heavenly kingdom. Surely they expected him to mention powerful government leaders and wealthy citizens.
But Jesus called a child over and said: “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself and becomes like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18:1-4). At other times, Jesus talked about the last becoming first and the meek inheriting the earth. Children are meek by nature and often are put in the last place in the adult world.
As we head into the New Year, we might make resolutions that help us become more spiritually childlike. First, we can try to live more simply by withstanding the constant stream of luxuries advertisers assure us we must have. My dishwasher broke, and when I looked for a new one, I discovered some have Wi-Fi, so you can use your smartphone to run them. This is definitely technological overkill. Then there’s that cup of Big Bucks coffee, which costs 10 times as much as home brew.
Second, a child delights in spending time with a loving parent, so we might resolve to make space in our schedules for our heavenly Father through prayer and silence each day. Jesus spent a lot of time in crowds, but he also escaped regularly to pray. When we crowd our lives with screens and podcasts, we’re in danger of losing sight of the big picture. Mother Teresa said, “If you’re too busy to pray, you’re too busy.”
Third, children have an innate gift, when it comes to loving and forgiving others. They give their love generously, without regard to someone’s social status or appearance. They are quick to forgive, unlike so many adults, who are bent under the weight of heavy grudges. In the New Year, we can forgive people who have wounded us, and be more attentive to people who are starved for love. It could be a child who feels neglected or a spouse longing for praise.
The Christ Child had to depend on the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph for his very life. If we can embrace this attitude of total trust toward God, we will live with constant awareness that everything comes from his hand. As Mother Teresa put it, “Let us take whatever God gives, and give whatever he takes with a smile.”
Forget complicated New Year’s resolutions involving gym memberships and diet plans. Instead, let’s strive to keep our lives humble and our hearts attuned to Jesus. He came into the world as a baby to teach us the simplest, yet most profound, lessons about life and love. This year, when we put away our Christmas creches, let’s keep a place in our hearts for the Christ Child.