A Child Shall Lead Them
Because I tell too many embarrassing stories about my two boys in my sermons (a practice I intend to decelerate steeply as they are getting older), today I want to share with you a story that had me humbled and impressed by my children. Yesterday, Lisa took the boys to Panera while I was still finishing up at church. On their way out, there was a homeless man with a cardboard sign. Lisa stopped and gave him her leftover sandwich. This apparently made a huge impression on both my boys. Bennett wanted to call me right away because he was so excited about what they had done. Later, Isaiah on his own accord decided that we needed to have a “garage sale for the poor.” He was ready to sell boxes of toys and clothes to help others. He got upset when we told him that most of his toys are still in boxes in Chattanooga and we will have to wait to do this next year. Moments like these make it clear to me that all of us are wired with generosity and sympathy and that over time we get more jaded. My children are better at it than I am.
Last night at our Lesson and Carols Service (which was phenomenal, thank you to Cheryl Cribbs and our great choir!), I read these words from Isaiah 11: “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.” A little child will lead them. In the middle of this verse about ultimate peace, about the consummation of all things, the end of all struggle, this verse surprises and shocks. It doesn’t make sense. A little child will lead them? Is that wise? Do I want to be led by a child?
When something feels unintuitive and challenging, that’s a good indication that you’re on the verge of the Kingdom of God. And for this kingdom, its King starts in an unintuitive and challenging place. Born to a young, unwed mother where there was no room for them in the inn. Like my children, this child would challenge his parents and the grownups around him with his vision of helping others. He would stand for justice and he would speak for those who could not speak for themselves. Does it make you uncomfortable that the sweet baby Jesus is going to insist that we use what we have to help others who have not (even when it doesn’t seem like they deserve it?) Well then, you feel like I did when Isaiah suggested his garage sale for the poor. And when we feel uncomfortable together, we should recognize that we are right on the verge of a Kingdom that started in Bethlehem.