Have you ever noticed that when an infant is brought into a room he or she immediately becomes the center of attention? There are all kinds of compliments about how cute, adorable, sweet he or she is. The infant is passed around from person to admiring person. Kissed and tickled. Then he or she is immediately returned to the mother if there is an accident.
Today the attention and worship of billions of Christians are centered on an infant, Jesus, the son of Mary, the babe of Bethlehem. We are in awe that our God comes to us as a fragile, helpless infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a feeding trough. This infant is the center of attention of his parents, the shepherds and the angels of God. The hopes and fears of all the years are met in him this night.
Christmas is usually a children’s feast. There are toy drives everywhere – no child should be without a toy. Parents take great delight as they watch their young ones rip open their gifts and hear their squeals of happiness as they show what they got from Santa.
Children are our greatest possession. They bring us joy, they bring us grief but they are our future. We find it incomprehensible when we hear stories of mothers or fathers killing or abusing their children as happened in Australia this past week. Yet we know it happens. We ask ‘how could any rational human being go from class room to classroom slaughtering 140 children, snuffing out young and promising lives as happened in Pakistan. Imagine the grief of the mothers and fathers of these innocents. Imagine the relief and the joys of the mothers and fathers of those children who survived that dreadful day. They probably squeezed their sons and daughters so tightly. They appreciated as never before how much they loved their children and how precious they were to them.
On this feast of the Christ Child on this feast of children as you parents and grandparents celebrate this day with your children could you use this day and time to make a promise that you will treasure your children, especially the older ones, they are the one that can cause you grief and challenge your patience? My mother used to say to my brothers and me,’ the older you get the worse you get.’ She was always so affirming. It is so important that you pass on your values to you children, especially the values of our Christian faith, a faith that teaches us the worth and the dignity of every human being. May your sons and daughters be free of any prejudices and hang ups that may be part of your lives. May they see in every person they meet as they live out their lives a brother of sister a person for whom Christ was born in Bethlehem and died on Calvary. Teach them to see in every person they meet a son or daughter of our loving Father regardless of the person’s race, color, creed or life style. Nourish your children’s faith by giving them a living example of your faith through your attendance at Sunday Mass and by family prayer. The prayer said over parents at a child’s baptism says to parents – you are the first teachers of your children in the ways of faith, may you also be the best of teachers by what you say and what you do. Our faith and our values come to us through osmosis from our parents.
You’ve probably seen that poster titled ‘Children learn what they live’. Here are a few lines to keep in mind;
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves..
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
Parenting is not an easy vocation. Some of you may be saying to yourselves, he doesn’t know the half of it.. I know, I took the easy way out. As we celebrate the birth of the Christ child may all you good parents, single parents and grandparents be blessed with the grace of treasuring your sons and daughters, your grandchildren, they are your your treasures, they are your future.
May we all be blessed with a peaceful and holy Christmas as we celebrate the birth of Mary’s child, Jesus the babe of Bethlehem.