Saturday, December 4

Advent 2010

The Voice of a Child


My family, like most, has particular stories that are told over and over again during the holiday season.  One of my father's favorite tales takes place on Christmas Eve of 1989.  He always begins by saying, "And then there was the Christmas Lauren interrupted the entire church service."

That Christmas Eve, the four members of the Colwell clan bundled up and braved the cold, north Georgia weather to attend the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at First Baptist Rome.  The poinsettias and garland painted Christmas-colored racing stripes across the sanctuary and the deep red of the flowers subtly faded into the crimson of the choir members' robes.  The movement of candle flames filled the rest of the space as hundreds of lights danced in rhythm to the sounds of traditional carols.  According to my parents, it was quite beautiful.

After prayers, songs, and a meditation, the service was coming to a close, but not before a pastoral invitation to observe several moments of silence followed by a unison singing of "Silent Night, Holy Night."  As if they understood the significance of the moment, even whimpering babies clung close to their mothers and reserved their tiny cries for a more appropriate time.  In the perfect stillness, my mother claims she could hear distant choirs of angels faintly singing, "Glory to the newborn King."  But in First Baptist's sanctuary, the reverent, holy peace came to an abrupt end.  For a tiny but confident 5-year-old voice, typically only heard as a mild whisper from behind her mother's knee, screamed in silence-breaking fashion, "But Daddy, where's the baby Jesus?"  Mortified by his daughter's sudden inspiration and caught behind 400 pairs of penetrating eyes, my father quickly said, "He's coming tonight, remember?  After you go to sleep.  Now, shh!"

In my father's theological defense, he's probably not the only parent who has confused Santa Claus with Jesus in a moment of social panic.  And to his credit, he did correct his Christmas miscalculation on the drive home.  He could not, however, erase the sound of a child's concerned voice.

When God is a child, children take notice.  And when that significant child is absent, children speak up.  Innocent voices, unencumbered by fear of social embarrassment, provoked only by the feeling that something is not right, demand to be heard.  Adults, on the other hand, are more inclined to bend to social influence and cave under the pressure of maintaining a false facade.  Adults, instead of calling out blatantly obvious misfortunes, peer over the simple in anticipation of finding something more grievously complex.

Perhaps God came as a child so that children would speak up and remind all of us that speaking out, even for what seem like simple things, is an incredible act of bravery.  Such an act can remind us that it is sometimes necessary to interrupt the normal in order to point out the extraordinary, or the extraordinarily wrong.  I may have been so bold at 5 years of age, but would a similar wave of inspiration provoke me to speak as loudly today?

This Advent season, as we focus on God as a child, I must ask myself what opportunity I'm missing because I'm too afraid to speak up.  What extraordinary miracle like God appearing as a child, or unspeakable injustice like God's overlooked absence, am I failing to notice?  And even more troubling than that, when I do notice even the simplest wrong, what is it that keeps me silent?

- Lauren Colwell



Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for all of the gifts you have given to all of us.  Thank you for giving us strength when we were weak.  Please help those who are weak - poor families, children who need an education, and those who are hurting both mentally and physically.  Please give your strength to all.  Amen.

- Claire Johnson


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