I had a revelation of my own during last Sunday’s service.
The First RCL reading (1 Samuel 2:18-20,26) and the Gospel reading (Luke 2:41-52) were very child centred narratives. And I had missed it, caught up in all the silliness of the season as well as the business of the season I managed to not see what should have been obvious to me. That these 2 narratives contained very strong stories of the “child in the centre”. Both Samuel and Jesus as children, were the centre of the narratives. Both had very strong faith experiences as well as leadership opportunities as a child. In fact, from the 25/12 till the 6/1 we were reading very child centric texts. Not only was Christ born to fulfil God’s plan but his existence was God’s plan. He was not waiting for it to come to a spectacular end but he was living his faith confident of who he was from the beginning.
Contrasting the older story of Samuel with Jesus shines a reminder that children’s participation in faith is not new, it has always been at the heart of God’s purpose. Looking back, we see that like a child, these stories connect past with present with future, even as we hear them in our own time. And that while we also hear at this time of the year the usual themes and stories, that there is still much to explore in the narratives today. For example, the “Jesus was a refugee” theme has been picked up loudly this year, even in Children’s literature (https://www.lostsheep.com.au/stories/jesus-was-a-refugee/). But have we also forgotten that these stories are child centric, and that we need to hear that message too.
The Child Theology Movement, in raising the awareness of the child in our literature and the significance of placing the “child in the middle” (as per Matthew 18:3), asks not just that we read the scripture through this lens but that we apply this understanding in a practical manner. In Matthew, we have a child leading the discussion, in Samuel a little later on (1 Samuel 3:1), he is setting the initiative. Both children are confident in themselves and their faith. We are being given practical examples of how to be inclusive in both narratives, If we do not pause in this busy Christmas time, to not just adore the thought of a baby, to consider the gift of a child, but to render practical application as the Innkeeper did by finding room, then there is plenty of inspiration in these stories to remind us to be that “innkeeper” for a child, from making space in our hearts to making space in our congregations so that all may witness and use their gifts as Samuel and Jesus did as a child.
This week, such a special Sunday, as the Epiphany is celebrated on a Sunday; a child is still the centre of the story, and this time we are shown the practical response of wise men bringing their gifts, gifts that suit what is to go ahead in his life. The practical aspect of this narrative is to discover and use what “gifts” we can bring to the children of our congregations, and all that we encounter, to guide and enhance their life experiences.
God placed a child in our midst