Before physical distancing and limits on church capacity were a consideration – an event occurred at a wonderfully packed Christmas service at St Luke’s Mosman Park whilst serving as Assistant Curate. Whilst we were administering communion – a little lad about 3 or 4 years of age came straight up into the sanctuary space and plonked himself down in front of the nativity set and stared intently at the little baby Jesus figurine, and occasionally reached out gently and reverently stroked the figurine. We kept on going about our business, joyfully giving out bread and wine from the common cup (those were the days!) and this little guy just stayed there as we moved around him. He paid us no attention as he was utterly transfixed with the figurine. It was one of the purest forms of adoration I have ever seen.
The Rector, Angela Webb, made the prescient comment to me at the time along the lines of “this is the sort of thing that will be sermon material for years to come”. And so it has for the past couple of years, and now also an article in the Messenger!
Children can teach us a lot about adoration at just about any time, but particularly at Christmas there is something special to be gleaned. Having a 3 year old son myself – it still makes me laugh when he sees something surprising or that sparks curiosity and awe and hear him say ‘Wow!’ with big eyes and an expression of unfeigned amazement.
Perhaps at Christmas in our worship planning we can have in our minds the goal of making one little person go ‘Wow!’, and engage in sheer adoration that even by our observing of it can help pierce the cloud of routine and Christmas stress which may threaten our ability to engage in joyful worship after having gone through the motions for however many years.
By telling the ‘greatest story ever told’ with colour, song, scent, images, a faux baby in a manger, strangers bearing exotic gifts, donkeys and stars – and the vital and uplifting presence of the Holy Spirit – we have the privilege of cultivating a place in which people of all ages can get a glimpse of the miracle that is God’s own self becoming flesh for us and for our salvation in Jesus. That is a gift we can offer at Christmas. But it is like a proverbial gift that keeps on giving – as the way in which children inhabit that space can teach us about things like wonder and adoration, which is their gift back to us! I pray God may bless us all with child-like adoration this season, that the gifts of faith, hope, love and joy may be kindled within us anew.
This piece was written for the Anglican Messenger December 2021 January 2022 edition