Matthew 18:3 – New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)
3 and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
A simple, yet mindset shattering verse. What does it mean to become like children? Obviously, theological debates and discussions can come up with many responses, and I am sure, dissertations, however, I find the answer when I look and reflect on my own children.
As we reach the upcoming Christmas season, now in Advent, I personally have bought my children gifts – and as the parent I am, I am also always on the lookout for just one more thing to give them to open on Christmas day morning. Obviously, the meaning of Christmas is not found in gift giving, at least it shouldn’t be, however, the gift giving is a reflection on the Father’s gift to us, His Son Jesus. Looking at it this way, I know that no matter what I give my children, they will be content in the gift. Not only will they be content, they will be satisfied – not just because they got a gift, but because it came from their parents – their Daddy and Mama – and that fact alone is enough to satisfy. Likewise, as believers in Christ, we must be like children and be satisfied with the gift the Father has given us – His Son.
As earthly parents, we may attempt to take advantage of the simple satisfaction our children take from the gifts we give them. As imperfect as those gifts may be, we know – to a point – our children will find some sort of contentment in those gifts. However, God is not like us, His gift is perfection, and not only that, it is salvation and grace. Jesus asks “How much more then will your Heavenly Father” (Matthew 6). The answer is simplistic, as much as God needs to for our provision. The struggle is contentment and satisfaction in what God has given us, not for God actually giving us a gift.
Our society has become plagued, in fact, has always been plagued, with be unsatisfied in what we have and with what we have been given. It is not enough that we have a job, or a home, or for some that we have life flowing through our veins. We want more, and we are bred into a society that judges us, and in turn causes us to judge based on what we and other people have. Ultimately, it is not enough for us that we have salvation, and that truly is the saddest part – we still want more, and we lose ourselves in our own desire and neglect what we already have.
I’ll be the first to admit, I like things. I have hobbies, desires, wishes, dreams and hopes. Likewise, my children do as well. The difference is that when I recieve a gift, I am immediately drawn to desiring the next level, or my thoughts drift to what I didn’t get. Unlike me, my children are drawn to the actual gift itself, fully engrossing themselves in the here and now, not thinking what could have been or, even more, what they felt they were entitled to. They, in each and every gift they receive, find contentment, while I, on the other hand, see every reason to be discontent.
My prayer this Advent and Christmas season is that God gives me the grace to become like my children, to be thankful for not only the ultimate gift God has given me, but everything else that He has brought to my life. This includes my wife – Ruth Anne, my children – Katherine, John, Karl, Zachary and Nicholas (upcoming), my home, my job, my family at home and here in Rhode Island, and everything else that God has allowed me to experience. My prayer is that God can give me the grace to be content and satisfied in those things, that I can and will be thankful for what I do have, and that I don’t look at what I don’t have and beyond. In this, ultimately, my prayer is that God can move in me so that I can see and enter His Kingdom and not desire the kingdom in which I physically live.
As we go through the motions each day this Advent season – lighting candles, saying prayers, etc, let us reflect on what this time is all about. It is about us celebrating the coming of our God to earth in flesh, it is about the ultimate gift that our God has given us which eventually leads to the ultimate sacrifice that has ever been offered. Let us be like little children – coming down the stairs in awe and wonder on Christmas morning. As we prepare to celebrate that gift, let it be as if we are unwrapping the gift of Christ for the first time.