Thoughts Following the Christmas ProgramDecember 22, 2023 Christmas
The Christmas program this past Sunday evening was a delightful reminder to me of the goodness of God revealed in the wonder of children. I had the unique perspective of watching the congregation as you all watched the children. I don’t think I’ve ever seen more joy on the faces of God’s people than I saw Sunday night. Nearly every face was adorned with shining eyes and a beautiful smile. Some were quietly laughing with delight. Many, particularly those in the back, were straining to see. The joy was pervasive. The room was overflowing with a deep, heartfelt gladness.
What was the cause of such unusual and evident delight? It was the sight of approximately 140 children reciting the gospel of Luke with enthusiasm and praising God with exuberance. The sight of children eagerly participating in the worship of God is one of the most beautiful sights this world can afford. It is “good” in the deepest, truest sense of the word. It is good in a way that reflects the original goodness of God’s beautiful creation - where things were as they ought to be and all things were saturated with delight. C.S. Lewis once said that “joy is the serious business of heaven.” If that’s the case, and I think it is, then we caught of glimpse of it Sunday night.
As I reflect on that beautiful moment, I’m struck by two things:
1. This is a large reason why we exist as a church. We exist to pass the true and living faith down to the next generation. God has given all these precious boys and girls to us so that we can teach them the gospel and, by the grace and power of the Spirit, see them own for themselves the true Christian faith. This is an essential part of God’s calling on us as His covenant people. We see this in God’s call to Abraham, “the father of those who believe”.
Genesis 18:19 For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord…
We exist, as the church of Jesus Christ, in large part, to teach the following generation to “keep the way of the Lord”. Yes, we must preach to the nations and reach out to our community – and I’m excited to see Harvest continue to grow in both areas. But one of the reasons I’m excited about those “outward” gospel ministries is because I believe it is one of the best things we can do for the “inward” mission God has given us in our children. We have a critical mission-field right in our midst – to minister the gospel of Jesus Christ to these precious souls He has given to us. Throughout history, this has been Christ’s primary way of building His Church. What a wonderful stewardship the Lord has given to us. How blessed we truly are!
2. Those precious, worshiping children are the epicenter of God’s loving eye – and the target of the Devil’s desires. As I’ve been preparing my Christmas messages these past two weeks, I’ve been struck by the stark contrast between good and evil as revealed in the response to children. On the one hand you see Mary, Elizabeth, the angels, the shepherds, and the magi all celebrating the Holy Child with worship and songs of joy. On the other hand, you have Herod - who hated the Child and slaughtered the children of Bethlehem. In his commentary on Matthew, Dale F. Bruner made the point that those who hate the Child, always end up hurting children. Isn’t that true? Isn’t that what we see in our world today? As our culture becomes increasingly pagan, it is becoming increasingly brutal towards children. The Devil hates what God most loves and so it is no surprise that he abhors covenant children.
God’s people, on the other hand, are known by their delight in God’s precious little ones. The joy of the Christmas service was not merely because of “cuteness” – though the little pre-k’s quoting Luke is about the cutest thing you’ll ever see. But I’m convinced that the joy was because of the sheer goodness of the moment as we reveled in the fervency with which those children sang, and the joyful faith they displayed. It was a precious sight not just because they are our kids, but because they are God’s kids – and He most certainly delights in their praises! I can’t help but believe that the joy revealed in the faces of the congregation was a reflection of the joy of our Lord himself. Thank you, Lord, for the gift of your worshiping children!
P.s. I would like to publicly thank all those at Harvest church who minister to these children: nursery attendants, Sunday School teachers, Cadet leaders, Girls of Grace leaders, and every member of the body who intentionally shows the love and grace of Jesus to His little ones. Thank you so much for your loving, sacrificial ministry to these precious children!