The Faith of a Child
Do you remember when you stopped believing in Santa Claus?
When I was growing up, Santa didn’t wrap our Christmas presents. We’d get up (at the crack of dawn, of course) and run into the front room to find the small stack of toys that had magically appeared as we slept. The excitement! The flood of pure joy! And—if I’m being honest—the relief that yes, he really had come once again!
But somewhere around twelve years old, I began to have doubts. I had two younger sisters and a little brother, and I wanted them to believe as long as they could. But one Christmas Eve, I asked my mother if I could help put their Santa presents under the tree. I wanted to feel more grown up. But I think I also wanted evidence that I was right… that there really was no Santa Claus.
So my mom said yes, I could help. And at that moment, the magic of Christmas disappeared.
Oh, Christmases were still wonderful. I still got “Santa” gifts, and we still spent the holiday with our family, singing carols around the piano, opening gifts, stuffing ourselves with homemade yeast rolls and Cherry Delight. But that innocence—that sure belief in something that couldn’t be explained away—well, it was gone from me. Forever.
I remember very well how sad I felt on that Christmas Eve when I knew I was no longer a child.
Most children believe so easily in the impossible. Santa, the Easter bunny, the tooth fairy. The Elf on the Shelf, who now magically moves around the house at night, to the delight of so many children.
In their innocence, children live so close to all of the things that we adults know aren’t real. And I believe that this is why they can accept without question the details of Jesus’s birth. The angels, the stable, the star, the shepherds, the Wise Men. Doves that lull the baby in the manger to sleep by singing, “Quack! Quack! Quack!” (If you weren’t able to see our children’s Christmas pageant this year, check it out online!)
For many of us, those details can seem too improbable to believe. As we age, we become skeptical, to the point that the Christmas story can feel more like a fairy tale than truth. Virgin birth? Impossible. The baby delivered in the hay? Unlikely. A bright star shining directly over the stable? A meteor. Angels that speak to shepherds in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night? No way.
After all, we’re adults. We live in a world based on facts. And let’s be honest… the Jesus story seems short on facts. Because we lose that sense of wonder, of possibilities, that most children embrace so easily, we may question the truth and authenticity of the stories of our faith.
You’ll recall what Jesus said to his disciples when they asked who would be the greatest in heaven: “Truly I say to you, unless you change and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). One interpretation of this scripture is that Jesus is teaching us that there is no place for ego and superiority among believers. We must humble ourselves—and in doing so, recognize the greatness of God.
But there is also a second interpretation. When Jesus tells us that we must “become like children,” he may also be saying that we need to return to the innocence and wonder of childhood, to a world in which the impossible and improbable are believable, a world in which miracles can really happen.
But being open to possibility doesn’t mean there is no room for questions. God is bigger than any doubts we may have! In fact, many believe that our faith can be deepened when we grapple with the hard questions.
Eventually, we can come to a place in our spiritual journey in which we believe in spite of our doubts. A place where we can accept what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians (13:12): “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I also have been fully known.”
Below is our prayer of confession from last Sunday. Please take your time in reading it. Let the words speak to your heart.
Holy God of Promise, we so often place our trust in the things we can see, and touch, and easily believe. But you did not ask us to believe what is easy. You have asked us to believe what is true!…Forgive us when we question how you chose to enter the world, born as one of us. Forgive our lack of faith and belief in ways that seem so impossible to believe. Help us to look in faith, open our belief, and set aside our doubts that you sent your Son, born of a virgin – the one who has come to set us all free.
If you have no problem at all believing in the details of our stories, you are welcome in our church.
If you struggle to believe, if you question what is or is not possible, you too are welcome.
If you have doubted, and have come to believe that the truths are more important than the details, welcome.
Join us on Christmas Eve as we celebrate the coming of the Light into a world of darkness. Know that you are always welcome—regardless of where you are in your journey—because each one of us comes to the Truth in our own way.
And may the God of miracles…
the God of the stable…
the God of the cross and the empty tomb…
bless you and those you love richly,
today, and through all of your tomorrows.