The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel
How many of us are going to see a children’s nativity play in the coming month? Or can recall such an experience from years past? I can recall the shepherds fight from last years’ rendition, the king whose crown constantly fell over his eyes from the year before, the year my daughter was a snowflake in the Bethlehem scene so every child in the school could have a part, and the time Joseph pushed Mary of the stool because she was nagging him for forgetting his line. Kind of cute, amusing and something we are willing to experience because they’re kids. But what about how all of these children are filled with the spirit? As year on year we see these children grow to fit into and then out of the nativity costumes, how as they get older they are given more lines as their reading skills develop and before we know it they are young adults (and gone). Each year do we recognise how they are growing in the spirit?
How hidden is the spiritual life of the children we know?
How do we help our children to be strong in the spirit? In Rebecca Nye’s book Children’s Spirituality we are remaindered that:
“Taking children spirituality seriously can significantly influence our views of children. It can help us both to embrace the reality that children are made in God’s image, that they are already spiritually switched on, and also to challenge the view that children come in a kind of ‘kit version’ that we must make into a ‘God- compatible’ model. Sometimes we seem to behave as if spiritual life can only begin once a child has been filled up, by us, with enough religious knowledge…[rather than]…enriching the spiritual life they already enjoy”
This scripture verse tells us very little about John the Baptists childhood but what it picks out is that as he grew he became strong in spirit.
help us to look at our children
as pure bundles of spirit,
made in your image,
entering this earth already filled in spirit by you.
Help us to see, hear and learn
from our children’s own experiences of you
and not just try to fill them with religious knowledge.
Helen Stephenson is a Church Related Community Worker in the Sunderland and Bolden Partnership in the Northern Synod.