Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the way?’ But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’ Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’
How childish. Bickering about who is the greatest (especially when they are spending time with THE GREATEST). Particularly when they have all just demonstrated how not great they are (at healing like Jesus, at understanding what he is talking about). Mind you, Jesus might have started this posturing and competition for status by picking Peter, James and John to go up the mountain with him, leaving the others feeling second rate perhaps. Of course, they all seem to be forgetting all his teaching about the first being last, turning the other cheek, blessed are the meek and so on. Thank goodness we never behave like that in our churches. Or think like that about ourselves in relation to others. Oh no, we’re much better at humility than….hmmm – time for that awkward silence in front of Jesus….
I want to be taken in His arms and welcomed, like a little child. I want to be told it is not about proving myself in any way, winning any points, besting anyone else. I want to believe that deeply enough that my insecurity melts away and never needs to put anyone else down again. Then I would be able to freely welcome others in the name of Jesus, as generously and graciously as I have been welcomed.
In welcoming all we welcome our Creating, Sending, Uniting-in-the-Spirit God. Imagine – welcoming God into our midst being as easy as welcoming a child. I am writing this in Advent while waiting for the Christ-child to arrive to what will prove a mixed welcome. We need the help of this child to become the child-like, welcoming the children of God he is calling us to be.
Jesus – help me to dwell in your welcome so completely that my arms are wide to welcome others with the open, loving, trusting spirit of the child that I am truly am in you. Amen.
Dr Sam Richards, serving as Head of Children’s and Youth Work, member of mayBe Community, Oxford.