Raising the Christ Child

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“The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40 NRS).



I had a ministry long before I had a child.  I knew what was expected from me and what I needed to accomplish.  It didn’t feel so obvious when my son was born.  When you are a Christian and you have a child, you come to realize that this too is ministry.  There is great importance placed upon raising children by us, the Church, and by God.  Rearing children is more than just feeding them and clothing them.  It’s about teaching them our ways, our values, and our faith.  We teach them to think, to learn, and to find their place in this world.  Perhaps it seems obvious that a pastor would make religion as much of a part of her child’s education as how to use silverware, learning the alphabet, and social etiquette.  But those are far easier to do.  There are countless self-help books about raising children to be polite, smart, and independent.  Every parenting blog and website will offer ideas and remedies for feeding, weaning your child from a pacifier, and potty training.  The religious upbringing is far less readily available.  That is uncharted territory that I go alone most days.

It’s not that there are no resources, but they are not as abundant, or easy to navigate.  They are rarely as well done as secular books and websites.  The obvious problem is that I have to first determine if what I’m getting from these resources is compatible with my faith and theology.  That’s already much more of a mental endeavor than I have with secular resources.  When you’re exhausted, running on precious little sleep, and have the first chance to sit down all day, you’re not too inclined to force your brain to critically think about whether this idea is congruent with your theology of redemption.  It sounds silly, but you’d be surprised.  I have to think about telling my child that a fictional pacifier fairy came and took away his pacifiers because it is time for him to lose them, but do I make up fictional, supernatural beings to make my life easier when I, as a Christian, do not believe in such things and stand staunchly against lying in all forms?  Well, what about the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny, Santa Claus…  You can see where this gets sticky.

Even before my son was born, we found the above scripture and had it placed on the wall over his crib.  It sums up how we feel about our child and what we want for him.  It also sets clear expectations upon us to be a certain kind of parent.  Raising a healthy, intelligent child cannot be divided from our faith.  So as I teach him not to touch the hot stove, I also teach him how to fold his hands in prayer.  I cultivate a love of reading with classic children’s literature as well as religious books with lots of pictures and stories of Jesus.  Our bedtime ritual always includes saying a nighttime prayer to which my 22 month old son adds his benedictory closing of “Amen.”  With his mother a United Methodist pastor and his father a Roman Catholic, my son could experience a faith identity crisis, but we have always been Christians first.  So we raise our son to be Christian and place the absolute highest value on Jesus Christ.  The most important thing for the Christian parent to realize, remember, and manifest is that our child is not just ours; they are a child of God.  We are charged with giving them everything they need to walk with God all the days of their life.  In a way, my child will be a Christ child,a child of Jesus Christ.  He will learn to be in relationship with other Christians and with Christ.  He will learn how to be a Christian, not just when he is an adult, but right now as a child.  What could be better than getting a head start on a life of faith?


(Image by Rev. Sarah R. Wastella)

Prayer:
Heavenly Father,
How much anxiety fills us, your children,
When we are blessed with our own children to raise.
Let your Holy Spirit bring us a pervading sense of calm and reassurance.
Open our hearts and minds so that we will discover,
All the right ways to raise our own Christ Child.
May we be worthy examples of Christian living for our children,
And may we find support in the Body of Christ.
We know that we might not walk with our child all of their days,
But we entrust them to walk with Jesus.
Bless them, O God.
We have graciously received these blessings of children,
Now may we raise them in your Grace.
Amen.

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