Group of young people talking

Today we continue the second week of Advent, focusing on the theme 'A child shall lead them' and Isaiah 11.1-10.

Those of us who work with children are familiar with the constant stream of comments and questions that flow towards us, especially when we’re trying to get through our material. It’s easy for adults not to listen carefully or become frustrated if this happens a lot – but if we do, we miss out.

As this passage from Isaiah suggests, the insight and leadership of a child benefits other children and also the whole community. So if we take the time to listen to and learn from a child we will find tremendous depth that can challenge us and have a tremendous impact on us.

Let me give you an example. A few months ago I was helping in our church’s Sunday school and we were talking about the Bible character Zacchaeus, the tax collector who gave back all he had stolen in response to Jesus coming to tea.

There’s a glorious silence in the story where we are not told what happens in the house after Jesus invites himself around. All we know is the outcome: Zacchaeus gives everything back.

I asked the children in my group what they thought happened in the room. Some thought that Jesus 'told him to stop being so mean and give all the money back' but for one of the group, her Jesus didn’t need to say anything. She said that 'if Jesus was there he wouldn't need to say anything, you would just know what to do'. Then we had a debate about this. I’ve thought a lot about this since then, not about what the children thought, but about what Jesus looks like in my life.

Is he the instructor telling me what to do? Or is his presence enough for me to live differently, just because he’s here and his love has filled the room?

As someone engaged in the Christian nurture of children, a danger is that the adults become the ones who hold all the knowledge and we mediate this to the children: We are the leaders, they are the learners.

Isaiah 11.1-10 turns that on its head and reminds us that part of our role when we work with children is sometimes to shut up, to listen and to learn from them.

 

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Sam Donoghue
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