Christmas season is upon us, and our focus often immediately is on a baby born to a young couple in a stable with itchy hay and smelly animals. We sing echos of the prophet’s message, “For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us” (Isaiah 9:6):
Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head;
The stars in the sky looked down where He lay,
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.
This side of the cross, we know that there is so much more to Jesus than infancy. However, as children everywhere sweetly sing this song, we are tempted to view Jesus as a baby without acknowledging the direct correlation of Jesus’ experience on earth and kids ministry today. Yet, there are at least four examples of how Jesus’ earthly life reflects our own human experiences.
- Jesus came to earth as an infant. Jesus could have come as an adult as He will do someday, but He didn’t. He entered our world as a human infant. When you provide care for babies and toddlers, are you reflecting the love of the One who “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14)?
- Jesus grew just like kids do today. Don’t miss what Luke wrote: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people.” (Luke 2:52) That’s exactly how God designed every child to grow: intellectually, physically, spiritually, and socially. What are you doing to help the kids in your ministry grow in these ways?
- Jesus had some of the same experiences today’s kids have. True, the Bible is silent on Jesus’ life between infancy and his visit to the Temple as a 12-year-old. However, Scripture clearly states that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) How are you communicating to kids that Jesus faced some of the same temptations they face and knows exactly what they are dealing with?
- Jesus had an imperfect family. Yes it’s true Jesus is perfect, but His earthly family was not without flaws. Joseph considered not marrying Jesus’ mother. Jesus’s brothers initially rejected Him as Messiah. (John 7:5) His family tree included such rascals as Isaac’s son Jacob and his son Judah, not to mention King David and his son Solomon. (Matthew 1:1-16) How can you minister to the imperfect families of the children in your ministry without judgement, knowing Jesus’ lineage was dysfunctional too?
The infants, preschoolers, elementary kids, and preteens you reach and minister to week in and week out are made in God’s image and are experiencing life in much the same way as Jesus did. But, unlike Jesus, they need to experience God’s forgiveness and receive His gift of eternal life.
Our job is to help kids discover the Jesus who didn’t stay in the manager but who died and rose again for our salvation. So, as we sing about Baby Jesus this Christmas, don’t miss the hint of what is yet to come:
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care,
And fit us for heaven to live with Thee there.
May we be faithful to introduce kids to the Jesus who left the manager to redeem us on the cross.
Landry Holmes is the Manager of Lifeway Kids Ongoing Bible Studies and Network Partnerships, Nashville, TN, and is a graduate of Howard Payne University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The author of It’s Worth It: Uncovering How One Week Can Transform Your Church and a general editor of the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary for Kids, Landry is a church leader, writer, workshop facilitator, and publisher. He teaches kids at his church in Middle Tennessee, where his wife Janetta is the Preschool Minister. They enjoy spending time with their two adult sons and their wives, and spoiling their five grandchildren.