Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. (Mark 10:14)
On Sunday, I was offering the prayers of the church on behalf of the congregation. Sometimes it’s pretty quiet during that time as those in attendance are listening carefully and adding their ascent to each prayer. This past Sunday, it was not quiet. In my left ear there was a baby crying. In my right ear there was a baby crying. From somewhere behind me there were two or three other young children crying. To the cacophony of noise was my voice, crying out the pleas and petitions of our congregation to our gracious and merciful Lord. It was beautiful!
I love the sound of little voices in church. Small people who come because their parents know and place a premium on the value of what Jesus offers us – ALL OF US – in that place. Small children rattling papers and ruffling hymnal pages while trying to do what mom and dad and grandma and grandpa are doing. Faithful youngsters who bravely discuss the faith with pastor during our children’s messages. Confident little Christians who may not get all the words right, but put their heart into praying the Lord’s Prayer together with the congregation.
I even love it when the children get bored. Tired of what has to seem to them the droning on of a long-winded preacher. Who plop down in frustration when they just can’t take it anymore. I love it because they’re there. They’re right where Jesus would have them be. Climbing up on His holy lap and listening as well as a child can. I love the sounds of children in church, not because they’re the future church (although they are that), but because they are the present church joining together as best they can with the rest of the church. As loud as it can sometimes get, I absolutely love the cries and shouts and screams and even the occasional tantrum because in a real way, that’s exactly what we all have to offer our Lord. Our tears, our shouts of “unfair”, our fears, and even an occasional tantrum. Jesus never kicked a child out of His presence, but instead lauded them as the example of greatness.
Our children come, just as we adults do, into the presence of Jesus. We have nothing to offer Him. We simply have the sins we’ve committed, the hurts we harbor, the anger we’ve buried, the sadness we’ve hidden, and little more. As a baby is dependent on her mom and dad to take care of her and teach her, so we depend on our Father to hear and love us.
So I say let the little children come . . . and let them cry! Let them raise their voices! Little loved voices from little loved people. Sinners, like you and me; forgiven by Jesus, like you and me! Let us in fact join our voices with the cries of the babies in church as we cry out for mercy and forgiveness from our Lord for the sake of Jesus Christ.
Merciful Father, hear the cries of all your children. Thank you for hearing us and welcoming us into your presence through Jesus Christ your Son. Amen.