Giving Children 'First Call'

The Jews longing for a messiah almost 20 centuries ago looked for a warrior on a thundering steed--someone to rend the oppressive shackles of Roman occupation. But a startling discovery was made in a drafty stable, on a pile of straw laid out for cattle. Here was the Messiah--a tiny child, vulnerable, born into a violent world with no defenses. He entered the world poor, and within days he was a refugee, fleeing to Egypt from a king's fury.

This baby was not yet a fulfillment--but a promise. He was not yet an answer to the longings of the hopeful--but a nascent life requiring nurture and care and the love of family and community to bring him to his full potential. This was God's chosen way.

Three decades later, while his disciples rebuked their parents and tried to push them away, this Messiah invited children and infants to come to him for a blessing. And he challenged his followers to be more like these little ones in their faith. He knew what it meant to honor children, these reminders of hope and delight and promise in our midst, a most precious resource.

One wonders what Jesus would have to say to us today. Every day we adults of the world collectively push 40,000 children out of the way and to their deaths. On this Earth 14 million children under the age of 5 die every year, most of them from preventable illnesses caused by a lack of food, safe drinking water, vaccines, or proper sanitation services.

Worldwide, more than 150 million children suffer from chronic malnutrition. Nearly 100 million school-age children have never been inside a classroom, 60 percent of them girls. Some 50 million children work in unsafe or unhealthy jobs, and 30 million live on the streets.

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