Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Christmas Eve Candlelight Service

"A na keiki ʻuʻuku lākou e alakaʻi : A little child shall lead them"

Rev. Kealahou Alika

Isaiah 1:1-2, 6-9 & Luke 2:1-20

We know her name. We know his name. But if we do not know their names, it would not be surprising.

We live in a world these days that would have us denigrate and dismiss the lives of our children. You know the cliché – “Children should be seen and not heard.” But our lives and our world would be woefully at a loss if we ignored their voices.

Adam Schubak, a writer, shared the stories of dozens of children who, he asserts, have changed the world for the better. He goes on to say that they are proof that a person can make a difference at any age (“Read the stories of 40 Incredible Kids Who Have Changed the World” Adam Shuback, goodhousekeeping.com, November 6, 2019).

Melati and Isbel were only 10 and 12 years old when they started on a course to drastically decrease the global usage of single-use plastic. Inspired by the ban on plastic bags in Rwanda n 2008, they decided to begin beach cleanups in their native Bali . That led to reduced plastic use in 15 different countries.

Greta was 15 years old when she sat down in front of the Swedish Parliament every day for three weeks last summer in an effort to have the leaders of her country do more to prevent climate change. The following month she organized what became known as Fridays for the Future. That eventually led more than one million students around the world to participate in a call for stronger action on climate change.

Emma was 17 years old when she witnessed the mass shooting on Valentines Day, February 14, 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Together with other classmates they organized Never Again MSD calling for ways to reduce and curb gun violence across the U.S. Within a month of the shooting, March for Our Lives rallies were organized in over 800 communities in over 37 countries around the world.

Nicolas was in his teens when he met a brother and sister who were homeless. The pair took turns going to school because they shared a pair of shoes. Nicolas gave the boy an pair of his basketball sneakers and began an organization that would become know has Gotta Have Sole :- spelled “s-o-l-e” - through which footwear has been donated to over 99,000 children in homeless shelters.

After being diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome, Aspergers and Obsessive- Compulsive Disorder, Jaylen was bullied by his peers for being different. He found that the anxiety he suffered as a result of the bullying worsened the symptoms of his disabilities. That led Jaylen to found the Jaylen Challege Foundation which has educated more than 100,000 kids on recognizing bullying behavior and understanding each other’s differences.

At 17, Malala was the youngest person to become a Nobel Prize laureate for her advocacy work for girls pursuing education. She came to our attention after being shot by the Taliban in Pakistan on her way to school because of her commitment to education.

Ryan was 3 when he visited a recycling center in California and found his calling. By the time he was 7, he started Ryan’s Recycling. He started collecting cans and bottles from his neighbors. In time, he his work has grown to include over 50 customers and over 200,000 bottles and cans. “It’s because bottles get to the ocean and then the animals get sick and die,” he explained.

Sophie was 5 years old when she visited Washington D.C. with her family. Because her family was undocumented, she took part n the Women’s March in Washington D.C. where she spoke saying, “We are here together making a chain of love to protect our families. Let us fight with love, faith and courage so that our families will not be destroyed.”

Igbal was a Pakistani boy who escaped child slavery when he was 10 years old. He later helped over 3,000 other children escape bondage. He was assassinated when he was 12 but his legacy lives on. In 2009, the U.S. Congress started an annual award in his name given to those who are fighting to end child labor.

Claudette was 15 years old when she refused to give up her bus seat in Montgomery, Alabama nine months before Rosa Parks was arrested for doing the same thing that gave birth to the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S.

Khatun was a victim of child trafficking when she 12 years old. She returned to West Bengal and committed her life to putting an end to trafficking o children. She rescued hundreds of children through her own efforts.

Nkosi was born HIV-positive. He gained public attention when he was refused admittance to public school in Johannesburg, South Africa because of his disease. He shared his story at the 13th International AIDS Conference in 2000 when he was 11 years old. He lost his battle the following year but not before working with his foster mother to create Nkosi’s Haven, a refuge for HIV positive mothers and children. He was posthumously awarded the International Childrenʻs Peace Prize in 2005.

Easton was 14 years old when he met a 7-year-old girl at a science fair in Colorado who had a prosthetic arm that cost $80,000. It was then that he decided to build a more affordable alternative through 3D printing, bringing the price down to $350.

In our reading from The Book of Isaiah, the prophet provides us with a vision of a peaceful kingdom that will come to pass for the people of Israel. Someone will come with wisdom and understanding, counsel and might and will bring peace to the land.

“The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion, and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them” (Isaish 11:6). It is a striking and moving image – “a little child shall lead them.”

Others think otherwise. Someone objected to those whom he believes often quote Isaiah, “out of context.” He cited a new story about a young boy who raised money for a children’s charity and at the end of the segment, one of the newscasters commented on the maturity and kind heart of the boy and then said to everyone watching: “And a little child shall lead them.”

Apparently that was too much for him. In the context of the newscast, he argued, this statement means that “adults can learn from the leadership of a child. Or, that in some way, the leadership of a child is superior to that of adults.”

He went on to say that he is not denying that the boy is a fine example for all of us and that we would do well to follow his lead in being more concerned about the needs of others. But argued that the phrase, “And a little child shall lead them” is taken completely out of context. The original quote has nothing to do with children teaching or leading adults.”

He goes on to explain that the phrase is a quote from the Old Testament and manages to insist that the passage is about the Day of the Lord – the day that we look forward to when Jesus will remove the curse of sin from our world and restore peace to all creation.

Ironically, his explanation does exactly what he faults the newscasters for doing – taking the phrase “out of context.” Isaiah was speaking about restoration of the nation of Israel, not about the redemption of the world through Jesus Christ.

If we insist that the phrase has nothing to do “with children teaching or leading adults;” if we choose to dismiss or denigrate the Gretas, Malalas, Jaylens and Nkosis amongst us, then we would deny what we know to be true about the children whom God chose to be the parents of the Christ Child.

Although the Scriptures do not explicitly tells us how old Joseph and Mary were when she gave birth to Jesus, some scholars believe they were both in their teens, around 16 and 18 years old. Others ihave ndicated that both Mary and Joseph may have been even younger. Whatever the case may be, to say they were themselves children would not be an exaggeration.

Over time, they grew older as Jesus grew older. Every year, they would go to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When Jesus was 12 years old, they went up to the festival as was their custom.

After the festival was pau, after it was over, Mary and Joseph and others began to return home to Nazareth. But Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem.

Thinking he was with others as they traveled for a day, they began looking for him among relatives and friends. But he was nowhere to be found. They anxiously returned to Jerusalem and after three days, they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.

Everyone who heard him were amazed at his understanding and answers. But Mary was beside herself and she chided him, “Why have you treated us like this. Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you?”

Some may want to say that Jesus’ response was sarcastic. “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know – [you should have known better] – that I had to be [here] in my Father house/” Or he may have sought to comfort them. “Why were you searching for me? [I am okay. I am safe here in my Father’s house].”

Whatever we may make of his response to his parents, it is said that they all returned home and he was obedient to them. He grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and with all. Like those who were in the temple that day when Jesus listen to them and asked them questions, should we not be amazed when our children do the same?

Mary and Joseph did not discipline Jesus for his behavior but they were, for a moment, puzzled by what he said. Whether or not that incident had a long lasting effect on Jesus is unclear. What we do know is that one day, when the disciples spoke sternly to the little children who were being brought to him that he might pray for them, Jesus did not dismiss or denigrate the children.

Instead, he said, “Let the little children come to me and do not stop them; for it is such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs” (Matthew 19:14). Some of us may still be convinced that “children teaching or leading adults” have no place in the kingdom of God. But we need only remind ourselves of a 12-year-old Jewish boy whose infant birth became a sign of God’s love for the world and we need only remind ourselves about a 12-year-old Pakistani boy who was killed helping other children escape childhood slavery; a 15-year-old African America girl who refused to give up her seat on a bus along with countless other children to know that the kingdom of God belongs to them.

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