I lie down and sleep; I wake again, for the Lord sustains me. Psalm 3:5 

“Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Mark 10:15 

There was a lovely Blue Christmas service this past Monday night, called “In the Bleak Midwinter.” The winter solstice that day is sometimes termed midwinter, even though it is the beginning of winter for us in the northern hemisphere. This year may seem like a bleak midwinter as we continue to deal with the pandemic, racial injustice, and economic difficulties. Many are isolated from families and friends they would normally be with for holiday celebrations. It might be hard to sleep and get rest when there is so much worry and anxiety.  

We know of many people in the Bible that also were in bleak situations. Psalm 3 is attributed to David as he is fleeing from his son Absalom.  In this scary situation he thanks God that he is able to sleep. In the Living Translation of this verse ends “I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me.” This reminds me of the prayer we often pray as and teach to our children: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.” Not a bad prayer to remember, as we have trouble sleeping or are anxious, it reminds us that God loves us and is always watching over us. Perhaps we need to have that childlike faith?   

In Mark, we hear Jesus tell us that yes, we should be as children. Here were the disciples trying to shoo away the bothersome children. Jesus tells them to welcome everyone including the children. Those with childlike faith – not childish faith, but an openness and receptivity to the Gospel. This kingdom of God is not something we need to earn, not something to be achieved by human effort. but is the free gift of God. It is freely available to those who feel helpless, to those in need of care. God sent us the greatest gift ever, and He send his Son in the form of a helpless baby. A person to be cared for by human hands and raised among humans in order to communicate with us.   

Part of the poem In the Bleak Midwinter says: “In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed, the Lord God Almighty, is Jesus Christ.” The God of all Creation came to us, born in a humble manger, to poor people May we all humbly accept this salvation with a humble heart; accept and share the greatest gift of all.  

Loving Father, our preparation is drawing to a close and we are eager to receive you anew. The assurance of your presence brings us peace. May we always experience you with simple faith and wide-eyed wonder. Open our hearts, gracious Lord, so we may arrive at the manger with deep humility and a strong desire to serve you. Be with those for whom this holiday season is not as joyful. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Chris Gabel