People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it." And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
In this passage Jesus tells us that 'whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.' This got my wheels spinning - what does it mean to receive something as a little child? My mind popped back to a bit from the Jimmy Kimmel show a few years ago. The host of the show asked parents to give their children an early Christmas present to unwrap - but to make it a bad one. They were then to film the results and upload it to YouTube. The results, as you might guess, are hilarious. Here's a clip if you haven't seen it before. Now, some people might find this joke a bit mean, but I think done in the right way it is not only funny, but teaches us something.
Some of the kids are quite angry at the gifts they receive. It isn't what they wanted or expected, so they react poorly (and really, react the way some of us adults still do when we don't get what we want). I really admire the kids who are grateful - no matter what it is they have been given. In the clip above one little girl receives deodorant - and loves it even though she doesn't really know what it is. A young boy receives a potato - just a plain ordinary potato - and is so happy for it! He loves it so much he keeps jumping in front of the camera with a big grin, and his older brother even declares it the best gift.
I think both reactions, positive and negative, show us something about what it means to receive the kingdom of God like a little child. The key is that all of the children, no matter how they reacted, trust that what they were given is indeed a gift. It might not be the gift they wanted, they might not like it, but they trust that it is a gift. Sometimes when the Kingdom of God breaks through into our world it might come in a form we don't want or don't like. It might look like institutions and traditions we hold dear crumbling. It might look like something we love falling apart. We might hate it at first. But we must trust that it is indeed a gift, and receive it with the innocence and trust of a child. After all, it does come from our heavenly parent.
And unlike these parents prompted by Jimmy Kimmel, God doesn't give terrible presents.
Heavenly father, mother, giver of all gifts. Help us to receive what you give us with the grace and trust of a child. Help us to move past our initial reactions to see the beauty in your Kingdom breaking through. And, whether we are ready or not, help us to become a part of making space for the Kingdom to break through. Amen.