category: Advent

Advent Reflection: Day 26

Thursday,  December 24

Isaiah 9:2–7; Psalm 96; Titus 2:11–14; Luke 2:1–20

Leland Thomas observes, “In the eyes of children we find the joy of Christmas. In their hearts we find its meaning.” Although my children are now young adults, I remember the joy Christmas morning would bring. Our daughter would awaken our son, and together they would wish my wife and me a Merry Christmas, either through the audio monitor during their early childhood years, or a phone call in later years. Before being allowed to come downstairs to the den, my wife would take a picture of them sitting on the stairs in eager anticipation of what Christmas morning would bring.

“In the eyes of children…” The September 3, 2015 issue of National Geographic published an article by Susan Ager inspired by the photo of a Turkish police officer carrying the body of a three–year–old after he washed ashore. He was on a boat of Syrian refugees that sank trying to reach a Greek island. Rick Shaw, director of Pictures of the Year International, is quoted in the article. He compares the photo of the Syrian boy to the best–remembered photo of the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, which destroyed a child care center. The photo shows a firefighter in a red helmet carrying the bloodied body of a toddler wearing pink socks. She was one year and a day old.

And who could forget the iconic photo of hunger shot by Kevin Carter in Sudan in 1992. Describing how the moment was captured, Ager writes, “When a United Nations food distribution plane set down, he shot photos of children bent to the dirt, crying. As he watched one girl scrabble at the ground, a huge vulture landed just beyond her. He snapped the photo, which illuminated the famine in Sudan more powerfully than an image of a thousand hungry people would have.”

The point of the National Geographic article was not simply to recall famous photos of children, but to illustrate the response such photos often elicit. “Any photo of any child makes us think of our own, or the child we once were…That sensation can trigger a response in the heart, a sudden attention to a faraway issue that was abstract and unending… Changed hearts can change minds and ultimately policy and history.”

The title of Ager’s article, by the way, was “This Wouldn’t Be the First Time a Child’s Photo Changed History.” I could not agree more. Although no actual photo of Christ exists, he is undeniably pictured throughout the pages of Scripture. And no child changed history like this Child. In the words of Isaiah’s prophecy, “A child has been born for us, a son given to us” (9:6). And in the words of the angel spoken to the shepherds, “to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

May we find the joy of Christmas in turning our eyes to the Christ Child. And as we seek the heart of the Savior, may we also rediscover the meaning of Christmas.

Tracy Jessup
Vice President for Christian Life and Service, Senior Minister to the University

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