All Are Welcome

Forester-15I’ve always been skeptical of the line in the Christmas carol, “Away in a Manger,” which describes Jesus as a baby who doesn’t cry. It seems to me that with Jesus’ dual nature—fully God and fully man—the latter aspect would necessarily entail some crying. It’s comforts me to think of Jesus as a helpless, crying infant, because it reminds me of his humanity, and reminds me that he identifies with the most vulnerable among us because he’s lived that experience. I think that’s why I’ve always appreciated the “kid friendly” culture at City Pres. If your baby or toddler cries during the service, they’re not going to be the only one, and that’s okay, because that’s what babies and toddlers do. It’s a culture that extends beyond Sunday morning. Our Tuesday night City Group consists of about ten couples and twenty-five children. It’s chaos, but we’re all contributing to it, and it’s teaching me what it looks like to walk with Jesus together, fussy babies, whiney toddlers, and rambunctious kids included. The same can be said for the two Women’s Bible Studies I’ve participated in this past year and the friendships I’ve formed as a result with other moms of little ones. There’s a refreshing openness in our interactions as we share the struggles and the joys of our recently begun journey of parenthood.

This welcoming quality was particularly apparent at the Christmas Eve service this past week. With no childcare available, there were more babies and toddlers in the service, which meant more crying and more random outbursts, but they combined in a somewhat unexpected way with the sacredness of the liturgy to create a mood that seemed especially fitting at Christmas, when we celebrate the birth of a child, Jesus, who loved us enough to become one of us—baby, toddler, child, teenager, adult—so that we might be reconciled and redeemed. As I reflect with gratitude on this greatest of gifts, I’m thankful to have found a church community in City Pres that embraces and even celebrates the fullness of humanity as expressed in the cries of a tired, hungry baby, or the poorly timed exclamations of an enthusiastic toddler. As the sign posted on the gate outside our church reminds us each week, “All are welcome.”