Children Are a Blessing!

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“Children are an inheritance from the Lord. They are a reward from Him. The children born to a man when he is young are like arrows in the hand of a warrior. Blessed is the man who has filled his quiver with them. He will not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the city gate” (Psalm 127:3-5).
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
Children are an inheritance from the Lord. Children are a reward. Children are a blessing. I’ve known this… I’ve believed this…I’ve preached this… for a long time. But one Sunday night about three years ago that truth was reinforced. Entering the room, I was greeted by a young couple, in their mid-twenties. She was sitting up in her hospital bed. He was in a chair by her side. Both of them looked tired and confused and scared. Their pastor had asked me to visit them, so I knew they were about 200 miles away from home, without immediate family support.
I also knew that she was experiencing difficulty in her pregnancy, but not to what extent. They quickly filled me in on the details. She was in her twenty-third week. The placenta had ruptured. Most of the amniotic fluid was gone. Both she and their baby boy were in grave danger. Every day was crucial to the health and well-being of both mother and son. While each day slightly increased his chances of survival, it also greatly increased her risk of systemic infection.      
What do you say to a couple who is in such a situation? “Don’t worry? It will be all right”? They had reason to be anxious. Barring a miracle, it was likely that things were not going to “be all right.” Even if their son beat the odds and survived, he would most likely have some developmental disabilities. And for that matter, the mother wasn’t totally out of the woods either. Fortunately, I was not left with my own fumbling words. I had God’s Word, which brings immeasurable comfort and hope in even the most desperate circumstances.
The Word of God that I shared with them was from the Old Testament reading assigned for that day, Isaiah 49:1-7. I spoke with them about how, in this text, Jesus Himself speaks to us through the prophet Isaiah. He tells us that God the Father, “formed Me from the womb to be His servant.” “The Lord called Me from the womb, from the body of My mother He named My name.”
We talked about the wonder of the infinite, Almighty God, setting aside His glory to become a tiny baby, subject to the limits and vulnerability of His mother’s womb. To be our Savior, Jesus took our place, not only on a cross and in a tomb, but also in the womb. It took a mother’s womb for the Messiah to identify with and bring salvation for all humanity, including them and their unborn son. More than anyone else, Jesus understands what they were going through. More importantly, their unborn son is one for whom the heavenly Father gave His one and only begotten Son into death, even death on the cross. God’s Word reassures us that no matter what happened in the days to come, they could be certain that Jesus died to give their child the gift of eternal life. They could trust that He longs to bring their boy into His kingdom through the water and Word of Holy Baptism.
I left that hospital room more aware of the precious gift of life and how children are a great blessing from God. I venture to say that that young father and mother would have been willing to give up everything they had if it could bring their child into this world healthy and safe. Isn’t it sad that it takes such dire circumstances for us to realize just how blessed we are?      
Children are an inheritance from the Lord. Children are a reward. Children are a blessing. I believe this, and I know you do, too, or else you would probably not be here this Sunday as we observe the sanctity of all human life. But sadly, we live in an age and society that does not view children in the same way. Trouble, inconvenience, noise, and cost are frequently used to describe children by those who call themselves “happily childless by choice.”
There is a growing prejudice against children. Many people no longer even pretend to like them. Housing units advertise rentals for those with “NO CHILDREN,” while more subtle institutional prejudices exist in restaurants and even in some religious buildings and services. Do you think “children’s church” is really for the sake of the children? No, it’s so the adults are not “bothered” or interrupted by the children. I thank God that this congregation recognizes what a blessing it is to have little children with us in worship, even when they are at their most vocal, wiggliest best. Such distractions force us to put the needs of others ahead of our own. The need for that little child, our little brother or sister in Christ, to learn how to sit with God’s people and to hear God’s Word and to sing God’s praise outweighs any temporary inconvenience we might experience.
Sadly even many of those who “choose to have children” do so with selfish motives. Men say that having children motivates them in their careers. Yet studies reveal that the average American father sees his pre-teen child only 12 ½ minutes per day, while middle-class fathers spend an average of 38 seconds a day with their one-year-olds. And women aren’t immune from this either. The Washington Post describes a growing “baby panic” among feminists and yuppies. As they approach age 35, they seek to have a child in response to the ticking of their biological clocks. Still others, interviewed when applying for surrogate motherhood, say they want to have a baby for someone else to “somehow make up for having an abortion.” Studies of the pregnancy epidemic among teenagers reveal that some boys want babies to prove their virility; and some girls want babies because it is the “in” thing. Still others want a child to fill in the loneliness of their lives in a world they perceive as too impersonal, too lacking in love. It seems many people view children as a mixture of expensive nuisance, fragile treasure, super-pet, a means of penance and—judging from statistics—as objects or things to be exploited, abused, or simply discarded when they make life too inconvenient.
But our text tells us that God has an entirely different view. Children are an inheritance from the Lord. Children are a reward. Children are a blessing! Perhaps, then, more important than why people have children is the question of why God gives children. Certainly children arrive with demands on our schedules, budgets, and patience; but just as certainly they arrive as gifts. And like most of God’s best blessings, these are often cleverly disguised.
Consider, for example, how children teach us about faith. Jesus said: “Whoever doesn’t receive the kingdom of God as a little child receives it will never enter it.” Some mistakenly think that Jesus is saying that children are somehow role models, that they possess certain “virtues” such as innocence. But anyone who has had little children of his own knows this is not true. Children can be quite selfish. Children are often demanding. And Scripture makes it clear: No child is innocent. We are all conceived and born in sin and transgression.
So what does Jesus mean then? The key is in the word “receives.” In the Old Testament and in Jesus’ day, people had a more accurate view of children than today. Children were seen as weak, as vulnerable, as not being able to care for themselves. Children were to be cared for and not abused or aborted. Children need to be trained, or they’ll go bad. Children are not wise or powerful, but weak and ignorant. But therein lies their advantage over us adults: They usually realize this and are not afraid to admit how weak and needy they are. Having no other recourse, they rely and trust in others for help.  
This is what Jesus means. Only people who are powerless—and who admit it—will be saved. The only way anyone can receive the kingdom is “as a little child receives it,” that is, by simple faith and trust in what Christ has done for us. Faith and salvation is not something we can earn, but it is a gift of God’s grace. And probably nothing else so effectively demonstrates salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone as the baptism of a tiny, little baby.
Speaking of the baptism of little ones: I didn’t finish the story I started earlier. A few weeks later that same young couple called me to come back to the hospital. The nurses escorted me into the neo-natal intensive care unit, and I had the privilege to baptize their one pound, four ounce baby boy. They named him Chance, because they were so thankful that God had given them another three weeks in the womb so that he might have a chance for life. The last I heard Chance and his parents are doing quite well. What a blessing to not only receive life, but to receive eternal life and to be born again through the water and the Word!
Children are a blessing in other ways as well. Children teach us how to receive forgiveness and how to give forgiveness. Children give us the opportunity to share the Gospel. Children help us to live as “little Christs.” Children help to teach us patience and to practice selflessness. In caring for the least of these little ones, we do for children what we would not do for money, power, or even ourselves. Can you think of a time when you did more for “one of [Christ’s] brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant they seemed,” than when you did these things for the child whom God entrusted to your care?
Children provide us with opportunities to serve Jesus by loving our needy neighbor. Remember the parable of the sheep and the goats? To those blessed to inherit the kingdom of God, Jesus says: “I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you took Me into your home. I needed clothes, and you gave Me something to wear. I was sick, and you took care of Me.” (Matthew 25:35-36).
Children are an inheritance from the Lord. Children are a reward. Children are a blessing. This message needs to be proclaimed loudly and strongly in our day, when self-fulfillment and materialism seem to have drastically changed people’s attitudes toward children. The prevalence of abortion, child abuse, child neglect, and divorce stand as a terrible indictment of our society and its values.
And it’s no mere coincidence that the devaluing of pre-born life has led to the devaluing of life near its end. It is no coincidence that thinking of children as a burden rather than a blessing has led to thinking of the aged and infirm as a burden as well. Children, if properly taught to appreciate the sanctity of all human life, will not only support their parents when they have attained old age, but they will make it their business to protect the rights of their parents from those who would question “the quality of their life.”
In God’s view, passing on the heritage of faith to our children is the most important goal of each generation. It is doubtful if many in our society, including many in the Church, would list this as the first priority of life. But it fits very well with the mission of Lutherans For Life: “To witness to the sanctity of human life through education based on the Word of God.” And it is our purpose for being God’s church in this place at this time: to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to make disciples of God’s people of all ages and backgrounds.
By God’s grace, may we continue to proclaim the blessing of children. May we continue to speak and act on behalf of those who are vulnerable and defenseless. May we continue to offer healing and hope to those who have made an abortion choice and are now dealing with its consequential guilt and regret. May we continue to witness to the sanctity of all human life.   
Above all, may we continue to tell others the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ, how God formed Jesus in the womb and called Him from the womb so He could identify with and bring salvation for all humanity… so that His Incarnate Son might defeat sin, death, and Satan with His death on the cross… so that God could be glorified in all this… and so that you might be forgiven of all of your sins.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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