All the images, from the Christmas just past, of Jesus in the manger or held by his loving parents prompted me to think of the wonder of infants — how they touch the heart by their very mannerisms, and delight with their first unsteady steps, the unfettered glee at something that amuses them or their first hint at an uttered “Dada”.
I suppose that is why the manger scene has had universal appeal down the ages, even in the secular world.
Obviously,as Christians we see more than a sleeping child. We see the wonder of God confined — nailed to our poor planet — as Luci Shaw puts it in her wonderful book Listen to the Green Also we see the Calvary Cross casting its shadow across the crib.
Nevertheless, it is wonderful the way the Lord has encrypted into our DNA a tender response to any small child and a desire to protect. It prompted me to write the following as a tribute to God’s doing this:
A SLEEPING CHILD
I do not suppose there is a peace and serenity quite like it; eyes closed with the lashes brushing a soft new cheek; rosebud mouth relaxed, taking the soft waft of each little breath from a softly rounded nose.
A child asleep! All the innocence of that fresh new life brought to the surface for anyone to see. No petty squabbling, no little tantrums (patent reminders, even at that age, of our fallenness). Just an angelic repose.
What thoughts are moving across that newly forming mind? What images flit through the windows of his soul?
He stirs. A little sigh. The mouth moves, momentarily half forming inexpressible words, sucks a little and settles. There is contentment and rest in every posture of the rosy cheeks, the closed lids, the hand resting on the pillow, halfway to the mouth.
Tomorrow there will be new challenges, new things to explore, to experience and absorb. But for now there is the peace of a body at rest, a mind unsullied from without and a soul at rest, overseen by the Prince of Peace – the One who ordained that it should be so. He made this model of how we should approach Him – of how we should rest in Him.
There can be nothing so tangible as the peace of a sleeping child. The shadow of his guardian angel hovers over the resting form and all seems safe; all seems good; all seems redeemed.
If ever I desire to absorb sweet innocence, to inhale its aroma and stand reverently in its purity, take me to a sleeping child.