Mothers of Salem

When mothers of Salem
Their children brought to Jesus,
The stern disciples drove them back
And bade them depart.

But Jesus saw them
Ere they fled, and sweetly smiled,
And kindly said:
"Suffer little children to come unto me."

I chuckle whenever I hear this children's hymn. Imagine it being offered up as a Christmas song in the midst of the standard commercial fare (Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, Jingle Bells). This is exactly what I did as a very young child attending one of my Dad's service club Christmas parties. Children had been asked to contribute their favourite carol to the program. Some were off-key, some were shy and muted, some were mumbled and then forceful with a few remembered refrains. But young Doug? He was loud and off-topic. Or was I?

Strangely, the experience does remain in my memory. Probably because of the puzzled looks which appeared on the faces of adults as I did my best in honour of Jesus. My parents even looked a little put off for a couple of seconds. The song was in fact a children's favourite at Sunday School (Jesus is a nice guy. His ways are good. He likes kids. He wants them near. He tells friends and mothers that it must be so.)

Is this not the message which presently struggles to the surface at Christmas? The rush is on; the shops are full; the tills are ringing; the restaurants host the company parties; the festive painted windows capture the imagination; the radios repeat the signature songs of Crosby, Williams, Carpenter and Matthis.

But who 'repeats the sounding joy' of God coming near, and especially to children? When you see it. Really see it. This humbling condescension of the Most High to the over-crowded City of David and the gentle beasts and rude smells of the manger. Nothing can be more captivating.


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