Yesterday, I had the privilege of telling the story of Jesus’ birth to two children who had never heard it.  They know that God is their father and that Jesus is God’s son.  But they haven’t been in church and they had never heard the story of God With Us.  It was an exciting experience.  They are exceptionally bright and articulate children who are excited to be a part of a Bible study that will teach them about Jesus.

As the program director of The Special Gathering, which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community, I’m usually involved with people who are developmentally disabled.  Our goal is evangelism and discipleship of our population.  However, through a series of events, I was asked to teach these children the “God and I” scouts Bible study.  Knowing the children and their parents, I jumped at the chance. 

Of course, at seven and nine years old, they squirmed and wiggled their way through the details but they grasped them.  And they got the wonder of what happened 2,008 years ago. They loved hearing about the angels, the kings and the shepherds.  I was born into a world that ignored or denied the supernatural.  But attitudes have changed.  They are living in a society that accepts the supernatural.  There was no doubting the existence of angels or the validity of their appearance.  They oohed and aahed at the appropriate times.

Sunday I had a similar–though different–experience with Jonathan, a friend who is a teenager.  He has been diagnosed with autism.  Jon was full of delightful questions.  “Can your husband be a Christian?  He’s in a wheelchair.  I thought people in a wheelchair couldn’t be a Christian.”

Smiling at this curious questions, we briefly explained that God isn’t interested in how we look or how we get around.  He is interested in whether we love him and accept him as our Father.

“Oh, I know that,” he said confidently remembering his years of Christian training.  “It’s what’s in people’s hearts that counts.  I know that.”

The conversation returned to the ebb and flow of college and daily routines. 

After a few minutes of contemplation.  Jonathan concluded, “Then I guess men with a comb over can be a Christian, too,”  he mused, pouring more catsup into his mustard making a sauce for his French fries, “if their hearts are right with God.  Is that true?”  

The delightful curiosity of youth is wonderful to be around.  Perhaps that is part of what makes working within the mentally challenged community so much fun.  Curiosity remains an important and valued commodity.  As we mature into adulthood, curiosity becomes hidden.  It’s no longer cool to admit,  “I didn’t know.”  Therefore, we must hide our questions and guard the wonder.  But wonder and curious awe is less hidden within our community.  We are still able to appreciate and enjoy the surprise and glory of a new idea, a new experience.

Yesterday, after retelling the Christmas story using our creche, the children and I reassembled it into its Styrofoam packaging.  I had given them a gift of a small creche that they could take home with them.  “Can we repackage our gifts and pretend that we didn’t open them?”  the nine year old asked. 

“Then we can reopen them on Christmas and have a great surprise,”  the seven year old concluded.

“Of course, you can,” I said.  What a marvelous idea.  A repackaged gift that’s a great surprise!  Maybe there will even be a older man gathered around the tree who is a comb-over Christian. 

Isn’t life great?