Christmas is a Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.
Sometimes we are hesitant to state this so plainly, especially in the media where talk of faith is often avoided.
Since the beginning of recorded history, mankind has looked to the heavens and exercised faith -- the act of believing in something greater than ourselves. Oftentimes, this beliefotivates us to try to be better, more compassionate human beings.
Regardless of a person's religion, most people can agree that there is a feeling of brotherhoodhat radiates more distinctly at Christmastime than at other times of the year.
Perhaps this happens because people pause during the holidays to think about what they really believe in, and how they might be part of a bigger, more wondrous picture.
This belief is often the foundation of faith, even if it's little more than hoping something is true.
Such hope is especially evidentn the eyes of children, who are quick to accept the stories of Christmas, whether they are about a baby born in a faraway stable, or a jolly old elf who travels the world giving gifts to children.
This childlike faith is a key doctrinal principle in Christendom.
But what does it really mean to have the faith of a child?
We asked local pastors and religious leaders to share their thoughts on this question and are pleased to present their replies as part of this Christmas edition of the Payson Roundup.
It started with a child
Christmas is for kids. Ever said that? Many have. And like most slogan-statements that catch on with some regularity, this one contains some grains of truth. Christmas would definitely not be the same without those saucer-sized eyes that just seem to grow larger with each additional package put under the tree.
Christmas would not be the same without those appetites that are too small for green beans and carrots but bottomless pits when it comes to Christmas goodies.
And Christmas would be so different if we couldn't listen to tiny tots struggling with "Away in a Manger" and shouting out "Rudolph" in the wrong key.
Christmas is for kids. The world has seen to that. But we can't lay the entire burden on the world. God has had a hand in this, too. After all, God came as a child on that first Christmas. A child is what Christmas is about.
Christmas is for children. For 6-year-old, 25-year-old, and 53-year-old, and for the children our society politely refers to as the golden-agers.
Christmas is not just for the young at heart, but for the young in faith, for those of every age who are willing to bend the knee and bow the head before the manger of our child king. Merry Christmas!
The Rev. Lowell E. Andrews, Rector, The Anglican Church of the Holy Nativity
Put aside adult reasoning
Childlike faith is reflected in the wonder and excitement of the child at Christmas. A childlike faith cannot conceive of the cosmos being formed by accident, but rather it clings to faith in a Creator. It stands speechless at the humility of our Creator to condescend to become a baby -- a baby with strength to sustain heaven and earth and to save the world from itself.
Adult reason is unable to make this connection. It cannot comprehend the notion of God in a manger or upon a cross -- a God who comes in the flesh to be born, to die, to be raised and to ascend again to heaven.
Childlike faith does not pick and choose, but believes what God says. If God says it in His Word -- that is good enough for the child of God.
"And the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us."
Rev. Todd Arnold, Shepherd of the Pines Lutheran Church
As a child submits to a father
Faith of a child obviously means different things to different people. At this time of year, some children have placed their full faith in Santa Claus bringing presents at Christmas. That is faith of a child even though as children mature they see reality differently.
To me, faith is our response to God's initiative. When people place their full faith and confidence in the God of the Holy Bible, they must humbly submit, with the faith of a child, to their Father's will. As they do that, they have taken the initial steps in their Christian walk toward an eternity in Heaven.
Faith of a child is the first step one can take to accept God's amazing grace.
Prayerfully, each of the steps following that acceptance will be doing God's will (good works) due to gratefulness to God for what He has done.
As true Christians mature, their faith matures also, but eventually sin happens. Then the process starts over again, as the Christian responds in faith to God's initiative by confessing, repenting and returning to God's will for their life.
Faith of a child is a wonderful and necessary first step. Becoming a mature Christian is a process which takes a lifetime -- and then an eternity with Jesus.
Prayerfully, many people will take that first step today as they invite Jesus into their heart and accept Him as the Lord of their lives.
Jerry Green, Retired pastor and a part of Rim Country's Men's Ministry
More than a blind leap
Some teach that faith is a leap in the dark -- it doesn't matter what you believe as long as you have faith, the faith of a child.
We sometimes forget that a child's faith is only as good as the object of that faith.
A young boy stood precariously on the roof of a burning home. His father stood on the ground below and yelled, "Jump into my arms."
"But I can't see you Daddy," the boy screamed.
"It's all right, son. I can see you. Jump!"
At Christmas, it is not enough that children have faith in faith. The object of faith at Christmas should be Christ.
Children need to know who He is, why He came, and why He can be trusted.
Dr. Joe Falkner, Ponderosa Baptist Church
It's about trust without full understanding
Children are a wonderful gift to us. God wants us all to have faith like a child. He wants us to be childlike (not childish). The values of being childlike are immense.
Children are kind of like wet cement. They are forever teachable, dependent, trusting and uncorrupted. They are always growing and discovering, changing and improving. They love and forgive unconditionally.
A little child makes no claim of greatness, he just relies on the care of his parents and others who love him to take care of his needs.
So what does it mean to have the faith of a child? It is that belief and trust in something without doubting.
At this time of year, I am reminded of Christ's birth, the coming of God in human flesh to die in our place for our sin.
Children can believe and have faith and trust in Jesus and receive the wonderful gift of salvation.
They may not fully understand everything, but they believe in the wonder of the baby born in a manger who is the Son of God.
This Christmas season, I hope you will find that childlike faith and believe and ponder the true meaning of Christmas.
Kraig Jones, Associate Pastor, Mountain Bible Church
It's about humility and hope
There's just something about Christmas that seems to ignite the faith of a small child.
The faith that doesn't need answers, just hope, for true faith cannot exist alongside human logic, but co-exists alongside the truth and fact that Christmas is here.
In the Bible Jesus Christ said, "Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it." (Luke 18:17) NKJV
Notice, it is not a "childish" faith -- but faith ... "as a child."
A child trusts, a child believes -- it's only us adults who have trouble with this, that's why Jesus pointed to it as our "issue."
The Bible says that faith comes by hearing the Word of God, (Romans 10:17) and that faith is a gift from God. (Ephesians 2:8)
This Christmas, maybe we can humble ourselves as a little child and admit we need some faith, and even go so far as to do what God has said to get some.
Faith believes in what it cannot see or understand. Without faith, we simply cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6), for anything else demands that God prove Himself to us when all creation already testifies that there is "God" (Psalms 19:1),nd all humans instinctively know that God already exists. (Romans 1:20)
May God Almighty richly bless you this Christmas with faith -- "as a child."
Pastor Joe Hittle, Calvary Chapel Payson
Willingness to believe the good
To have the faith of a child means to, without doubt, believe in all things that are good. Only good comes from God.
Little children were more recently with God, therefore they knew only good in His presence.
With a veil of forgetfulness, we come to earth without knowledge, but with faith in that which is good and the light of Christ to guide us in good behavior.
The Spirit of Christ is manifest more at Christmas than any other time of the year. Children feel this and love celebrating Jesus' birth, when it was His time to come to earth in a mortal body and personally teach us what is meant to have the faith of a child.
May His spirit bless each and every one in our local communities with a very special Christmas.
J. Fred Hollobaugh, Payson Arizona Stake President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Children, young and lacking in experience, look to others for guidance and understanding.
Young children do not pretend to know the answers. They are full of wonder and questions, and seem to have a natural desire to learn.
What are clouds made of, Mommy? How do birds fly? Why are there holes in this cheese?
Children ask and readily receive, without needing proof of the answer. They simply trust and believe. This is why Jesus used children as examples.
Jesus said, "Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it."
Childlike faith means coming to God with complete dependency. It is expressed by acknowledging, "I do not have all the answers, and realize I need guidance and understanding."
Jesus was also named Emmanuel, meaning "God with us." God came to earth as a child, to live with mankind and to show us the way to Him.
This is the wonder and joy of Christmas.
When I look to God for answers, trusting Him completely, that is faith like a child.
Pastor Gordon Hauptman, Crossroads Foursquare Church