A LITTLE CHILD SHALL LEAD THEM
A sermon by Rev. Richard Miller, Minister of Trinity United Church, Montreal, QC. Isaiah 11:1-10. December 5, 2004.
The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.
– Isaiah 11:6
Today is the second Sunday in Advent, and we have just welcomed young Megan into the church through baptism. How interesting it is – and what a happy coincidence – that the Gospel lesson for this Sunday is about John the Baptizer, and the reading from the Old Testament is a prophecy which says that “a little child shall lead them.” If I had chosen the readings myself, I couldn’t have found a better combination of passages. And I did not choose them myself: they are taken straight from the lectionary for this day. And so these readings are being used in many, many places and in many different churches across Canada and throughout North America, but also in many other places around the world. Let me stretch the point a bit and say that Megan’s baptism is being celebrated far and wide – not just here at Trinity. And there is some truth in that besides the fact that these readings are so appropriate, for whenever and wherever baptism takes place, the whole church celebrates. Even when we do not know the specific places and dates or the names of those being baptized, we know that baptism is a cause celebre, and we give thanks for any and all who come to the waters – regardless of where or when that may be.
Now when Isaiah gave his prophecy that includes the words, “a little child shall lead them,” I believe we can say with certainty that he was not thinking of Megan. And for that matter he was not thinking specifically of Jesus. Rather he was telling of a time to come when there would be such peace that a child could lead the country. No more conflict and war. No more fighting. Even the animals would live in peace with each other, and the tame would coexist with the wild without fear.
And indeed, the scriptures are full of stories of babies and young children who became leaders. Think of Moses in the basket in the Nile. Think of Samuel saying, “Speak, Lord, for your servant heareth.” Think of all the young girls who are rarely given a voice in the Bible, yet they raised their children to know and love God. We naturally think of the birth of Jesus at this time of year, but think also of his teaching the scholars at the age of twelve, and of how he later said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” (Mt. 19:14) Truly in his birth the prophecy was fulfilled, and a little child did lead them.
How often is that also true today. How often is it true that “Out of the mouth of babes and infants” has God given strength; and many times words of wisdom have come from small children. In Matthew 18, the disciples asked Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And what did Jesus say? We read that
He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (Mt. 18:2-4)
A little child shall lead us. A little child shall show the way. As we prepare ourselves for the coming of the Christ-child, let us remember that. In the miracle of the Incarnation where God took the form of this human baby, let us open our own hearts like children to the wonder and mystery of it all. Let us become like children ourselves as we follow Jesus in trust and hope. And as we have baptized and welcomed one such child this day, let us remember our own baptism and be thankful, for we have been created – and recreated – in the image of God. Amen.