Our lullabies of truth shouldn’t be songs of horror, but they should tell of the whole Gospel, not just the nice parts of the story. Children see and live out the bad news every day of their lives, so we might as well put labels to it. Even toddlers must know they are sinners acting in rebellion against a holy and righteous God, and thus justly deserving of His wrath. When David storms and stomps and bites his mommy, his offense isn’t mainly against his mother, but the God who created him and his mother. And the consequence for that sin is much worse than he can imagine or mommy can implement. This isn’t good news, but it is reality.
So often when we present the Gospel to children, we give them a sugar-coated “Jesus pill.” We skip over personal sin, holy wrath, and hell because we don’t want our children to be scared or to feel badly about themselves. The problem is that in doing so, we take the “good” out of “good news.” The fact that Jesus was born, rose from the dead, and can be their friend forever is news—but without the knowledge and support of the rest of the story, they have no need for it. The problem is not that our children feel bad about sin, but that they—and we—don’t feel bad enough about it. If they don’t know they are condemned and helpless, they will never stand amazed that God in mercy sent His perfect Son to be their deliverer, to bear God’s wrath and die in their place. I’m not saying we should leave them in sackcloth and ashes, nor should we address them harshly as unrepentant heathens. We should sing of the truth of God’s love for them, about baby Jesus sleeping in Mary’s arms, but let’s not skip the part about God’s love sending Jesus to the cross.
We should sing Away in the Manger, but we should also teach them O Sacred Head, Now Wounded. Christ the Lord Is Risen Today will not ring with true triumph unless Were You There? precedes it. We will never rejoice more fully or securely in Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners then after we have sung the whole truth:
Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished
(from How Deep the Father’s Love for Us by Stuart Townend)
The cross of Christ may not be as bright as the angel hosts or as comforting as the glow of the Natal Star, but it does mean that Immanuel is a Savior who will never be separated from the children He died to purchase. And in the darkness, the truth of His blood-bought nearness is better than any nightlight.
(Image courtesy of Iamneeat FreeDigitalPhotos.net)