Approaching the Nativity with Childlike Faith
Within the genre of classic Christmas songs, there is only one that I can expect, without fail, to bring tears to my eyes: “Little Drummer Boy.” While it may lack the theological depth of “O Come O Come Emmanuel,” or the emotional crescendo of “O Holy Night,” this sweet song speaks to an essential characteristic of faith that has become increasingly rare in our modern world: childlikeness.
An engaged observer of Western society would not be surprised to learn that large families are increasingly a relic of the past; in fact, research evinces a growing trend of adults reporting that they have no interest in having children, ever. Between 2018 and 2021, the percentage of people aged 18 to 49 who reported that they did not plan to have children rose from 37% to 44%. Even among parents, nearly 75% have no plans to have an additional child, ever.
Some disturbingly extreme outliers like antinatalism activists “consider intentional human reproduction […] an irreversible, unnecessary, indefensible, and enduring form of harm…” Even among typical Americans, however, there is a growing normalization of simply disliking, or even hating, children — a mentality that the American Psychological Association refers to as “misopedia.”
Ethics and Public Policy Center fellow Patrick T. Brown poignantly reflected on Twitter about a personal experience with the phenomena that he refers to as “anti-familism,” writing, “I think my own favorite example of this was on a pandemic-era call (not with anyone related to EPPC!) during which one of my children was chatting in the background. A single middle-aged dude chimed in: ‘that’s just Patrick’s little reminder for everyone to use birth control.’”
There are any number of variables that one could point to in explanation of the anti-child sentiment in the United States: 49 years of unlimited abortion through all nine months of pregnancy under Roe v. Wade; the advent and commercialization of hormonal birth control; the popularizing of third-wave feminist “girl boss” culture that teaches women they cannot simultaneously succeed at a career and motherhood. All of the above, and more, are certainly culprits.
But the issue is not simply that the desire to procreate has diminished. The modern world is also increasingly stripping born children of their innate innocence at the earliest possible age.
A child born into the 21st century is taught that any discomfort she experiences during puberty is a sign that she was born into the wrong body — that puberty-blocking drugs and a double mastectomy will repair her brokenness. Parents across America forcibly expose their children to sexual content at drag shows and pride parades. One of the most popular toys of Christmas 2022 is a crystal ball — because, of course, kids are never too young to be introduced to the occult.
Somewhere between the haze of unlimited abortion and the advent of trans mania, western society began to wage war on children — both their existence, and their innocence.
Enter the “Little Drummer Boy.” Between the “rum pum pums,” the little boy in the song engages in a profound encounter with the infant Christ; “Little baby, I am a poor boy, too. I have no gift to bring that’s fit to give our King. Shall I play for you?” Mary nods, the ox and lamb keep time, and the child offers his music as a sign of devotion — as out of place and useless as it may seem to the outside observer. The Lord Jesus rewards his faithfulness with a smile.
This is the gift of childlike faith: the confidence to approach the King, knowing that there is no work that we can possibly achieve to earn our way into His favor, but trusting that faith alone, by grace alone, in Christ alone is sufficient.
In Mark 10:14-15, Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” A society that fails to appreciate, and even persecutes, children and their innocence loses sight of the many gifts that children bring to the world, and the lessons that they have to offer if adults can only humble themselves to learn.
As we approach the celebration of Christmas, there is no better time to reflect on the value that each unique child brings to the world. Children are to be protected and loved as a precious gift — not treated as a nuisance or a barrier to higher goods. May we take seriously our sacred responsibility to treasure and protect the children in our lives — and may we humble ourselves to learn from their innocent faith as we approach the nativity.
Joy Stockbauer is a policy analyst for the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council.