By John Halford
A dear old friend died recently. It was sad, but not tragic, because she was well into her 90s, and was enjoying life until the day she decided it was time to "go home." All my memories of Susie Stevens are happy ones.
At her funeral, her son explained that she was a great-great-grandmother, and she remembered in her youth knowing her great-great-grandmother. That matriarch died in 1918, aged at least 107. So she had been born before the battle of Waterloo (1815), and while some of America’s Founding Fathers were still alive. To know Susie Stevens was to have touched the past.
Makes you think, doesn’t it?
So let’s project this forward. I am in my mid 60s and I have clear memories of the Second World War, Winston Churchill, the first Sputnik satellites and the first jet airplanes. My youngest granddaughter is nearly three. Supposing she lives to be 100, which is entirely possible. Life expectancy is increasing, at least in the developed world. So little Nikki might still be around in 2107. And she may remember old "Pop pop" — who was alive "way back when we first landed on the moon."
"The future will need people who can think generously, act decisively and put the needs of others on the same level as their own."
What sort of a world will it be then? What sort of a person will she be? Well, Jesus Christ may have returned, but we can’t count on that. So we had better do all we can to prepare the coming generations for their future. For those of us reading this magazine, we hope that means their future as Christians.
Through no fault of their own, our children and grandchildren are about to inherit some rather nasty problems. It looks as if we are the last generation to have the luxury of interminable "consultations," inconsequential "conferences," dithering "protocols" and fudged "bi-lateral agreements." The chickens that we have been waving off are coming home to roost. The questions of pollution, climate change, over-population, food shortages, poverty and so on must now be confronted before they overwhelm us. The future is going to need people who can think generously, act decisively and put the needs of others on the same level as their own. Either that, or life will not be worth living.
Our children and grandchildren need not be burdened with these issues just yet. But it is not too soon for them to become aware of them. There are solutions, but only if future generations can learn to live and think less selfishly than we have done.
So let’s get them started. Every child looks forward to being asked "What do you want for your birthday?" So, this year, why not ask them "What do you think Jesus wants for his birthday?" And then help them give him what he wants. (Our article beginning on page 5 will give you some ideas about how to do this.)
Never underestimate the spirituality of children. You will find them very willing to share with those less fortunate than themselves, if only they know how. One of my first memories is of my mother taking my brother and me to the local orphanage on a cold and bleak war-time Christmas Eve. We were going to give the orphans a big box of candy that we had saved up. This was sacrifice indeed, because in wartime Britain (I told you I remember the war) all candy was strictly rationed. I still remember how good I felt as we trudged home through the snow. I had shared my blessings, such as they were, with some kids who had even less than I did.
So this year I am going to ask my grandchildren, "What does Jesus want for Christmas?" I’ll get them something for themselves as well, of course, because I love them. But I am going to suggest that we put some of the "Christmas money" to work to make a difference in the lives of people less fortunate than we are. I am fairly sure they will be excited about the opportunity. And perhaps begin to think in a way that will make an even bigger difference as they take their place in the world.
Maybe, 100 years from now, in a world that I hope and pray is a better one than this, they will remember old Pop-pop and his rather unusual Christmas present. If so, I have touched the future.