Return to Sender: Unconditional Welcome of Children


Christmas is a delight for children. Many parents may sacrifice so that their children can have Christmas gifts, whether small or large. I remember some late night Christmas Eve’s with Jay, assembling and wrapping toys for our children. But what if we had said, Let’s skip the gifts. Kids aren’t worth it.

I’d like to spend a few minutes reflecting on the nature of children and how we receive them. What I mean by that is a proper theology of children and procreation, within the context of marriage.

In the opening chapters of the Bible, children are described as a blessing. Genesis tells us that God blessed humanity when he first created them, saying be fruitful and multiply. The psalmist calls them a reward, a gift from God That’s who a child is: a gift.

That may be obvious, but there is another point. That is our attitude about the gift. How do we receive the gift of a child? In the words of a theologian I recently heard, our obligation is to receive the child with unconditional welcome. That means no conditions, no hesitations, no second-guessing.

Of course, the context of the gift is not passive. The child is generated from the physical union of the marital relationship. The husband and wife express deep self-giving and surrender. Their attitude of openness to children applies even if the parents are using some method of family planning.  

Parents are intended to care deeply about their children, to be bound to them, not just through genetic and biological ties, but through the ties of loving, unconditional welcome. Every child needs two people who love them deeply, more than the crowd of acquaintances and strangers they will interact with as they grow up. The “ties that bind” parents to their children carry them through the frustrations, the sleep-deprived nights, and the selfishness and sassiness of childhood.

Children are a gift. A gift that should never be returned.

Friends of ours adopted their daughter Lidia when she was 14. Lidia broke their hearts with her coldness and rebellion, and she cruelly abused her adoptive siblings. Why? Perhaps because Lidia had been adopted before, and had been returned to the orphanage. Rejected.

Earlier this year, Marie-Pier, a 26-year-old Canadian woman, became pregnant with twins. She was a paid surrogate for another couple. Meanwhile, the couple became pregnant with twins through IVF. Eight weeks into Marie-Pier’s pregnancy, they backed out of the arrangement with her, because two sets of twins would be “too much of a burden.”[1] A rejected gift. No unconditional welcome.

When the procreation of children is severed from unconditional welcome, they can be seen as “returnable,” treated as something to be crossed off the wish list, as “no longer needed.” Return to sender.

As we spend time with family this Christmas season, we dare not forget that the gifts we give (and receive) are symbolic of a deeper love and commitment that bind us together. Whether or not we are blessed with children, we should receive each other with love and unconditional welcome.

[1] Heloise Archambault, “Surrogate Left with Twins after Couple Backs Out of Deal,” Toronto Sun, September ,7, 2012.


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