Kearl emphasizes importance of childhood

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    By CHRISTINE RAPPLEYE

    Allowing children to have an “extended childhood” as Jesus Christ did was the emphasis of Tuesday’s Devotional speaker, James R. Kearl, professor of economics and assistant to the president — Brigham Young University Jerusalem Center.

    Kearl spoke to the audience “as individuals at the end of childhood” on the celebration of Christmas as not only a message of redemption but also a celebration of childhood.

    “We live in a world that wants literally to rob children of childhood; it robs them of the joy that come maybe only to children when they are able to live protected to some degree from the world with innocence, faith, trust, and security,” Kearl said.

    At Christmas, the world celebrates the birth of a child — the birth of Jesus Christ.

    “Given that we most often see Christmas through the eyes of children, it is surprising, it is not, how little attention is actually paid to Jesus’s childhood,” Kearl said.

    The account in the Bible mainly focuses on His birth and His ministry and there is only one incident mentioned of Christ’s childhood — when He was teaching at the temple at 12 years old.

    “The scriptural story of Jesus’ earthly sojourn is also mostly silent from the flight into Egypt at around the age of two until Jesus begins His ministry,” Kearl said.

    Jesus Christ, the literal Son of God, virtually disappears from the scriptural record into a childhood, teenage years and young adulthood in a small village in the hills near the Sea of Galilee, Kearl said.

    Kearl explained Christ’s childhood was both a protected and an extended childhood.

    “(His childhood) remains protected in precisely the sense that we know virtually nothing about it and are clearly not supposed to,” Kearl said.

    “Yet, with what must be seen as great patience, His earthly and heavenly Fathers, allowed Jesus to mature slowly,” Kearl said. “In short, to have a childhood.”

    As with many things in the gospel, the lack of information concerning Christ’s childhood is not by accident.

    “(T)here must be something very important about childhood that warranted this extraordinary occurrence, where the Son of God literally disappears into a childhood, not to reappear until He was an adult,” Kearl said.

    However the world today will not let children “disappear into childhood” as Christ was able to do.

    “We live, unfortunately, in a world that intrudes on childhood; that wants to deprive it of innocence, of charm, of faith, of trust, of hope and even of peace and security — all of the things that make childhood rich and, I think, that make childhood important,” Kearl said.

    The pressure of parents on children to behave as adults, such as in Little League games and child beauty pageants, well before they are adults is robbing children of their childhood as does the world, Kearl said.

    “A protected and extended childhood allow children the luxury to concentrate on really important things; by contrast, adults are forced to give attention to those things that are merely urgent,” Kearl said.

    This type of childhood also is crucial to children learning attributes to become worthwhile adults, Kearl said.

    “The crucial learning environment to develop these attributes is one that combines affection, discipline, example, space and, very importantly, time,” Kearl said.

    The challenge is not to just protect children’s childhoods from the world, but to “protect our children’s children form our own inclination to push them to become something too fast and too soon,” Kearl said.

    Cortino Darden, 23, from Kinston, N.C., majoring in microbiology, agreed with Kearl’s belief of parents pushing their children.

    “The real message is to let kids be kids,” Darden said.

    Melinda Meldrum, 20, from Payson, majoring in elementary education, enjoyed how Kearl brought out how Christ’s childhood.

    “I realized we need to pay more attention to how important childhood is,” Meldrum said.

    The Devotional will be rebroadcasted Dec. 20 on KBYU (Channel 11) at 6 and 11 a.m.

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