I noticed a number of people’s eyes begin to well up at The Belfrey’s cafe on Saturday. It seemed as if something deep within them was being touched. It looked like hope was stirring. It often happened as we chatted to people and explained why everything we were doing at our cafe was free. It was simply this: because God’s love is free.

With some I had the opportunity to talk a bit more – about how we’re wary of anything that’s free. We want to know what the catch is. But there’s no catch to God’s love. It’s unearned. Undeserved. Unconditional.

We all want to be loved like that. And the good news of Advent is that God has come to us in Christ and offers us exactly this kind of love. And by coming as a tiny baby he demonstrates the vulnerability of loving like that.

There’ve been a number of babies born to Belfrey families recently. Each one is precious and it’s lovely to see how babies bring so much joy! I’ve been praying that as they grow they’ll experience security and peace and love, because that’s what children need to thrive. Children need to know they’re safe in the family. They don’t have to win approval. They are loved. Accepted. Welcome. Part of the family. For who they are.

When Jesus grew up he said that we can only enter his kingdom by ‘changing and becoming like little children’ (Matthew 18:2). he’s telling us that our place in God’s family is not based on performance or merit, but on the fact that we are loved. Simple as that.

As this Advent and Christmas season begins, think what it’s like to be a child. A child who know’s they’re truly loved and cared for. Who doesn’t have to serve and please to be accepted. Who is simply welcome and receives the smile and affirmation of parents who think they’re great. That’s the basis of being in God’s family – the Kingdom of God. If you don’t get that, then you won’t get it. You’ll feel on the outside all the time.

At Advent we’re called back to childhood. We’re given permission to play and to be and to laugh and to do what kids do. Because we have a kind Father with large arms to embrace us and a generous heart to provide for us. All children – of all ages – are welcome.