Christmas Eve children’s services are baffling and challenging for pastors–the question is how to make the service accessible for children and still be able to tell the story of Christmas in Grace and Truth. Most churches decide on a much-rehearsed (read stressful!) pageant, in which a few children are the shining lights, and the rest are like the extras in Cecil B. Demille’s depiction of crossing the Read Sea. What a delight to encounter a children’s service this year in which all were welcome, all participated and the story was told!
At the four o’clock service an “Instant Nativity” was formed, in which every child who wanted to was invited to the chancel and could choose a role–a Star, Joseph, a King, a Shepherd, Mary or an Angel. Once she chose a role, she was outfitted with the appropriate dress and prop–the Stars with a star on a pole, the Shepherds with sheep, the Kings with crowns, Angels with halos and Marys with a blue velvet headdress and a baby. As many as wanted could be in any role. I counted seven Marys singing to their babies. As the Christmas story was read, when each role was featured, the children spoke their parts: the Stars twinkled, the Shepherds called sheep, the Kings pointed to the Star, the Angels sang and the Marys rocked their babies. As I watched and listened, I longed for a way that this could be what Church was really like–a place for everyone, everyone doing what his heart desired, and good news being proclaimed. No one needed to capture the spotlight, the whole group together was the gospel story.
This week we take a turn into a new year on the Eighth Day of Christmas, according to the 18th C. carol. Eight maids are milking, along with (by Epiphany) 12 lords leaping, 11 pipers piping, 10 lords leaping, 9 ladies dancing, seven swans swimming, and six geese laying. And all are doing it for Love’s sake–together. In a year when there has been so much splintering, diving to conquer, accusing and counter-accusing, my heart yearns for a gathering of faithful ones who bring their hearts and gifts for Love’s sake in wonder and praise. I am praying for a new year in which Love is the Word and meaning and the practice. It would be a year in which all are included justly and fairly, with enough costumes and props for each one do what she loves best, whether it is twinkling, singing, calling for the strays, perfuming things with exotic scents, supporting another or bringing something new to birth. And I would hope it would be a year in which Love is the coin of the realm, the modus operandi, the way we do things with and for all the people God loves.
The love that we have always known, our constant joy and endless light, now to the loveless world be shown, now break upon its deadly night. Into one song compress the love that rules our universe above: sing love; sing love; sing God is love! (Jaroslav Varda, 1979)
Love and joy come to all of you!