Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Eve Memories

Last night I was delighted to be a part of a Christmas Eve service for children. And in the planning, I wanted very much for the children to be the worship leaders. The expectation was that they be cute and costumed. There should be the telling of the Christmas story and we should sing some of the top Christmas carols. Beyond that, I had lots of freedom.

I have been a part of other church staffs where we basically did away with the Christmas pageant. All too often, these things degrade into the kids being bored or disinterested. Grown ups get stressed. Rehearsals are scheduled in the midst of already swamped schedules and it just gets crazy.

Last night was fairly low stress and not too crazy. We had a service of lessons and carols with the kids participating in a "living nativity" as a part of the readings. Two brave boys, one in second grade and one in fifth, read the narratives from Luke and Matthew. Two other second graders led the congregation in the offertory and responsive prayers. They did a wonderful job!
The living nativity went well, with unexpected moments that warmed my heart.

When the shepherds came forward, rather than kneeling or sitting decoratively facing the congregation, they just stood and looked at the baby. (A real baby that it is! Female, doe-eyed and lovely.) They had to be reminded to sit down. I thought they got it just right! They were there to see the baby, not have their picture taken.

At one point, I looked over to see Mary with her headdress a little askew looking tenderly down at the baby. The baby who is old enough to smile was beaming right back at our third grade Mary. I was so glad to be up on the chancel platform to see that moment. I won't forget it any time soon.

The angels, who are both four year old girls, greeted the shepherds and were then to return to the choir area which is also in the chancel area. But they couldn't keep still. They kept leaning over the rail so they could get a look at the baby. They were so excited.

Despite an abundance of cameras in the congregation, the children for the most part were focused on what they were doing. They didn't pose. There was only one or two quick waves. They caught on to what was happening. It wasn't a pageant, it was worship. Thanks and credit be to God.