Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday’s Essay – A Child’s Approach to Christmas

Below is an essay I sent to those on the Cove Presbyterian Church e-mailing list. If you're interested in hearing this essay, you can also find a podcast at Podbean (Cove Presbyterian Church).

Yesterday, I had the chance to be involved in one of the things I really enjoy doing during the Christmas season. You see, I got to read to a group of children, this year it was Pete the Cat Saves Christmas, and it was part of The Children’s Academy four-year-old Christmas program. Of course, I wasn’t the only one involved. The children sang songs and danced a little bit. And the parents and grandparents who were there seemed to have a wonderful time.

And you know, when you think about it about, why wouldn’t they. I mean, so much of our celebration of Christmas is centered around and certainly enhanced by the presence of children. Good night, the whole season is focused on that little baby, lying in a manger. And frankly, I can’t think of many things more depressing than going through Christmas surrounded only by adults. At least for me, it just wouldn’t seem right to approach the nativity of Christ without the innocence, joy and excitement that seems so natural for children. And even though I agree that we as a society may overemphasize the North Pole and the gifts under the tree, I think our world would be a much sadder place if Christmas was focused on the serious and mature, with the juvenile and exuberant there on the sidelines. I guess you could say, adults desperately need children to make our holiday lives complete.

But I think we can also say that same thing about our lives after December 25, and I’ll tell you, I believe that’s especially important for the church. Frankly, we need children to the be the Body of Christ. We need them every bit as much as we need young adults and baby boomers and senior citizens. And to get and to keep them involved, we might need to take seriously their needs and desires. I mean, although I think we all enjoy having things geared around us, you know, toward our tastes and our interests, I believe the Christian community is diminished when children are a secondary concern, you know what I mean, when they’re a group that might occasionally entertain the adults but who are generally relegated to their own classrooms in the basement, classrooms that have become pretty empty in the last fifteen years. And if worship is something directed to the grown-ups and endured by the children, it should come as no surprise that there’s a teenage Exodus from the church that rivals anything led by Christian Bale. And even for those who return, you know,  when they start their families, rarely to do they come back to the congregations in which they were often seen but not heard. Now I think we all know that this kind of thing happens all the time.

But you know, this really doesn’t have to be the case, not if we take the Christmas perspective we have toward children and apply it 24/7, 364 days a year. In other words, suppose we made children a priority and not just of a pre-worship Sunday School, a program that has seen better days in most congregations. I mean, suppose we decided that children, with their juvenile perspectives and exuberant expressions, are absolutely indispensable to all church activity, including worship. And suppose we were willing to do whatever it might take to involve them even though that means offering things that are on their level and showing them that we’ll do things for them that frankly we might have to endure. My goodness, suppose we did on a weekly basis what we do during the time before Christmas, just imagine the energy and joy we’d be able to share right now and the peace and hope we’d feeling looking in the future, knowing that God’s children gathered in the Body of Christ will continue to prosper and grow. Now I believe this is something that’s more than possible, when we let a child’s approach to Christmas shape who we are and how we live all year round.

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