I’m in my office and the building is quiet, the down time after the children’s service and before the youth candlelight service. With help from volunteers and staff, the costumes have been put away for another year and the detritus of supplies and papers have been sorted and filed.
This year’s attendance by young families was the highest ever: about a thousand filled the sanctuary and choir loft. As usual, behind the scenes was happy chaos as we wrangled a cast of seventy children, most of whom were under the age of six. This event has the highest preparation to presentation ratio of all we do the rest of the year: eight weeks of prep, employing at least thirty adult volunteers, for twenty minutes of worship.
But you should see the faces on the children. The ones in the cast are excited to be a part, whether sheep, shepherd, angel or one of the “big” roles. The children in the pews have interactive baggies stuffed with items to use as instructed through the service, and they are awestruck as other children in fleece, togas, smocks and robes take their places in forming a tableau on the stage. This is the stuff of memories for all the little ones, cast and congregation. And that’s what makes it all worthwhile.
At one point our new pastor had her young son, decked out in fleece and topped with two little white ears, tugging on her sweater as she read scripture. The shepherds and sheep wandered about restlessly as the story unfolded. Anxious parents fruitlessly struggled to herd everyone back to their places. Joseph got tired of standing and decided to kneel for a while. It was glorious childhood in full bloom.
On the eve of the celebration of the birth of Jesus, I am renewed in my hope that these children will grow up in this church knowing that God loves them exactly as they are. It is inevitable as the dawn: God’s love will prevail.