It’s that time of the year again! School Christmas programs and pageants are all over the place, and the littlest among us are called (or pulled) up on stage to share with us the Joy of the season! And having just sat through my first Christmas program for my daughter Addison, I have been thinking about these displays of pageantry and song quite a bit. And so I offer these few points of reflection as we as a church get ready for Christmas and Epiphany Pageants:
- Why are we doing this? If it’s just to show mom and dad that their kids have learned some songs or if it is to display, “oh how cute!” these little ones are, then we should stop doing it- there is no liturgical point and the pageants don’t need to take place during church. However, if it is to open the eyes of the little ones and us bigger ones (yep, we are the bigger ones) to a new way of telling a familiar story or if it is used as an opportunity to allow the little ones to step into the role of teacher and leader- then yes please!
- What is our end goal? I ask this question as both a parent and a priest. What is our end goal of inviting the kids to partake in a few moments of “otherness” during a worship service? Because kids don’t get that it is a rare moment and a “one time a year” thing in which they get to dress up like a sheep and bleet their little lungs out. But if one of the end goals is to teach children who are made in God’s Image that they too belong in the church just as they are (or as a sheep) then I think we have to prepare ourselves for the less cute times….like in Lent during the prayer for Humble Access when that little one is still a sheep. If it’s ok for a kid to be a kid during the pageant then it has to be ok for a kid to be a kid the rest of the liturgical year too. It sends unclear messages to children (and honestly, to their parents too) to only be “a little bit welcome” in church. So go big and allow kids to be welcome in worship all of the time, not just when it’s cute.
- What can we learn? If we think that the only ones who can learn from a pageant is the kids, then we should probably stop doing them. But if we can open ourselves to see beyond the cuteness and charm to what is being given to us by these young disciples, then we just might be transformed by the powerful message they give. Not just the Christmas Story. But the gift that comes from the joy and wonder from the young as they experience in new ways a story that isn’t old and familiar yet. The gift that comes from wanting to share this new story and to share it abundantly. The gift that comes from knowing without a doubt that they are loved by God. What a gift they offer us if we are willing to take it.
Lastly, I offer this. Let them cry if they want. Let them leave and come sit on your lap. Let them be themselves- some will want to sing and perform and others wont. Let them be them. Mine happens to like to stand on the stage and cry. What a great way to learn that perfection is unobtainable!
One thing we can always learn, is that when it comes to being a kid in church, there is no right or wrong way to be a person made and loved by God.