Sunday, December 19, 2004

Christmas and Children

Today I was reminded of this article from Anglicans Online that appeared a couple of weeks ago regarding the loss of the season of Advent. What brought it to mind was that this morning at the 10:00 Eucharist, we included the children's Christmas pageant. I know. It's the Fourth Sunday of Advent. Why didn't I object? Because I'm the interim, and this has been their "tradition" for a long time (20 years or so). I'll let the new rector sort that one out. Interims pick and choose their battles. This is one that I chose to not pick up.

Due to the limited microphones, the pulpit and the lectern, as well as one hand held wireless microphone, were used to capture some of the more timid young voices. As the pageant began, one little boy climbed up into the pulpit. He was not tall enough to be seen from the front. From the side, all I could see was his little head. He couldn't have been more than ten years old. He adjusted the microphone, fumbled with his papers for a minute, glanced back at his teacher to make sure it was time for his part, took a deep breath, and then launched into one of the best readings of the prophet Isaiah I have ever heard from anyone of any age. Clear enunciation, pauses for effect; simply superb. That's when I let go of my grumpiness regarding beginning Christmas on the 19th of December. I actually enjoyed the pageant. As these kinds of things go, which is usually barely controlled chaos, this one was quite good.

If we are willing, we can learn quite a bit from children. During Christmas, the spirit of this season is most easily found when we look through the eyes of a little child. The joy and excitement has not been tainted by years of routine and broken dreams. When I forget what it's all about, all I have to do is stop and watch the children. For little Larry, standing in the pulpit and reading Isaiah wasn't just a cute little bit in the local church's children's pageant. For him, it was important. He had prepared. No doubt that he rehearsed for a long time. And he was right. It was important; more important than my need to be in control. Thank you, Larry.

For those who may have missed it when I told the story of my Santa son some months ago, I'm going to repeat it one more time;

The Christmas my youngest son turned 11, he asked for only one thing; a Santa suit. A strange request, but we honored it. On Christmas day, he donned his new outfit, complete with beard and boots, and begged me to take him to the store. Since there were a couple of items needed for Christmas dinner, I finally gave in, and off we went, with this miniature Santa sitting in the front seat, clutching a red pillowcase which he had filled with candy canes.

When we entered the only convenience store open on Christmas day, there were a few young children waiting in line with their parents. They stared in awe at my little companion in his red suit, who promptly walked up to each one, and presented them with a candy cane.

As we left the store, it began to dawn on me what was going on. As he approached the age when the realization that Santa is a mythical being begins to come to light, my son was determined not to completely let go of something that had been a source of much joy for so many years. His solution was to become Santa for others.

As we drove home, we passed the city park. Since it was a beautiful California day, there were a number of families enjoying a Christmas picnic. Santa turned and gave me one pleading look. I pulled in and parked. He got out, and a gaggle of children soon surrounded him as he began to distribute candy canes. The parents thought he was simply adorable (which he was of course, but I am a bit bias).

Finally reaching the bottom of his sack, he reluctantly returned to the car. As we pulled away, the children and their parents all waved and shouted, "Good bye Santa!" He rolled down the window, and his white gloved hand slowly waved back in forth, in perfect imitation of the best Santa from any Macy's parade.

Not feeling in the Christmas spirit? Watch the children. Let them remind you, or maybe even teach you, what it's all about.

I need to go call my son now. Oh, and guess what? It's snowing outside. I may just have to make a few angels in the front yard before going to bed.

J.

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