Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

It's been a slightly different Christmas eve than I'd planned. Funny, how plans often happen that way. Even the most orderly day often bends to the will or whim of others--or the poor planning of the self.

I didn't get to either of the Children's Christmas Eve Services this night. I am blue about it. I love the rich sweetness of watching the children's faces lit by candlelight while they sing gently, all the while knowing the blood, sweat and tears that went on behind the scenes to achieve such serenity. It makes their gift better, knowing how hard they (and all the adults involved) worked.

I love watching them making memories that will last forever. I know grownups in their 50s who still talk with genuine yet wry affection of their years of service in "The Cross", formed by children and their candles. My daughter insists, now two years away from Grace, on attending both services with a myriad of friends. They parse each and every detail of the service, which is rarely as good as when they were involved.

Carols are added, taken away. Different groups of children perform different songs that last year. Yet much of the core music remains the same for years and years, such that Kindergarteners often have very little to memorize 9 years later as they sing in their last service as Eighth Graders.

Children sing solos, quavering or strong and clear. Bells ring, usually far more gloriously than the Adult Bell choir is able to manage, arrayed in our feeble middle-agedness. Even the little Pre-Ks participate, memorize songs, sit still, take it all in.

There are those who feel this is a foolish tradition in this time of No Child Left Behind. The preparation for these services takes many hours of classroom time during December. Perhaps the time would be better spent memorizing times tables than memorizing Christmas carols. How can we send children up to the local high school where they must compete against others from the rich town schools where high math skills are honed and most of the children end up in the top math honors course, rather than the middle where most of our children go?

Dare I say that I think my daughter's time was exceedingly well-spent in those three Decembers she spent at Grace? I can certainly reel off a plethora of academic skills learned in choral performance (improvement in reading comprehension, working with symbols, math skills, problem solving, the importance of listening and following directions, to name a few).

Just as important to me are other skills learned that, while not strictly academic, are absolutely central in successful lives (be those lives academic, business or personal): cooperation, self-discipline, hard work, service to others, and the joy of a job well-done. Hokey? Absolutely. Essential? Completely.

I think these Christmas Eve services are ideally suited to teach such skills. But there's an added bonus. These services aren't all about us, or all about the children, or all about what they are learning while participating in them. These services are a gift. They are worship. They are about God coming into this world as a small child. Or children. With voices of angels that, for a short time, stop asking for presents and, instead, give one.



Blogger Cheryl said...

Very well said. AMEN!

5:54 AM  

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