". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Celebration Day

This afternoon Evan and I played in the snow. After coming inside we made hot chocolate (for him) and coffee (for me). As we sat together warming up with our respective beverages, Evan made an announcement: "Today is Celebration Day!"

"Really?" I asked. "What are we celebrating?"

"That Christmas is a week away!"

Why, yes it is. How could I forget?

Evan again: "To celebrate, we'll be singing Kyrie I. Do you know what page it's on?" By this time he had pulled a hymnal off the shelf next to our kitchen table and was looking through the book.

"It's in the back, sweetie. I think it's in the 800's." (Wrong on my part. Turns out it's in the 900's.)

Evan: "After Kyrie I, we'll sing Kyrie II." A pause, as he turned to the front of the hymnal, the Advent section. "Then 'The Advent of Our God.'"

He named several more hymns in the Advent section, but I don't remember what they were. We started our Celebration Day observance by singing both Kyrie's as promised (Kyrie II was sung in both Greek and English). Then there was a change of plans and we sang another Kyrie--"Kyrie, God Father"--on the preceding page. By that time we had to clean up and prepare to leave the house for a 2:00 appointment, so there was no time for hymns. But even though our celebration was cut short, Evan seemed satisfied.

What I think is revealing here is Evan's embracing of the sanctification of time and the liturgy. Something special is happening. He wanted to mark and observe it. How did he do so? Through ritual and ceremony. Through order. Through the liturgy. He started as many of our church services do: with the Kyrie. Then he proceeded to sing a hymn. And not just any hymn, mind you, but one appropriate to the season: an Advent hymn.

Tomorrow is the fourth Sunday of Advent. Evan is well aware of that fact and is looking forward to singing "Light the candle of hope today" while the acolyte does just that on the Advent wreath. Evan knows that in a few days the blue paraments will be changing to white and the lights on the sanctuary's Christmas trees will be lit for the first time. He told me today that the reason we are having "Celebration Day" is that we are celebrating that Jesus is coming so that He will be able to die for our sins. Then his eyes lit up: "And on Easter we'll get a new candle!" (He was speaking of the paschal candle, which gets replaced each Easter Vigil.)

People say that liturgical worship is boring for children--that what children need is not candles and paraments and ritual and hymns and liturgy but rather, entertainment and fast-paced excitement. I think Evan would have something to say about that. In fact, I think he already did.


Raggedymom said...

Like any good, conservative Lutheran, I could go on and on about how dear the liturgy and hymnody is to me. (My husband is a pastor of a medium size congregation that is traditional enough to use the hymnal and not too many praise dities. But I miss the chanting, the daily orders . . . so many things that I grew to love at our synodical college and the conservative congregation I taught at before we were married.)

But here is what the liturgy means to me as a mother:
My son was barely three when my husband was elected circuit counselor. My husband wanted to bring more unity to the circuit so he planned a circuit-wide Reformation Service at the largest congregation. Up to this point, my little guy and I still spent most church services in the cry room because he simply wouldn't sit still/be quiet.  I dreaded a such a high-profile church service as Reformation.  My husband insisted we attend. I said "I know, we've 'got to go' because you're the circuit counselor." He said, "No, I think you'll WANt to go because it's going to be VERY conservative. For starters, Pastor S is bringing his incense." Incense - I was there. I packed Andy the mother of all church toy bags and prayed for the best.
As usual, God's best blew me away. I sat us up near the front and on the aisle becuase I knew my husband's part of the service would be reading the Gospel from the center aisle and thought maybe A would sit quiet long enough for me to smell some incense and hear Poppy read. 
And then right before the Holy Spirit gave me an idea: I leaned over to my little son and whispered "Tonight church is going to be a little different. If you are quiet, Mommy will whisper in your ear why the pastors are doing the special things." And then The Magic happened. The processional started and I explained that and the incense. On and on we went.  Poppy came down for the Gospel and I explained that. My son loves music so he even picked up on the chanting. He quietly sat through the entire service that lasted almost TWO hours. Yes, he did a few things out of the church bag during the sermon but 85% of the time he was engaged
On the way home, my stunned husband asked "You guys lasted the whole service! Every time I looked out, you two were still there! What did you put in that church bag?!?" I told him I would explain after bedtime. And so I did, with happy tears streaming down my face. My son "got" church because of the liturgy!
The next Sunday before church I explained to my son that the service wasn't going to be EXACTLY the same as the one earlier in the week but "let's try to pick out the same things." And low and behold, he lasted the entire service again! He remembered the Agnes Dei and other parts! We never spent another service in the cry room. (Although we are all sinners, so we did spend some time in the preschool bathroom with me lecturing him "Be quiet or we won't be able to do The Lord's Prayer!")
It's been over four years since that Reformation service. And I, too, say kids need the liturgy and order. It wasn't a puppet show, PowerPoint lyrics on a screen, or an electric guitar that got my son to enjoy church - it was incense and the liturgy. Thanks be to God!
(And I think Evan and my son would have a lot of fun together on a playdate.)

Cheryl said...

Raggedymom, that is a great story! Thanks so much for sharing!

Raggedymom said...

Sorry, it was a bit long-winded. I drank too much caffineted STARBUCKS coffee yesterday morning and was up half the night!
Christmas Blessings!