Here's what our "Advent Devotions" may look like:
-we light candles
-we read something true and good from a bible storybook or quality Christmas book
-we extinguish the candles
-we work together to carefully put everything away in a safe place
I say may look like, as there are inevitable interruptions, each time is different, and we often don't do all those things at one go. We also have a special calendar that is very important in this time, which I am excited to show you soon.So, back to my favorite Advent song, Lo He Comes; verse two:
Every eye shall now behold him, robed in dreadful majesty;
those who set at nought and sold him, pierced and nailed him to the tree,
deeply wailing, deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
shall the true Messiah see.
Wait! Deeply wailing? What is this? This isn't Christmas cheer? That's exactly why this impacted me so much as a child. The darkness of the lyrics caught my attention. I was riveted by these astounding images. What could they mean? We had some great conversations spurred by these questions, which I pondered long afterwards.
This song is for me kind of like metaphysical poetry; there are worlds contained in this nutshell. Namely, who is this robed in dreadful majesty? Kind of a scary picture, but it balances the happy happy fun time pastel Jesus we get so often; he isn't a Precious Moments doll. There is a dread in majesty. What do angels always say first when they appear in the bible? Do not be afraid. Apparently they're freaking terrifying.
For myself, I always sing we who set at nought and sold him, not they, because this refers to myself and everyman, not some distant other. I'll save the glory of love and wonder found in the next two verses, more typical Christmas sentiments, for another day.
Anyway, kids not only can handle real imagery, depth and complexity; they need it. A kid won't swallow a fakey story or a sweetly dumbed down God. They, like the rest of us, are hungry for authenticity, for the living God.
That's not to say that they don't also need an appropriate format. Hence, all of the hands-on, participatory elements in our "devotion" time. It's really appropriate to Christmas, when we celebrate God's incarnation, his coming to us as a person, that we engage so directly. I can see clearly that my kids need me not to simply tell them about God, but to meet God for themselves. I just want to introduce them. Remember how Big Bird met Snuffleupagus long before everyone else on Sesame Street? He kept talking about his great friend Snuffleupagus and no one could believe him. Because they have not encountered God for themselves, I think too many children think God is just our imaginary friend, a nice fiction. Maybe for many of us, God and spirituality is just a pretend game, something special we talk about, not someone dear to us, who we know and love and live with.
You can see from the pictures that there is a lot of rotating of instruments, and quite a bit of enthusiastic singing and storytelling! Did you notice Ezra playing the harmonica in most of these photos? After all, we are, as Gibbie says, a band. We have an ever-growing repertoire of songs, and Gibbie usually plans what we will sing. Right now, he really likes the loud songs. Actually, I do too.