We’re away for Christmas visiting my wife’s family in a small town in rural Minnesota on Christmas Eve. After a delicious and filling meal, we went to the local church service. Being a small town with limited resources, we were not prepared to be wowed by amazlingly talented singers or a dramatic rendering of the Christms story with live animals in a nativity scene. We thought it might be simpler. For our kids, Arianna (4) and Brielle (2), this would be their first “grown-up” candlelight Christmas service.
As we entered the church, we were each handed a candle. It was an environment where only whispering was appropriate as we waited for the program to begin. It’s difficult to explain to kids the need to be quiet. Their favorite question comes up “Why?” “Because.” We sat down in our row and the girls eagerly awaited. Arianna leaned over to me and said “Dad, This is going to be awesome.”
The choir sang traditional Christmas songs and they read the story of the birth of Christ from the Bible. Then they served communion. Usually, our girls are in their own version of child care “church” so this was the first time ever for the girls to see this activity. They passed a plate by with bread. I gave one small piece of bread to each daughter and then passed the plate on. Brielle immeditately said out loud “Can I have some more?!”. Then they passed juice in mini-cups. My wife made eye contact with me, clearly communicating without a word, that the juice was not for the girls. This was an attempt to avoid grape stains on the kids new Christmas clothes. So, I passed the juice plate on to the next person skipping by the kids. Arianna then said out loud “I want a snack, too daddy!” Note to self: Kids do not have a whisper level built-in.
It’s a delicate balance between controlling your kids by telling them what is expected (to be quiet) and avoiding a complete meltdown that will make them turn up the volume 10 times. So now, we were stuck with kids that wanted “a snack” like everyone else. We pulled out the emergency rations from the diaper bag: “Princess Fruit Snacks”. It’s amazing how every crinkle and pop of opening a plastic bag can reverberate throughout the church.
The service was quaint. It wasn’t polished and perfected, but the substance was there. There were some special moments like when they lit the “candle of hope”…and it went out and later when the choir sang “How great our joy! Joy! Joy! Joy!” …and not one of them had a smile on their face. For Brielle, not understanding why her candle couldn’t be lit was the tipping point. She was quickly exited from the room.
I realize that my biggest worry during the service was what people would think of our daughters. Are they well-behaved? For their age, I believe they were. They’re kids after all. They should be allowed to act that way…and we should be OK with that. I’m sure Jesus would welcome them. He even said to bring the young children to him. We were there to celebrate Christ’s birth through a worship service. Amazingly, Jesus was a kid at his birth. In a special way, we’re all kids, too. We make mistakes and speak too loudly all too often.
That evening there were a lot of smiles generated in our row. I hope that as our kids get older we keep those smiles. Was it awesome? “Yes…Arianna, it was.”
Leave a Reply