I am still in the delightful stage of being new at St. Peter and seeing things for the first time; experiencing things for the first time. This morning was the annual “Sunday School Christmas Program”. I write that in quotes, because what I saw was much more than the several classes of Sunday School children up in front of church, reading parts of the Christmas story.
That was certainly part of it, but I also saw older children helping and watching over the younger ones, Confirmation students ringing bells and narrating the story, and Youth playing in an Alumni bell choir. None of those older students and high school kids were coerced- they all wanted to be in the program.
I also saw and heard the congregation singing along with the children- in a sense, we, too, were part of the program. I saw older children serving communion and ushering. I saw dedicated teachers and parents teaching children their parts and helping them to understand what they were saying and doing. We shared the Holy Meal of bread and wine together: members and visitors, adults and children.
And at the end of worship, I heard the children (ages 3-17) belting out the refrain to “Go Tell It on the Mountain”, louder than the rest of the worshippers who were singing the verses.
All of this reinforced the first impressions I formed at St. Peter. On the night I was given the tour of the building, and we went into the sanctuary, I thought, “This space is in the shape of a hug!” So every time I enter the worship space I feel embraced by it, and by the warmth of the materials used to build it- even before other people are in it. Add the worshipping community, even the small group on Wednesday evenings, and I feel like I’m being embraced by God through them.
Isn’t that what we are anticipating during Advent: Immanuel, “God with us”? The baby who was born in the stable so long ago lives as our risen Savior. He speaks to us through the Bible and the nudging and leading of the Holy Spirit. He is still “God with us”, and this morning I heard the story of his coming through the voices of our children and youth, while we adults chimed in with verses to familiar hymns.
“Sunday School Christmas program”? We all teach each other, whether we realize it or not. The children took the lead today, but we all were part of the telling of the story of Christmas. And in that welcoming space we were embraced, reminded, taught and fed. We were led closer to God by the children and youth. What a great way to spend a morning!
-Janet Blank, Faith Formation Coordinator