24 December 2012

are you ready?

Christmas is coming, ready or not! Berryman's script reminds us that if people aren't ready, they can just walk right through a mystery and not even notice. But sometimes we have to go ahead even if we don't feel ready. Sometimes maybe we can trust that lighting the Advent candles for four weeks ... or singing the O Antiphons for seven days ... or hanging our Jesse tree ornaments or whatever it is that we've been doing has made us ready. Sometimes we can pray, but only say the word and I shall be healed. 

In Godly Play we ask people to decide for themselves if they are ready to enter the room and join the circle. Sometimes when I didn't have a Door Person I would sit outside the room with the children, encouraging them to sit still for a moment (after they'd been running around) and take time to get ready. Then I'd say, I'm going to go into the room, and you can follow me when you're ready. One week, once we were in the circle, one girl said, It's easier to get ready in here. 

So I pray for you, and for me, that as we begin to celebrate Christmas that in itself will make us ready. That as we place the baby Jesus in the nativity manger, or sing carols at a Christmas Eve candlelight service, or fill stockings, or put the turkey in the oven ... we will find that we are ready. Let every heart prepare him room. 

Merry Christmas!

16 December 2012

"Look for the helpers"

Thank you, Sheila, for linking to Carolyn's post, "What do we say to the children when kids are killed with their teachers at school?"

Carolyn's advice reminds me of Mr Rogers' advice, or rather, the advice he got from his mother.

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.

That's good advice for all of us, whatever our age. I sometimes daydream about the news media deciding not to grant fame to killers (which would also prevent them from mistakenly giving out the wrong name). I can choose to focus on and share news of heroes, of helpers, of the good that stands up against evil. May I urge you, too, to seek out any of the several recent articles highlighting some of the heroes of Sandy Hook, Newtown - such as this one from The Independent.

photo by Pokrajac

13 December 2012

Lucia greetings

Wishing my Nordic friends well on St Lucia Day!

public domain photo by Niels Henningsen (Helsingør,  2001)

02 December 2012

gifts for godchildren

I'm so pleased with some gifts that I delivered last weekend that I'm very tempted to write a self-congratulatory post. I'm going to try to turn it into an informative post for others, though. My apologies if I fail and just sound prideful.

We have two godsons. One is a young adult; the other is six years old. We're far away from them this year, but were visiting last weekend, and so I wanted to give them gifts - partly just to show our love but partly to foster their spiritual growth. So I went shopping for Advent gifts.
For our young adult godson, we bought a collection of Advent reflections, one for each day of the season (plus Christmas Day and Boxing Day): Inside the Christmas Storyby Bash & Bash. It's written by a priest who once served the parish of a relative of ours, with his wife, which gave it a little extra personal connection.

Sheila, at Explore and Express, has written a post about children's spiritual styles, and I agree that it's important not to assume that the same things will touch the same children. It's almost trite, isn't it, to comment on how different siblings can be. Our young godson and his younger sister are a case in point. He is deliberate, even cautious. He likes to know things, and to get things right. His sister is impulsive; she has no patience for long explanations. She's very extroverted - friendly and open.

image source

For our six-year-old godson, I bought the Advent magnets shown above. The big magnets on the top half of the sheet separate out into six - the wreath and candles, plus five separate flame magnets. Each "flame" can be placed over a candle on each Sunday of Advent (and Christmas Day). Below this are five "cards", with a suggested short Bible reading and prayer to go with the lighting of each candle. Besides encouraging his word-based expression of faith it also helps him practice his new reading skills, with the themes for each candle written in such large letters.

image source
We don't usually buy presents for this boy's little sister, but in the shop I spotted a holding cross (similar to the one pictured here) which was especially proportioned for a young child's hand. Do you remember the Lego stick that we pretended was a prayer cross? That was made by this little girl! So I thought of her as soon as I saw this cross, and really wanted to get it for her. Her first words upon opening it were, I remember we used to have a cross like this in Junior Church. 

I knew you would remember! I replied, and that's why I wanted to get this for you. Her second comment had to do with how small it was. I explained that it was designed for a child's hand but she corrected me: This was designed for a BABY's hand! Still, she was pleased with it. Being an extrovert, she thanked me for it (or told me how much she liked it) about four different times. Finally she said, When we have Junior Church again, I'm going to bring this, and we can pass it around the circle at prayer time.

I'm not sure our godson explicitly thanked us for his gift, except when prompted by his mother. But he immediately opened up the package and found a place to display the magnets, and later carefully asked me to help him read all the different themes. I took the opportunity for a quick chat with him about the fact that these themes don't match up exactly with the Godly Play themes for the Sundays, and encouraged him to ponder ways in which they do match up and ways in which they don't. We both laughed at the suggestion that Mary and Joseph's entry into Bethlehem might have been peaceful - probably not! Towards the end of our visit he caught my eye and slyly demonstrated how a flame would look atop a candle. As soon as we'd both seen it he snatched it away again, as if to stress how well he understood that it was not yet time to light that candle! So even though he didn't gush over the present the way his sister did, I know he appreciated it and will use it in his observance of Advent.

What about your own observances of Advent? What are you doing? And if you have children, what are you doing with them? I love the Busted Halo's suggestion that our preparations for Advent can be like preparing for a special guest. It's not that everything has to be perfect or that we need to pretend to be somebody we're not. If you're an extrovert - go ahead and gush! If you're a word-based spiritual type, do a special Bible study for the season. It's not too late to start.