Our very own Elsa Johnson shares her experience this special season...
One of the reasons I love the season of Advent is that it allows us to sit a while with the hardship of life. Life is not always easy, the headlines do not always bring peace---especially right now. We expect the good news of Christmas and we know it’s coming but during Advent we sit in the muck for a couple of weeks and ponder the hardship of it all. It’s real, it’s raw and it’s okay not to be okay.
At the same time, Advent indicates that hope, peace, joy and love are coming. They’re coming! They may not be here yet, but they are coming. And we can help them come even today. We are part of the story because we can be a light in the darkness-- even in the darkest of times.
I have had the joy of experiencing Advent this year with the kids of Christ Church and it has helped me see it with new eyes. Children do not share the burden of dwelling on the past and fretting the future as adults do. They see the NOW. Right now. I love that when Pastor Adam asks them what they want for Christmas, they stand up in front of church proudly declaring a list of 20 things, or they answer with one simple request of ‘Daniel Tiger’ or even ‘a pet tiger”. They are so good at being real.
I see it in our sweet babies and toddlers with their radiant joy and exuberance for life. It’s there in our 3-6 year olds who soak in the message of God’s love and reflect that love back with kind hearts and words. In the 7-11 year olds who ponder God’s word and asses its current relevance by speaking profound conclusions and truths into the world. Or in the middle schooler who learns about the hardships of being homeless in our city and takes it upon herself to buy gloves, hats and scarves to distribute to those who need them. I am inspired by them. These children have gifts that the world needs.
Children at Christ Church: Portland are valued and valuable. When we say All People are welcome we mean all kids too. We incorporate them into many elements of worship knowing that like adults, they gain meaning, insight and groundedness from singing, lighting candles and taking communion together as a community. And the adults need them just as much. We need their voices and insight. They see beautiful potential in the world that we seem to have forgotten along the way. Maybe after that last hard-to-read headline. They bring light into our darkness.
Take peace for example. Peace is a wonderful thing to experience but a difficult concept to explain. So while I was fumbling around with words on how to describe peace to 3 five year olds during children’s church, I just stopped and asked “what do you think peace looks like? How do we show each other peace?” My daughter raised her hand and said “my daddy’s trip to help rebuild houses in Houston this week. That brings peace.” I was amazed. Never did I explain to her that his work to rebuild houses was bringing peace and comfort to people but she made the connection. She understood how humans can bring peace to others.
Kids do not arrive into this world as empty vessels to fill but rather as fully human beings who already understand so much. We as adults get to come alongside them and help them recognize what God has already placed in them--- that they are deeply loved and accepted as they are. In turn, they remind us of what hope, peace, joy and love looks like right now.
This is the hope that comes after the long, dark season of Advent: love wins. Hope, peace, joy and love will be restored. Jesus comes again and will usher in a new kind of kingdom. One where the hills will be made low and the valleys will be raised. Where all will experience God’s perfect love just as they are. Where justice rolls down like a mighty water, righteousness grows like an ever flowing stream, mercy resounds like the waves on the ocean and peace restores each soul. Maybe even one day, the lion and the lamb will lay together in peace. This is the hope of Christmas.
In this season of Advent, may we find new ways to bring hope, peace, joy and love into our world. And if you need help, ask a child in your life and I am sure you will be amazed by their clarity, depth and profoundness. May we be people who bring light into the darkness. May we learn from others who are already doing so. And may we dream the wildest dreams of getting a pet tiger for Christmas.
Come join us at Christ Church and bring your kids! Children are always invited to remain in worship with their parents/caregivers. We have a professionally staffed nursery for 0-3 year olds and we have children’s options during the service for kids 3-6 and 7-11. Youth Group plans are in the works.
Email Elsa Johnson with questions: email@example.com.