The late good Rev. Tom Kelley, who died five years ago this February, always likened the sound of crying children in church to the sound of God. Fr. Tom had no cry room at his church. They were welcome, one and all. With his thinking in mind, God was everywhere at the Children's Christmas Mass at our church Thursday night. It is maybe the one Mass of the year when crying kids can make church goers smile and actually enhance the message of the faith and the goodness and the innocence of children and the message of the season. Easy for me to say, you may be thinking, since none of the cranky little ones were anywhere near where I was sitting on Christmas Eve.
Children's Christmas services, regardless the denomination, are beautiful in their simplicity and their message of hope. This year, the young people involved in the presentation of the Christmas story at St. Ann's focused on the symbols of the season: the star, the crown, the manger, the angel, the sheep and the cross.
The Christian faith boils down to these six symbols, symbols also represented through the words in a brief but powerful passage in our creed:
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he was born of the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
In a book I am reading about structure in writing, the author tells a story of how his young son simplifies the story of Robin Hood: Robin Hood went riding. A bad guy came. They fought. He won.
Not much of a story without the further elements that make it the historical work of fiction that it would become. But still, it captures the basic structure of the story.
Much the same type of structural simplification can be applied to the Christian faith in the last verse of the gospel standard, "Go Tell It On The Mountain":
Down in a lonely manger
the humble Christ was born,
and God sent our salvation
that blessed Christmas morn.
It's a simple message that remains simple -- unless we make something of it. Leave those words alone and they tell the story of Christ's birth in a stable. But act on those words, apply them to your life, and only then does their meaning become so much more to us, one and all.
Merry Christmas everyone.