Searching for a Meaningful Christmas

He is only eleven, but he looks fifteen.  He reminds me so much of our first foster child, and when I look at him I wish that we could fill his heart as easily as we can the stomach as he shovels down his second bowl of cheddar cheese chowder, polishes off a piece of homemade bread with butter and homemade strawberry jam, then downs some ice cream.  He helped me make the chowder, following my directions with precision and energy when time was short before church the other night.  I just love him so much.

He has been loved.  He knows he is loved, and when he writes his thankful list he always lists, “I’m thankful for my loveful family.”  He has been bullied in school, though, and he can go from calm and reasonable to rowdy and, well, “eleven year old boy” in about three seconds flat, depending on what happens.

I’ve been searching for something suitable for my class to do for the Christmas program.  I know he can sing.  Last night, as he rattled around the sun room, waiting for us to be ready to leave for church, I was listening to the Mennonite Hour Singer’s Christmas Album.  I enjoy it greatly, and that is an understatement.  The songs bring back a thousand memories and there are times when I feel like a little girl in the living room of a house that still stands on Greenwood Road, listening to the old stereo, a boxy thing on four legs, while the rich, full music of four part harmony spills over and around.  It is my childhood Christmas and all is right with the world.

So I listen to the old, old songs of Christmas and ponder ways to work them into something that would be doable for my class.  And then the sound of a male voice comes out of my kitchen CD player.

Sweet little Jesus boy
They made you be born in a manger
Sweet little holy child
We didn’t know who you were
Didn’t know you’d come to save us Lord
To take our sins away
Our eyes were blind, we could not see
We didn’t know who you were

Long time ago
You were born 
Born in a manger Lord
Sweet little Jesus boy
The world treats you mean Lord
Treats me mean too
But that’s how things are down here
We don’t know who you are

You have told us how
We are trying
Master you have shown us how
Even when you were dying
Just seems like we can’t do right
Look how we treated you
But please Sir forgive us Lord
We didn’t know it was you

Sweet little Jesus boy
Born a long time ago
Sweet little holy child
We didn’t know who you were

Suddenly, I got this sweet, sweet picture.  This eleven year old prince is standing in the candlelight at the Christmas program of our little country church, and he is singing this song.  Someone is accompanying him on a quiet guitar, and the congregation is moved. It is a holy moment.

I was so excited.  I thought about it, got more excited, and then called him out to the kitchen.

“Do you like to sing?”  ( I thought he did.  I mean, he sings in church . . .)

“Not really.”

“Oh, come on.  Can you sing?”

“Um.  Not really.  Not very good.”

“Would you want to sing something for the Christmas program?  I mean, if someone would help you learn it and help you practice?”

“Um.  I don’t know.  I don’t really think so.  Maybe.”

“Listen to this song –”  I back up the track and the music fills the room again.  I can tell he isn’t impressed.  At all.  “Just listen!  Here.  Where it talks about ‘the world treat you mean, Lord.  Treat me mean, too.’  That is something you can kinda identify with –”

I can tell I’ve lost him.  We scurry around, getting ready for church and then get off.  Later, on the way home, the kids are talking about the Christmas program and what they would like to do.

“Ms. Mary Ann wants me to sing this old slow song,” I hear him tell the others. And then they are off!

The dreams of old songs by candlelight die quickly as they talk of writing their own rap for the program.  I hear “manger” and “danger” and some pretty creative ideas floating around and I look again at this sixty year old heart that has a hard time letting go and wonder when I will learn.

Isn’t it far better for them to write about Jesus in ways that are meaningful to them, with songs they can “stand” and that spark interest in their hearts and start their creative juices going than for me to get my picture perfect cameo in the Christmas program?

I suppose so, young prince.  That’s why I gave you and your friends permission to try to see what you can come up with.  God help me to keep my wits about me!  I’m just not a jammin’ and a tappin’ and a rappin’ woman.  Ask Youngest Son.  He knows what happens to this mama when there is just too much of a hip-de-do-dah thing agoin’.

And with that, I leave you with this final tip of the hat to what I saw in my head for a few brief minutes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8bEOVi-qJ4

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