I got to spend time with The Littles at our country church in Slower Lower Delaware this morning. The class has the same four children, but this morning I looked into their faces and saw how much they have grown up in the four short months that they’ve had another teacher. Katie and Judah have a new baby brother, which got discussed thoroughly and delightedly. Jamison, far more verbal than he was four months ago, joined in the conversation with feeling and much expression. Charis, the oldest, was thoughtful and participant, but the only one without a brother (or even a sibling for that matter) was quieter than usual.
We sang the song that we had used to open class time last year, and they all remembered and helped along. My heart warmed to hear each of their four voices soar in the familiar words and tune. The story we were covering today was the story of Jesus coming to John the Baptist for baptism, and I laid the background of what John’s mission was, and desert lifestyle and diet and his message to the people of his time, and there were appropriate expressions of disgust at the garment of camel’s hair, and talk of “throwing up” over the locusts and wild honey. (Especially the “grasshoppers” business.) And then we got to the part about Jesus being baptized by John.
The teacher’s manual provided a cutout that made a dove “spinner” to emphasize the dove that descended upon the head of Jesus, and each of them had their own spinner and a chance to try it out. Also suggested was using ribbons for blessing and praise. I had made each of them a “Blessing Stick” by attaching ribbons to a 12″ dowel stick, and after speaking a blessing over each one of them, I told them that we were going to use the sticks with singing a song. They gathered, excited and gloriously distracted and yet eager to sing. We sang an old children’s song that I learned many years ago, using the sticks in different motions for the two different phrases.
Hallelu-, hallelu-, hallelu-, hallelujah! (Shake sticks in front of you)
Praise ye the LORD! (Wave in a wide arc over head)
Hallelu-, hallelu-, hallelu-, hallelujah!
Praise ye the LORD!
Praise ye the LORD!
Praise ye the LORD!
PRAISE YE THE LORD!
About the third or fourth time through it they really got into it, and there was much waving about of the ribbons and the words were intelligible and they even got the standing up and sitting down motions that we were using. But time was getting a little short to finish everything up, so we went back to the table to get the coloring pictures and take home papers and one last activity from the home papers.
“Pra-a-a-a-i-i-i-i-s-e-e-e y-e-e-e-e-e–e–e–e—e the L-o-o-o-r-r-r-r-d” warbled Charis in a vibrato mode as she pulled her chair back up to the table. “Ha-a-a-l-l-l-e-e-e-e-el-u-u-ujah!” She was really putting her soul into the music as she sang with pronounced showmanship.
After a time or two of this, Katie looked at her with puzzled disdain. “Charis,” she said with a hint of annoyance, “why are you singing that song like a goat?”
Charis looked at her pityingly. “That’s opera!” she said and resumed her song. It went on and on.
“Charis,” I interrupted. “Do you like opera?”
“Oh, yes! I love it!” And she resumed her song again. I listened as she sang and could hear the “opera” in her rendition.
“I think you could be an opera singer some day,” I told her. “You seem to have the voice for it.”
“Really?” She asked excitedly. “I would really love that!”
“I think you could,” I told her, “but you would have to study hard and get a trainer and all of that. But I think for now, maybe we’ve had enough opera.”
“Okay,” she said agreeably, bent her head to her papers, and started to sing again. Then stopped. “Oh, dear!” She said impatiently. “Now I got that song in my head!”
I think we all did.
And I smiled to myself as I thought about this class of LITTLES. They are growing so big and it’s happening so fast. Life is moving right along and the happenings of our world are impressing themselves on their minds and hearts. They live in a world that is divided by hate and bigotry and mixed messages and uncertainties and so much division in the Family of God.
And I’m trying to sing a song to this old world. It’s the Story of Jesus and His Love. I would like it to be vibrant and full of harmony and joy and hope and love. I would like it to catch on with the people around me. I would like it to stick in their minds and I would like them to wave banners of light and beauty and blessing. I would like them to “jump out of their chairs” at the right moments and I’d like them to do it with unity and peace and courage — but mostly to bring His Love to the rest of the world.
I’m singing it the best I can. I’m singing it with all my heart. I’m singing it when I’m thinking about it, and I’m singing it when I’m not. Because it’s stuck! Not only in my head but also in my heart.
And it’s my fervent prayer that no one wonders why I’m trying to sing like an old goat. I do make mistakes in the music. I sometimes jumble the words. I sometimes even forget them.
But the basic melody of JESUS, friend of sinners, hope of the world, SAVIOUR — This, I pray will be heard. And whether the listener likes opera or classical or modern or country, may it fill their ears, stick in their heads and find its way to their hearts, inviting them, drawing them into The Family.
“Oh, LORD JESUS! May it be so!”