EMBEDDED DEEP in the memories of, I expect, many Midwestern Baby Boomers like me is the rich tradition of the Sunday School Christmas program.
There is simply nothing sweeter, nothing more meaningful to me, than viewing the Christmas story from the perspective of a child. Such telling, such re-enacting of the biblical account of Christ’s birth exorcises the frills, the stress, the hustle and bustle, the worldliness from my holiday experience. And that is a good thing.
For one evening, for one hour, I take it all in—this most basic sharing of the gospel by darling angels in glittery halos and restless wings, by usually rambunctious boys cinched in bath robes, by the honored two portraying Mary and Joseph, by the other children who sing and tell of Jesus’ birth.
It is a magical time, a butterflies-in-your-stomach worship service for the children, giddy with joy yet nervous about stepping before the congregation,.
I grew up with the Sunday School Christmas Program, lined up on the basement steps of the old wood-frame church in Vesta packed shoulder to shoulder with my classmates, awaiting that moment when the organist would begin playing “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and we would enter, pair-by-pair, into the sanctuary.
Although costumed pageantry was not allowed in the conservative Lutheran church of my youth, I remember with fondness those traditional Christmas hymns—“Away in a Manger,” “Joy to the World,” “Behold, A Branch is Growing,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem”—which told of Christ’s birth as did the memorized sharing of the gospel when we each “spoke our piece.”
I always prayed I would never be assigned to recite the confusing verse: So Joseph went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David…
And so the years passed until I outgrew the Sunday School Christmas program.
Decades later I would pass the tradition along to my own three children, this time in a Lutheran church which allowed the costumed pageantry of sharing the biblical account of the Savior’s birth. The halos and bathrobes, the reading of the gospel, the singing of Christmas hymns all wove into their memories.
Now I am at that place in my life when I sit side-by-side with my husband in a pew, our children grown and gone, not yet married, awaiting those Christmases when the tradition of the Sunday School Christmas Program will pass along to the next generation.
TELL ME, is a Sunday School Christmas Program (or something similar) part of your Christmas experience? Do you have such fond memories from your youth?
© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling