“Thine is the glory risen concrete son!” When she was just a little girl these were the words she heard the adults in her life singing about the baby Jesus. Not having any idea what concrete was, she just sang these words assuming that they said all that needed to be said about the character of the little baby whose arrival meant presents for everyone.
On this long weekend, memories of childhood celebrations remind me that the stories we tell our children are not always heard exactly as we intend. When I was a little girl, I remember enthusiastically singing “God Save the Queen” and wondering exactly where “reignoverus” was and why we wanted to send the nice lady, who wore such pretty hats, there. It was a particularly mortifying disappointment to discover that what I was meant to be singing on behalf of the nice lady was to “send her victorious long to reign over us” as I implored God to save her. To this day, I cannot sing Her Majesty’s anthem without chuckling as I muse about what has now become the mythical land of reignoverus. While chuckling is a rather pleasant residue, I can’t help wondering what dangerous, frightening or perhaps scarring residues will remain as a result of the stories we currently tell our children.
I have often been cajoled, bribed, guilted or shamed into including children’s sermons/talks/times during Sunday morning worship services. While I understand the impulse to find ways to include children in worship, I have never been convinced that stories told during these moments accomplish anything more than the placation the guilt we feel for our unreasonable expectations. The best we can hope for our good intentions is that in the years to come they will provide a few chuckles as the children we once corralled at the front of our sanctuaries look back bemused at our efforts to include them in worship.
Dave Allen, an Irish comedian whose television program I was not allowed to watch when I was a child, but whose humour I learned to enjoy as a teen-ager, provides a window into a world we would do well to remember.