I am preaching this weekend, but only at the small chapel service tonight, and the early traditional service in the morning. The 10:00 service (the largest of the three) will be almost entirely taken up with our annual Children's Christmas Program. They are having their dress rehearsal this afternoon. All the pastors have to do is welcome people, pray and read a short lesson (I chose Philippians earlier in the week). All the adults have to do is sing. And listen.
After hearing the news yesterday, about the murders at the elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, I found myself wishing that the children were preaching at all of the services. There are a lot of reasons it's going to be difficult to preach this weekend. Our congregation is far away from Newtown, Connecticut, but I think that the horror of it can't be ignored. I wrestle with my own despair and my hope in God. I know that we can't prevent every tragedy in this broken world, but I can't help thinking we can do better. We are given the responsibility to protect the children, and we fail them again and again.
But the biggest reason I wish the children were preaching: I really do think the adult world has lost its moral authority to proclaim hope, to tell good news. We need to hear it from the children, their unadulterated joy even in the midst of horror. In our church, maybe some of them will not even have heard the news. So they will tell us about God's coming into the world in the manger, and tell us to take joy, when we cannot. And we will look at them and realize what a gift they are, in so many ways: how they show us the world again, for the first time, when we see it through their eyes; how they are honest in their faith, and in their doubt, and in their questions, when we have learned to hide all three; how they still sing, even when our voices are silenced.
And yet, I know that it is we who are adults who have the responsibility in this world. We have the responsibility to teach the children about the kind of God we have, about grace and love and the value of all living things. We have the responsibility to tell them that there is still hope, that God is coming, and God is among us, even when our hearts are breaking, even when their hearts are breaking. We hare the responsibility to tell them that God is love, and that this love means something both for heavens' sake, but even more, for life right now.
For tomorrow, what I most want to say is this: "Listen to the children." And then ask yourselves, "What then shall we do?"