Every Wednesday I arrive early, so that I can be ready to lead the pre-school chapel that morning. I come early because in the summer I need to make sure the air conditioning is functioning. Sometimes I need to make sure I have my soft globe, or a stuffed animal, or some smooth stones (that David used to kill Goliath), a baby doll or construction paper hearts.
Sometimes I don't want to get up early. There are weeks when I am not sure what I should do for chapel, with the fifty or so children who gather. What should we sing? How should I tell the story?
There are some routines that we have settled into every week, though. Every week I begin with the same song, an old song that I may have learned in my pre-school Sunday School Days. "Into My Heart, Into my Heart, Come into my Heart, Lord Jesus," I sing. They sing along. We sing two or three more songs and then I ask them what we do next.
"Light the candles!" They all shout. So I light the candles on the altar, and tell them the same thing every week, that we light the candles to remind us that God is here, that Jesus is alive, that Jesus is the light of the world. And then I tell them that that light shines in them, too, and we sing, "This little light of mine."
After that, I ask them what we do next, and they all shout, "Pray!" And so we pray a simple prayer.
After that we sing a couple more songs (with or without hand motions). I tell a story. I sometimes ask them who or what they want to pray for. They all have prayer requests. We pray and then say the Lord's prayer together.
And we often sing once more.
This is our simple liturgy, although I don't use the word. But that is what it is. It is the same thing, week after week, and they don't seem to mind. In fact, when I ask them what we do next, they shout it out, "Light the candles!" they say. There are times that remembering their voices, saying those words, comforts me.
"Light the candles!" I hear them say, and I remember that Jesus is the light of the world, again, which is something I admit I need to remember more often than not. Sometimes it is this election season, falling to new lows, that does it. It is the way we are treating one another. It is the way fears and hatreds are being stirred up. Sometimes it is other news of the world, local and world tragedies, that cause me to lose heart. And then I hear the children shout, "Light the candles!", and I remember again the promise of Jesus to be with us always.
That's a promise, but it's a challenge too. There are some days I don't remember that I am called to be a bearer of the light. There are some days that I don't remember that Jesus is here not just to make me feel safe, but to walk through danger with me. And then I hear the children say their simple liturgy, "Light the candles!" and I remember.
That's what liturgy is for, after all. The things we hear and the things we say in liturgy are not supposed to be mindless repetition. They are supposed to be the children's shouts, "Light the Candles!" They are supposed to be words getting so deep down inside us that we become what they are: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit." They are supposed to make us light, bursting into flames.