For The Someday Book

Posts Tagged ‘Children’s stories

Tonight, B told me the most elaborate story he has ever devised. It started when we were praying–he was repeating after me each line of the prayer. When it ended, he asked for more. While I was thinking about it, he said, “I have a prayer. You ‘peat after me.” This is what transpired. I left his room and immediately wrote it down, as best as I could remember. I’m grateful that I was repeating because it sealed some of his phrases in my head!

B’s Story:

There once was a dog. He didn’t have a father. He didn’t have a doghouse. He didn’t have a light. He was all alone.  He had dog food. He had a hurt paw. He was walking.

(At this point, he interjected that this story was about his stuffed dog, his most special friend that he sleeps with every night.)

He had to go to the doctor. He walked to the doctor. He looked out for no cars. He was walking, he was not driving. He didn’t have a car.

(Then he asked, “Where is the doctor?” I replied, “A long way.” B continued.)

He was walking a long way to the doctor’s. When he got to the doctor, he didn’t have anything for shots.

(He got off track here, and I forget exactly what happened. I eventually helped him back to the story by asking, “Did the doctor help his paw?” )

The doctor fixed up his paw. He went home. Now he had a doghouse. Then Santa—Santa is in my story too—then Santa came. He didn’t have any presents. Santa didn’t leave. Then he had one present. It was a tiny present. It was a really, really fast racecar. And they could be together. The end.

I am always both overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the prospect of preaching during Advent. Overwhelmed by the powerful prophetic promises and the desire to speak to the deepest human longing and darkness. And the fact that I always have to preach short sermons, because of all the extra things happening during worship in the season. Underwhelmed by my own reflections on Advent, which seem to pale in comparison to the centuries of reflections on the same themes, and by all the ideas that seem too trite or too tired. It always feels like a challenge to transform those big ideas of Advent into something intimate and connected in the sermon.

This year, during my fourth reading of “Merry Christmas, Curious George!” it dawned on me–children’s literature as an entry into the Advent message. There is a lot of crappy, sappy children’s literature out there at Christmas, but there are also some wonderful, meaningful, fresh stories to be shared. Within a few minutes, I had scanned our small pile of Christmas picture books (both sacred and secular) and come up with enough books and sermon topics to last for three more Advents. My plan is to read the book for the children’s sermon, with some brief explanation, then unpack the story on a deeper level during the sermon.

Today, I started with “Merry Christmas, Curious George.” The story follows the classic Curious George paradigm: George tries to be good, but his curiosity gets the best of him and he ends up making a mess of things. As the story unfolds, the mess turns out to be all for the best, and everyone praises George for it. In the Christmas one, George is in a children’s hospital and decorates a Christmas tree with stuff he finds around the ward: crutches, x-rays, toilet paper, tongue depressors, charts. The adults in the story are horrified that George would do this, that the tree would remind the children of their illnesses. But the children are delighted–because the things that once made them different, broken, disabled have now become things of beauty. George takes the brokenness and turns it into something beautiful. It’s not just that the broken parts are covered up for a season, it’s that they are redeemed and transformed.

What an Advent message that is. God takes the brokenness of our lives and doesn’t just heal it, God redeems it and makes it into a sign and symbol of God’s grace.

You can listen to the full sermon on my sermon blog:–december-6-2009.aspx

Next week: “Once Upon a Christmas Tree”

About Me

I am a full-time pastor in the United Church of Christ, mother of a young child (B.), married to an aspiring academic and curmudgeon (J.). I live by faith, intuition and intellect. I follow politics, football and the Boston Red Sox. I like to talk about progressive issues, theological concerns, church life, the impact of technology and media, pop culture and books.

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