It started off with a little nativity scene in the service, with children in costumes and poetry read from the book The Stable Rat, and other Christmas Poems by Julia Cunningham. One of the poems is about crows cawing a "hoarse Hosanna", and we had a family who all dressed up as crows for Halloween this year, come up and just be stand-out crows. They were wonderful. Then the sheep and shepherds came up, while our minister read a poem told from the point of view of a sheep - what is this all about? Why are the shepherds singing strange songs? Then Mary and Joseph came up. We had no little girls at the first service today, so I had to press my own daughter into service as Mary - a tiny four-year-old Mary in an adult bathrobe! Our Joseph was also tiny, also wearing an oversize robe, and when little Mary was gripping the Baby Jesus (her Bitty Baby doll from home swaddled in an old blanket) with a precarious grip, little Joseph turned and took the baby from her so tenderly, and cradled it. It was adorable.
Then we did that again for second service, and one girl came from home in a lion costume - she really wanted to be a lion in the nativity scene. So we welcomed her up with the sheep - "the lion with the lambs" - and our minister quipped that we were witnessing our own Christmas miracle.
It all went much better than I was afraid it might. Then I taught the preschool class, as we were short a teacher, and had one of those religious conversations that preschoolers are really the best at. My daughter started our practice of sharing Joys and Sorrows off with a sorrow - that she "didn't want to die someday". A little boy in the class tried to comfort her with the idea that "when you die, your mom dies too, and then you are together up in heaven". Another little boy interrupted with another idea, namely that "you just rot in the ground". We processed ideas, and talked about death, and that it was ok for us to each think something different - it's a big Mystery.
Then I told the Spirit Play story adaptation of the Posadas lesson from Holidays and Holy days, and we had another little conversation about the existence or not of angels, and whether Jesus was really born like the nativity story tells.
Many other things were happening: the 1st-3rd grade children were learning the reason for the winter solstice and building a model solar system, the middle school group was watching a documentary about the Vatican, and the 4th-5th graders were watching the classic "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". There were some high-energy levels in some children that made it a challenge for some of the teachers, but overall I still left with a little glow - this is a good place, a place where children are supported to explore questions, values, and ideas.