A friend invited me to go to the kids’ Christmas musical at her church over the weekend.
It was a hoot. And adorable, as any children’s musical program is and always has been.
I’ve never been able to sit through any PTA program or play or performance of any kind where kids were involved that doesn’t bring tears. Something about their sweet little voices and their faces, which are either all smiles or “all business” expressions of concentration, seriously focused on remembering lines and blocking and hand gestures. Something about the innocence of that moment (even for ones not so innocent!), especially when they’re singing. It always gets me.
Being a church program during the Christmas season, of course this one focused on telling the story of Jesus’ birth.
I thought to myself, what a wonderful way to teach children about Jesus. Giving them the opportunity to tell the story themselves, to fully participate in an active, kinesthetic way, all set to music. The best teachers use those methods all the time in teaching younger children.
Besides all that, they got to dress up in costumes and have fun. And lots of them had grandparents who drove in just to see them perform. An evening many of them will long remember.
What they learned about the birth of Christ in the process will become a part of who they are.
Their spiritual DNA.
As I sat there watching the children perform (rather envious that I didn’t get to do anything like that at my church when I was growing up!), I couldn’t ignore the truth that some of the children on that stage will question their sexuality. Some already know there’s something different about them. Some will come to identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender. While these children performing in the Christmas musical were undoubtedly learning to love Jesus, I couldn’t help but wonder what else these little ones might be picking up from their church.
At a critical time in their lives, we may not realize the things we say – and the things we don’t say – are shaping the way these kids think.
About their friends.
So now is the time to think about how we’re responding. What we’re willing to talk about and what we ignore.
Here’s what I hope those kids get from their church….
I hope they’ll grow to love God.
I hope they’ll learn to love their neighbors as themselves.
I hope they’ll learn to truly love themselves, just as they are.
I hope the feeling of shame will be completely foreign to them.
I hope they’ll learn to be gentle.
I hope they’ll grow up knowing to their core that there’s nothing they could ever think or say or feel or do that would change the way they’re loved and received by their families or their churches.
I hope they’ll experience God’s unconditional love through the way they’re treated by the adults who are shaping their views about church, about Christianity, about God.
I hope they’ll grow up without fear of asking questions, of sharing their thoughts and feelings, with those who serve in positions of leadership.
I hope they’ll never hear a joke or slur about an LGBTQ person come out of our mouths.
I hope they’ll never experience our silence when we should stand up for them.
I hope they never fear rejection from their families.
I hope they’re never refused a place to serve in their churches.
I hope that as they grow they’ll come to know that being a Christ-follower begins in the heart. That it’s not a list of rules, of “do’s & don’ts,” but a mindset that views everything – and everyone – through the filter of the cross.
But most of all I hope they’ll never doubt that they are loved deeply – by God and by the people who are modeling Christ before them
In their homes,
And in their churches.