A couple of weeks before Christmas the 9-12-year-old-children began to plan our Epiphany celebration. We usually follow the format of "Lessons and Carols" often used in churches during the Christmas season: a reading, followed by a prayer, followed by a song. I invited each child to choose any one (or part of one) of the 15 prophecies and infancy narratives used in atrium over the years. We ordered these, then paired them with a song, and, if desired, a prayer was also written and added.
I've been doing this with about two groups/year for 30 years, and this year’s choices struck me as unusual. There were more prophecies chosen, which are typically introduced as words of hope in the time of waiting for the Messiah. Also,Julian of Norwich's words "All Shall Be Well," were included. The last time this song was important to a group was the year of 9/11, and the children sang it every week.
Although never explicitly voiced, I sensed the choices reflected the concerns of the communities in which they live and pray, in the aftermath of the election. There's a context of a kind of "darkness" for them right now. But rather than remain focused on any fear of worry, they offered us words of hope and light:
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.
Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, (paired with the Magnificat set to music.)
A young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel (God with us).
All shall be well, I’m telling you. Let the winter come and go.
Two of the kids wrote these prayers to accompany the readings:
May the people who are experiencing dark times know that Jesus loves them and will help them get through their troubles. (With the prophecy of the light.)
Let us always keep faith in God just as Mary did even when she was unsure. (With the prophecy of the young woman.)
Every community where children are served in an atrium has its share of dark times. The change in administration this month is experienced intensely in Washington, and with a great deal of uncertainty and concern among the families of our atrium. Other communities suffer their own losses and stresses. While these concerns are usually not voiced directly by the children or catechists, their shadow may be detected in behavior and choices of work and prayer. Be sensitive to both the subtle indications of stress among the children, and the faith they exhibit in response. May the light and love and hope of your children encourage you in the year ahead.