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Christmas PageantYesterday my family and I decided to attend a Children’s Christmas pageant at the local church.  We didn’t know what to expect, except that it would be done in Finnish, since we are in Finland.  So we went pretty open-minded as to what we would see, hear and experience.  Here’s a few observations:

1.  Children can produce excellence.  Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you must have lower expectations for children because they are children.  BS.  This may have been one of the best Christmas pageants I have ever seen.  These were not professional actors or singer – they were everyday kids.  Their ages ranged from probably eight years old on the low-end, to probably 13-ish on the high-end.  The kids sounded great, moved to positions where they were supposed to, and did a great performance.  If we expect kids to produce crappy things, guess what, they will.  If we expect them to produce great things, they will do that to.  That doesn’t mean you have to be a tyrant, it means valuing children as people who are capable of producing the best they possibly can.

2. There were a ton of kids participating – well over 100 easily.  When there are that many kids involved in something, it turns from something that they are being forced to participate in because their parents want them to participate in it to something that they want to participate in because all of their friends are participating – it’s a social event.  And given that there were so many kids, guess what – it was calm and peaceful and organized, not chaotic.  I this also speaks to the point that the kids wanted to be there, so they did what they were supposed to do – no one had to yell at them or force them to do anything.  How many times do we force kids to do stuff because we want them to do it, not because they want to.  I’m not saying let the kids run the show in life.  I’m merely pointing out that things go better when people have bought in and do things because they want to participate.  Less rules are needed, less yelling, more fun, more enjoyment and probably more take away from all involved.

3. The church was packed.  And with people you wouldn’t expect to be in church, by pharisee-standards anyway.  I think this is an important point.  People came to see their kid participate in the pageant, yes.  But guess what – they heard the Gospel at the same time.  There’s something beautiful in that.  People aren’t afraid of the church, or trying to avoid the church.  They just want church to be relevant to their lives.  Seeing their kids in a pageant at church is relevant.  It draws people and gives people a reason to go somewhere.  They weren’t bored, they were engaged.  They were excited to be there.  Well, maybe excited isn’t the right term, but the idea is that they wanted to be there.  I think there are some lessons for churches to take note of.

4. Tradition is really strong in Finland.  Especially church tradition.  The church has a huge advantage in the holidays.  People are drawn to churches for a variety of reasons – even people who don’t go the rest of the year.  Another pastor told me that some people who don’t go to church the rest of the year will come to the first Sunday of Advent service because they can sing “Hosianna”, which traditional in Finland.  Fascinating.

This all raises many questions in my mind – some that aren’t even formed yet.  The church isn’t dead, despite reports to the contrary.  In fact, in some ways, the church is very much alive.  It is just that sometimes it doesn’t look like church.  The needs that people have are still there.  And I see the church having some ways for people to find answers or find better questions anyway.