On Christmas Eve, I went to mass with my family in the small town where my mom lives. There was only one mass, at 4:00 p.m.—the children’s mass. It was action-packed, and I had a great time! Throughout mass, children were singing at random, laughing, crying, shouting, and springing up and down. Miraculously, the baby in the pew in front of me slept the entire time.
After church, I visited with cousins, who told stories about children’s masses they attended in other towns. My favorite story was about a children’s mass that included a visit from Santa. The church was in a small city, and the pews were packed. It was uncertain when the mass actually began because the children’s voices drowned out the sound system. Suddenly a hush fell over the crowd. There, walking up the main aisle, was Santa Claus.
I can imagine the shock. I’ve never seen Santa at mass. Santa is a kind and generous soul, but the church-going type? Not so much.
Anyway, Santa strolled up to the nativity scene at the front of the church. Then Santa knelt down before the Baby Jesus and new parents. In the twinkle of an eye, Santa rose and headed out the side door. For about two seconds, said my cousin, “you coulda heard a pin drop in there. After that, the place went wild.”
I love that story because it addresses one of the great childhood mysteries –the relationship between Jesus and Santa Claus. To me, the relationship is about the spirit of generosity and being present to one another.
What a WONDERFUL story … it gave me goosebumps when I read it and made me wish I’d been there to witness the Blessed Hush.
In what now feels like a prior life, I taught Kindergarten in a small Detroit parish. Before Dec. 1st I would fill a large box with hostess cupcakes and juice boxes and wrap it up as a Christmas present. It would serve as the backdrop to the nativity and be opened the last day of school before break and we would have a Birthday party for Jesus.
Before the party we usually attended an all-school Liturgy which was typically packed with not-yet-ready-for-school little brothers and sisters along with a Mom and an occasional Dad. One year, as Father lifted the host high above his head with the words “This is my body, given now for you,” a little, pigtailed darling, sitting in the front and surely must have picked-out her wardrobe herself for the occasion, declared in a loud voice “AND THIS IS MY BODY” while pointing both thumbs at her chest. “Amen,” was Father’s response which quickly concluded the consecration.
Our priest has an announcement before every mass to turn off electronic devices, it is repeated three or four times before mass begins… On Christmas Eve – the same thing – but someone didn’t pay attention and shortly before the homily someone’s phone started ringing and ringing… The Priest stopped and waited for the “sinner” to turn it off and then said – “That had better be Jesus calling!” We haven’t had anyone forget to turn them off in the last few masses. LOL
Oh, MY! Sr. Sarah! What a story! I conducted the children’s choir for many a Christmas Eve Mass. At one parish, the children brought baby clothes for the Right-to-Life babies, filling to overflowing two HUGE carboard boxes in the sanctuary at Offertory time. It was an awesome sight. Instead of gimme, gimme, gimme, it was gift-giving time. I still tear up the year that Santa walked down the aisle after Communion, knelt in prayer at the manger, pulled out a “Nosey Bear” to give to Baby Jesus as the first gift of Christmas. At the convent chapel, we are lucky to get even one baby and/or small children. We seems to lose that exuberance that the little ones bring.
I agree about the exuberance that children bring! Fills up the church with energy and joy!
Both are great stories! We have an Epiphany celebration at our church; it includes all ages acting out the story of the Magi, supplemented by Irish step dancers, among other accoutrements, and communal singing and involvement! It’s great fun.
One of the best Christmas stories I’ve heard in a long time is one that Fr. Walter Burkhardt told about a children’s Christmas pageant. Little Timmy had the role of the innkeeper who turns away Mary and Joseph from the inn. He had one line, which he practiced over and over. Came the performance, he dutifully told them that there was no room at the inn, but as Joseph and Mary started to walk away, it was clear that Timmy was having a hard time. “But you can stay at my house!” he shouted. The pastor wisely said, “Amen!”
While we don’t have a children’s Mass at St. Ben’s, at the Vigil Mass, Father Tom has two children portray Joseph and Mary, dressed in proper period dress. Mary carries an infant Jesus (the lucky parents always videotape!) from the Gathering Space to a cradle upon the altar. As Mary places the baby Jesus in the cradle, Fr Tom joins the family, and all kneel in silent prayer. At this point, most everyone is crying and always there are “oohs and ahhas”. The group rises, Mary picks up her child, Joseph collects his family and together they leave the church. With the church lights turned low, the candles upon the altar giving off sparkling light, one feels as if these children truly are the Holy Family. It is absolutely awesome.
At my parish (which you know and love, Max–and Julie!), the appearance of Santa is a tradition at the end of the Christmas Eve vigil Mass (NOT a “children’s” Mass, though there are usually many children there). A parishioner with natural snowy white hair and his own full beard comes down the aisle in full Santa regalia, carrying a wrapped gift, which he lays at the manger (a creche is just behind the main altar) and then he kneels and prays for a moment. Then he rises and exits. Very lovely, and very moving, even for grownups like me, who have seen it many times before….