Every other Tuesday morning I lead the preschool chapel service at the church. This past Tuesday, two classes arrived in the sanctuary a bit early, and we were singing some random Christmas songs while we waited for the third class to arrive. The kids were calling out songs and I was playing them on the piano and we were all singing along. It was great.
We sang a couple, and then a kid called out “Better Watch Out!” So we sang “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” and I must say that they all sang out loud, and many of them seemed to know every word. When we got done there was still time for one more, so I played the intro to “Away in a Manger” and started singing the first verse.
None of the kids – NONE – even recognized the song, let alone knew it well enough to sing. I immediately realized my mission of the season – teach the preschool kids “Away in a Manger.”
I realize that I risk sounding like an old guy complaining about “kids these days,” but it actually kind of upset me that none of the kids even recognized “Away in a Manger,” but knew “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” by heart. There were probably 35 or 40 kids in the room. Surely one of them would have known it. I understand that each kid has experienced at most 4 Christmases in his or her brief life, but I would have thought at least a few of them might have sung “Away in a Manger” a time or two.
But the point is not just that they don’t know many Christmas songs, it is also that they knew the Santa song really, really well. So somehow in their four Christmases on earth they managed to learn that one. I’m not trying to blame anyone for anything here, just to make an observation.
And also to claim a personal mission. Every ordained clergy person in the United Methodist Church makes a promise “to teach the children” wherever we go. So a part of mine is going to be teaching kids sacred Christmas songs every year. I think I’ll start with “Away in a Manger.”