Sunday, March 16, 2008

Palm Waving

The last few lines of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" read as follows: "...and it was always said of him, that he know how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge..." Well, Easter has long been my favorite holiday, and when my girls were born, I promised that those words could always be said of our family about this Holy Week and Easter.

Both girls are named from books in which Easter and the Resurrection are central themes. They were books that were read to me as a child, and they became part of who I am. Lucy, of course, from C.S. Lewis's "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," and Elaine from a book by Patricia St. John called "Rainbow Garden." "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" is the story of the four children who found their way into the enchanted land of Narnia (led by Lucy); of the one of the four who became a traitor; and of the great Lion, Aslan, who laid down his life in order to save the children and all of Narnia. "Rainbow Garden" is the story of a lonely little girl named Elaine, who is sent from London to live with a minister, his wife, and their six children in Wales. As Spring comes to Wales, the truth of Easter comes to Elaine's heart.

I find a key word in parenting for me is "intentional." As my favorite parenting book puts it, "Children are like arrows. If you aim at nothing, you will surely hit it." Intentionality doesn't mean that everything works out perfectly, but it does mean that no matter what, we've made the effort in the hopes that some good will come of it. The books the girls are named from are more than just pretty stories. They are part of their faith heritage. So it is only fitting that this week is commemorated and celebrated at our house, with great solemnity and with great joy.

Today is the first day, Palm Sunday. I have a special place in my own heart for Palm Sunday because 35 years ago on this day (I was 3 in case you're wondering), my brother, who was 5, came home from Sunday School and told me, "Al, I don't want you to go to hell, so I want you to pray this prayer after me and invite Jesus into your heart." I didn't really know what that meant and I didn't know what hell was, but if my brother told me he didn't want me to go there, then I sure didn't want to go either. And that was the beginning of this great journey of faith for me. The road has been anything but straight, and many times I have veered from it. But as the angel told the apostles in the book of Acts when they were freed from prison, "Go and tell the people all the words of this life," and that's what I want for Lucy and Elaine--to know from me all the words of this life.

Our former church was quite large, and on Palm Sunday all of the children, well over 100 of them in their little choir robes, would march into the sanctuary, waving palm branches and crying "Hosanna! Hosanna!" Following them, the adult choir would come in, and all the congregation would rise and sing "All Glory, Laud, and Honor." I used to think that someday my own children would do that, but we've moved away now and our new church is much smaller. So yesterday I cut palm branches out of paper, and the girls sat at the island and colored them (not just green, lots of colors!). This morning, dressed for church, they marched through the downstairs, waving their colored branches and shouting, "Hosanna!" and "Praise to the King!"

It made my heart happy and reminded me of some passages from their namesake books.

(from "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe")

“Aslan?” said Mr. Beaver. “Why, don’t you know? He’s the King. He’s the Lord of the whole wood, but not often here, you understand. Never in my time or my father’s time. But the word has reached us that he has come back. He is in Narnia at this moment. He’ll settle the White Queen all right. It is he, not you, that will save Mr. Tumnus.”

“She won’t turn him into stone too?” said Edmund.

“Lord love you, Son of Adam, what a simple thing to say!” answered Mr. Beaver with a great laugh. “Turn him into stone? If she can stand on her two feet and look him in the face it’ll be the most she can do and more than I expect of her. No, no. He’ll put all to rights as it says in an old rhyme in these parts:

Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.

(from "Rainbow Garden")

"I kept repeating over to myself the words I had seen in the churchyard—“fullness of joy…fullness of joy.” I felt that these words were the heart of some tremendous secret, and perhaps the missing words were the key. In where, or in what, could fullness of joy be found? And what was fullness of joy? Nothing I had ever known in my dull, lonely little life, and yet something I was crying out to know. And as I stood there, forgetful of everything, but longing, something happened. The sun pierced the mists outside, and the church was suddenly filled with a golden glory, transfiguring the stained windows, streaming on the bright heads and snowy surplices of the choir boys, warm and blessing us all. Just for a moment I thought I knew what fullness of joy must be like. It would transfigure everything, even the ugly things, and make all the dull, ordinary things precious and beautiful."

So, happy Palm Sunday to all and a blessed beginning to Holy Week. Hosanna to the Son of David!


Ann-Marie said...

We all have holidays we hold a little closer to our hearts, but I think (hope) most Christians realize Easter as "our" celebration.

I loved this post (I read it on e-mail first) and couldn't help thinking your intentional parenting is one of the best ideas I've heard in a long time.

Our Pastor did sort of an offbeat "palm branch thing” where the kids came to the front of the church, and he handed out palm branches, and when he didn’t have enough for all the kids, he (actually!) dismantled the centerpiece in front of the altar (after asking, "Has everyone seen and enjoyed this?”) so that all the kids could wave palm branches while we sang All Glory, Laud, and Honor. I saw more than one parent’s eyes water, and I have to admit I teared up myself.

What amazing grace we have been given - thanks for the reminder to REJOICE in the resurrection!

Alice said...

Thank you! I'm planning to do a post each day that corresponds to Holy Week.

And what your pastor did--fantastic!