Friday, December 07, 2007

    This Baby - Steven Curtis Chapman

    This is the time of year I dig out my Christmas cds and start listening to them 24/7. One of my favorites is Steven Curtis Chapman's album "The Music of Christmas." Often, I will share his song "This Baby" with youth because it reminds us of the human side of Christmas and of Jesus. Young people have too long been taught to romanticize the life of Jesus. We've burned images into their brains of this perfect little baby ("no crying he makes") born into a cozy, brightly lit stable with smiling cows and sheep nearby for company and the cheery drummer boy lulling him to sleep with a sweet rum-pum-pum-pum. This "precious moments" stuff just doesn't cut it with teens. They are ready for a more visceral and real-world faith and we can help them by opening their eyes to a Jesus who struggled with life just as they do. Steven Curtis' Chapman's song is a good jumping off point to start this discussion.

    You can listen to the song here or watch a visual interpretation of it here. Below is the basic outline of a program that invites youth to engage both the song's lyrics and the nativity story from Luke:

    Opening: Challenge the group's “punning” skills with this quick quiz:

    Q: On December 24th, what was Adam’s wife known as?
    A: Christmas Eve
    Q: What do you call an opinion survey in Alaska?
    A: North Poll
    Q: When the salt and pepper say, “Hi” to each other, what are they passing on?
    A: Season’s Greetings
    Q: What do you call a holy man with no change in his pockets?
    A: St. Nickleless

    Some people really love puns because to “get’ them, you have to pay close attention to the words and the language. It might help us to pay close attention to the language and imagery we use when talking about Jesus, especially this time of year. We talk about Jesus as “God’s son.” Some would say that we are all God’s children -- all of us a son or daughter of God. What can you share about the story of your own birth? What stories have your families shared with you about what you were like as babies?

    Digging In: Read aloud the story of Jesus’ birth from the Gospel of Luke (Luke 2: 1-20).
    Ask: When you picture the story of Jesus’ birth, how do you imagine it? If you were there as character in the story, what do you think you would see? What would you smell? What would you hear? What would it be like for Mary to give birth in that place? What do you suppose Joseph is thinking/doing? What is the baby feeling or doing?

    Reflecting: In his song “This Baby," Steven Curtis Chapman (a father of several children) paints a more realistic view of the baby Jesus than we usually see in paintings or in manger scenes. Read the lyrics silently as the song plays and notice the ways the child Jesus in the song is like any other child. After hearing the song, what are your first reactions. What did you like/dislike about it? What caught your attention in the lyrics?

    Ask: The song says Jesus was unique but it also describes him as a regular kid. Often we think of Jesus as this perfect guy, with a halo around his head, walking on water. Why do you think it might be helpful for us to remember that he was a person just like us -- that he cried when he got his baby teeth, that he got hungry, that he played as a child, that he had to go through all the growing pains of the teenage years? What other regular human challenges do you think Jesus faced as he grew up? How might his life as a teenager been similar to yours?

    The song says that Jesus changed the world. What do you think about that? How is a baby born as a peasant into a violent culture able to change the world? In what ways do you think the world is different because Jesus was born? In what ways are your lives different? What do the lyrics “He showed us heaven with his hands and his heart” mean to you?

    Closing: Take time as a group to name and pray for "children" of all ages in your knowing around the world in need of the good news of God's love that Jesus shared with his life and ministry.