Daniel Norris explores the awe and wonder children exhibit when engaging with the world and suggests that adults can regain this sense of wonder by embracing each liturgical season with fresh eyes.
At our most recent Godly Play service at St James’s, the children were introduced to ‘the circle of the church year’. A clock-like wooden object is used to explain the changing seasons of the church year and the colours that are used to represent the different seasons and a piece of gold rope is used to reflect and wonder about the concept of time. The words used are profound in their simplicity and yet hold a richness of depth and meaning.
The story teller begins… ‘Time. There are all kinds of time. There is time to get up in the morning. There is time to go to bed. There is time to go out and time to come home. There is time to work and time to rest. But what is time?
Some people say that time is like a line, like a piece of rope. Here is the beginning of the line, the newest part. Time is just being born. It is brand new. As we go along the line, along the rope, the part that was new is now getting old. I wonder how long time goes? Does it go on forever? Could there ever be an ending? The line does come to an end. The end of the rope. The beginning that was so new in the beginning is now old. The ending is the new part now. The ends of the rope can be joined together so that the beginning is connected to the ending and the ending is connected to the beginning. This is what the church did with time. They tied the ending that was like a beginning and the beginning that was like an ending together, so we would always know that for every ending there is a beginning and for every beginning there is an ending. This is the circle of the church year.
In the church there are three great times. We celebrate them every year. There is Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. People can walk through these great mysteries each year and not even know what’s there. We need to get ready to come close to these mysteries. The time for getting ready to come close to the mystery of Christmas is called Advent. The time for getting ready to come close to the mystery of Easter is called Lent. Christmas is so mysterious it can’t be kept in one day, so in overflows into a whole season. The same is true for the mystery of Easter. This prepares us for the great mystery of Pentecost. Some times are green. These are green and growing times.’
Powerful and thoughtful words that never fail to provoke thinking and wondering.
One of the great privileges of working closely with young children is being able to observe the awe and wonder with which they engage with the world. Everything is exciting and new and there is great energy to experience everything and be curious without inhibitions or prejudice. The world is a place of intrigue and beauty to be explored playfully. This is something that can be lost as we age, if we do not make time and space to really notice and experience what is around us. We are told that to enter the kingdom of heaven we must become like a little child. I like to think of this as our capacity for wonder and imagination. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry famously writes, ‘All grown-ups were once children, but only few remember.’
We have now entered a new church year; the circle begins again. We are at the beginning and we are preparing to come close again to the great mystery of Christmas. Perhaps in the coming year we can, like the children, take time to wonder and to see each of the opportunities of the liturgical seasons with fresh eyes? To wonder as purple changes to gold and gold changes to green? Perhaps we can try to engage more deeply and more imaginatively with the range of ways we try to immerse ourselves into the story of God’s love told through the seasons celebrated by the church?
At St James’s we offer Godly Play every month during the 11am service and are grateful to a small team of volunteers who ensure that this opportunity for wondering is available to our children. But Godly Play is not just for children, it is for every one of God’s children – young and old! Watch out for opportunities to find out more on Sunday 28 January in the church from 12.45-1.30pm and to join in with the wondering.
At the beginning of a new church year and in the season of Advent a few questions to wonder about?
What is my favourite season or mystery in the church year?
At what time in the year do I feel closest to God?
What do I hope and long for in this coming year?
How can I find time to wonder?
This blessing was inspired by the Godly Play approach and written to be offered at beginnings and endings.
As you make your journey, may God come so close to you and you come so close to God that you know all of God is in every place- in all of creation.
May you always carry with you the gifts given to you before you were born by the man who said such amazing things and did such wonderful things that people still know him in every season, in every mystery, in the bread and the wine.
Remember that you are forever part of this sacred circle, where the Spirit moves among us like a dove bringing comfort, strength, and power. You are storytellers and peacemakers, light bearers, and people of God, who are creating the part that hasn’t been written yet.
For more information about Godly Play please visit https://www.godlyplay.uk