"Most children know what it’s like to prepare for the arrival of a baby and will immediately have their suggestions for what we should do to prepare for the Baby Jesus."
The season of Advent is the favorite of so many. However, for those of us who work with the faith formation of young children, it can be a difficult time. The quiet and contemplation, the brace of Saints days that have the stories of social justice advocates alongside those of mystics are difficult to communicate to the very young. Remember the first response you had when someone answered your question, “What’s Advent about?” and we're told, “Well…it’s about waiting.”
An Easy Advent Song
This song can help children be in the moment during the weeks that lead up to Christmas – and have some fun while waiting and getting ready. It is a simple, interactive spiritual to slip into your Sunday school class or chapel during Advent: adapt the spiritual “Train is a-comin’, oh yeah” as a great Getting Ready song.
There are a number of different versions available on the Internet and in early childhood music curricula. Choose the one that’s most simple for you to learn. My personal favorite is the version included in the Music Together curriculum. The beauty of this song is it doesn’t require beauty of tone or phrasing. An adult can simply chant it. Substitute the words “Christ Child’s coming, oh yeah” for the first verse, followed by “Baby’s a-coming, oh yeah” and you have engaged the imaginations of children 6 and under.
Ask Children for Suggestions
Now it’s their turn. Ask them what do we need to do to get ready for a baby? Most children know what it’s like to prepare for the arrival of a baby and will immediately have their suggestions for what we should do to prepare for the Baby Jesus. It’s a good idea to have some cues to help them along just in case. Some suggestions for cues are:
- Let’s help Mary and Let’s help Joseph
- Better clean the house
- Keep him safe and warm
- Make him a blanket
- Better tell the family!
This is one of the more fun chapel/Sunday school activities because the children get so excited about the arrival of the Christ Child that the song becomes a spark that brings up everything for them. One year, this song and the seemingly random discussions that evolved from it, lasted for 20 minutes in chapel. The children wanted us to get some good advice about the baby. When asked where to go for that advice, they replied “God,” “Mary’s mother,” “the prophets,” “the bible”. What a delightful surprise! One child with family pets who had difficulty adjusting to a new sibling inadvertently brought up the Friendly Beasts by saying “get the cat and dog ready.”
Be prepared for your own surprises. One assumes that when you start the song out with “Christ Child’s coming” we’re all in agreement when it comes to who we’re singing about. Not with young children! Several times when I’ve asked, “What do we need to do to get ready for the baby?” I’ve heard the earnest response “That baby’s going to need a name!”
Shaker eggs make for a wonderful accompaniment if the children in your care are used to them. This song also offers the opportunity to include the very young children in the worship. Once you’ve listened to their responses and put together a song of reasonable length (and content!) they can stand in front of the congregation with the older choirs as back-up musicians singing “ooo.” This is a technique that encourages musicianship in all generations. Most importantly, the younger singers feel like rock stars.
Brook Packard is a musician, singer, and songwriter in addition to many other creative endeavors. She is the author of the forth coming book, When the Bishop Comes to Visit: An Activity Book for All Ages. She worked with Bill Gordh at an Episcopal School in New York City and helped create the chapel program upon which Building a Children's Chapel: One Story at a Time is based. Learn more about The Calendar Song here.