Make sweet hosannas ring

One of my distinct memories of church during my childhood is of processing with the children’s choir on Palm Sunday. It was one of the few times during the year that the children’s choir got to sing with the adults, and they were so cool! On Palm Sunday we would line up holding our palms and our hymnals and march in from the back, singing our little hearts out:

All glory, laud, and honor
to you, Redeemer, King.
To whom the lips of children
made sweet hosannas ring.

To this day, “All Glory, Laud, and Honor” is one of my favorite hymns to sing and it always gets me in the mindset of Palm Sunday. Lent without getting to sing this hymn just isn’t the same for me.

Fast forward from elementary school to 2012 when I found myself living in Palestine when Palm Sunday rolled around. You were in the Holy Land for Palm Sunday, Courtney, how cool! you may think. It was, but not for the reasons you may think. As far as I know, all the other volunteers woke up early to get into Jerusalem for Palm Sunday in order to process from the Mount of Olives into the city with hundreds of other Palestinian Christians. There were readings, musicians, hymns, and many palms. Or so I heard. I wasn’t there.

Instead, I was invited to spend that Sunday with my Palestinian family at the church we all went to in Beit Jala, just outside of Bethlehem in the West Bank. While I was excited to spend this holy day with my family away from family, part of me wondered if I would regret not doing the huge Palm Sunday processional for what could be the only time I spend Palm Sunday in the Middle East. It would be like living in Bethlehem all year and spending Christmas in Jericho. Of course, it ended up being one of the best Palm Sundays ever, and I would go back to spend the holy day with my Palestinian family in a heart beat. Jerusalem’s processions are lovely, I’m sure, but place does not make memories, people do.

Last year, my Palm Sunday consisted of a fairly regular service (in Arabic) with children processing. Their palms were a bit different from ours: instead of having one long palm leaf or a small branch, each child had beautifully woven palm leaves a few feet tall, sometimes bigger than the child himself/herself. What I remember from my last Palm Sunday was not singing “All Glory, Laud, and Honor”, but seeing it acted out as people worshipped and children helped us to celebrate Christ.

Earlier this Spring, for Palm Sunday 2013, I found myself in a Lutheran church with a palm branch, sitting next to a fellow seminary classmate and her two young girls. We gathered for worship and were instructed that every time the word “hosanna” was spoken or sung that we should wave our palms. Then the service began: the Sunday school kids processed in with their palms and we began to sing that familiar refrain:

All glory, laud, and honor
to you, Redeemer, King.
To whom the lips of children
made sweet hosannas ring.

We finished the hymn and were just about to start the prayer of the day when my classmate’s youngest daughter, who is an adorable 3 years old, lifted up her palm branch, stood up and said “HOSANNA!”

This, my friends, is it. Worship. This is it. Did this child know exactly what hosanna means, or why we lifted palm branches and sang? Maybe, maybe not. In time she will learn, but until then the Spirit will move her to worship God and say hosanna whether her understanding is great, or whether it seems little.

Palm Sunday has meant a lot of things to me over the years: inclusion, serving, hospitality, and worship. The common thread I have taken away from my Palm Sunday experiences is that children of all ages, from newborn to 107, are not just welcome in worship, but necessary. Our entire community should be involved in worship.

God allows each one of us, regardless of our talents, abilities, or age, to teach one another what it looks like to follow Christ. God shows us through the lips of children shouting sweet hosannas the gift of worship.

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