“The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.” -Zechariah 8:5
It was Saturday afternoon at the church, on the cusp of Advent, and I was working.
Kylie (our awesome children’s director) had recruited some volunteers to offer free babysitting just to give parents a few hours of kid-free time. Judging this to be a noble task, I signed on to help.
We had watched a movie, and done a variety of crafts, and now, with an hour to go, Kylie and I filed the older kids into the gym for some running around time.
I found a chair and sat down.
Kylie began leading the kids through one form of tag after another. Freeze tag. Sharks and minnows. Stay-on-the-line tag. (There are a lot more versions of tag than I remembered)
I watched as calories were burned and a good time was mostly had by all. Then it happened. One of the girls, a third grader, was getting things organized for yet another version of running and catching. She looked at me and said the words:
“Can you play?”
I had been sitting on my rump for an hour, never even considering joining in. Her words literally stunned me.
I jumped to my feet and stammered, “Yes…I can play…” At that very moment Kylie called out that it was time for the kids to meet up with their parents.
What a strange moment for me. I had been invited (called out) to play, and now I was saved by the clock. Half of me felt like I’d dodged a bullet. The other half felt…old. And not the good kind of old. The kind of old that looks at the past wistfully, wondering what’s become of me.
CAN I play? I play an occasional video game. Does that count? I walk my dog. I watch Netflix. Wow. I used to play instinctively. With wild abandon. Have I lost this spark of my humanity? I certainly hope not, but I may admittedly be a little rusty.
Which brings me to Advent. In honor of this little encounter, and in spite of all the work I have on my plate these next weeks, I have decided to honor the coming Christ the way a child might. These are the ways I aim to play this Advent:
- Play a board game. Monopoly, Boggle, Trivial Pursuit. I’ve got all those in a closet somewhere.
- Play Santa. I aim to give gifts that aren’t just check marks on a list. I want to feel that thrill of giving — Fewer gift cards…more toys!
- Play with Tom. Tom is my doggie. He ALWAYS wants to play, but most of the time I give him a treat to distract him. I plan to get down on the floor and rough house.
- Play with kids. I will joke and tease with the kids at my church, but if I want to recapture Christmas through their eyes, I’ll need to listen to them, learn from them, and get up off my rump, wiling to burn a few calories!
- Play with my imagination. I used to be so good at this! Bringing a drawing or a story into the world. You know, Making believe is actually a good way for Making Believers! So today I’ll pretend to be a shepherd. Tomorrow I’ll do my best to be an angel.
That’s my list, for now. Do you have one? While making a list seems counter to the whole spontaneous notion of play, in this case I hope it serves as a good reminder.
Yes! I CAN play. May that never change. To see Christmas as the twinkle in the eye of the creator takes more effort for some of us than others, but it’s always worth it. Besides, I’ve received an official invitation to try, from a real live young person.
Let me extend that invitation to you. Can you play? Do you want to try with me?
Tag, you’re it.
Have a great Advent,
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