by Jill Ragar Esfeld
LENEXA — Each morning during Advent, a bell rings in the hall of the Early Education Center here at Holy Trinity.
At the sound of that bell, preschoolers pour out of their classrooms in joyful anticipation of the morning’s ritual.
“Anticipation” is exactly what they’re learning here as they gather and wait for the lesson to begin — a figure to be added to the Nativity scene, prayers to be said and a song to be sung as Advent candles are lit in expectation of the Messiah.
Fourteen years ago, the preschool was moved into a new building. For the first time they had a center hallway. And this tradition began.
“This was something we had wanted to do for years,” said director Mary Kay Scanlon. “When we moved into this building, we could develop this tradition as part of our program to make it more family-like.”
Parents are encouraged to join each morning as a new figure is added to the Nativity and children hear a Scripture-based story about that figure.
“Last week it was the shepherd and we talked about the story of the Good Shepherd,” said Scanlon. “Today we talked about Mary.”
The lessons are sinking in. Children in the program from previous years remember the stories and the songs.
“They can tell us Mary was his mother and Joseph was his father and that Advent means waiting,” said Scanlon
The children also remember their responsibility for filling baby Jesus’ bed with hay — long pieces of yellow paper representing good deeds.
“We encourage them to do good deeds,” said Scanlon. “They’re getting the manger ready for Jesus.”
When the children return after Christmas break, Jesus is nestled in the hay, and the lessons of the Christmas season continue as more figures are added to the scene.
And the children continue to sing about lighting candles for hope, peace, joy and most important, love:
Light One Candle for Love
One bright Candle for Love
He brings love to every heart,
He comes, He comes.