by Kimberly Ripley
It's funny how something once accomplished almost begrudgingly becomes a cherished and much anticipated tradition. Such is the tradition of the "Little Dancers". I think we'll miss them this year.

My oldest daughter began instructing the "Little Dancers" during her freshman year in high school. A beautiful dancer herself, Judy had taken her gift of dance and her love of small children and turned it into a ministry. Volunteering to teach ballet to the younger girls within our church, Judy taught them a form of liturgical dance. They learned to worship God through their dancing.

It was a glorious sight. On Christmas Eve, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of having our dinner, wrapping those last few gifts, and hosting guests dropping by for a few minutes of Christmas cheer, we packed up dozens of battery-powered candles, ballet shoes, tutus, and yards of ribbon, and went to church an hour early. I was one of the moms who helped my daughter prepare her "Little Dancers" for their dance of worship. Dressed in white for purity, and trimmed with festive reds and greens, these beautiful little girls lit up the Sanctuary with a joy present only on the faces of children. Their worship and celebrating of the coming of Jesus was so honest and spiritual it drew tears from many members of our congregation.

From the moment my daughter led them down the middle aisle toward the altar, holding their candles high above their heads, all eyes were transfixed on this remarkable tribute to Christmas, and all hearts were filled with its meaning and joy.

The dance movements were basic, and not everyone stayed in a straight line. A few of the little girls even forgot their parts. One tiny dancer decided to stop in the middle of the ballet and sit down. My daughter simply scooped her up into her arms and carried her throughout the remainder. It looked as though it had been planned that way. It was so natural to see her holding this beautiful little child, as Mary held her baby Jesus. The wonder shone in my daughter's eyes. My heart swelled with pride.

Our congregation was awestruck for four consecutive Christmas Eves by the gift of watching these "Little Dancers". It had become an anticipated part of the Christmas Eve service. My oldest son accompanied them twice, singing "O Holy Night". The passion in his voice and the passion in the dancer's moves led everyone to understand that this was so much more than a performance. This was indeed a true form of worship and of celebrating the true meaning of Christmas. And it was an example of our entire congregation being led by children, from toddlers to teens.

My daughter is away at college this year. Even my youngest daughter, who danced in Judy's troupe for all four years, says it's time to spend Christmas Eve sitting in the congregation. It is uncertain if anyone will fill the spot and continue leading this dance ministry.

And this year amidst all of those last minute preparations I wonder if we'll notice the void. I wonder if it will seem like there's something else we're supposed to be doing. So often we had grumbled as we hurried our way through our Christmas Eve dinner, or my daughter and I had grumbled at each other because someone couldn't find the right props. And now it's all a memory. It's a part of something that we used to do.

Blessings come in all shapes and sizes. And often they come when we least expect it. And sometimes they come and we don't recognize them until they're gone.

I know my daughter realized she was blessed with the love of these little girls. And I know they were blessed with the love and guidance of a fine young Christian woman, who helped them to find the true meaning of this blessed holiday.

If you would like to comment on this article, please email This article appears courtesy of The Merry Syndicate at with our best wishes for a warm and merry holiday season. All copyrights reserved. Kimberly can be reached via email at