Six years ago, on a Saturday night before Palm Sunday, I and some of my classmates from Campbell Divinity School visited an Antiochian Orthodox Church for a Church History assignment. Given the date, we weren’t surprised to see a hefty stack of palm fronds on a table in the sanctuary—after all, many of our churches also distributed palm branches to congregants as part of remembering Jesus and his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We were, however, perplexed by the large bunch of pussy willows next to them. The Deacon, sensing our puzzlement, explained that since many members of the church were originally from northern and eastern Europe (where palm trees cannot grow), they had traditionally carried pussy willow branches into church on “Palm” Sunday because as the first plant to bloom in the spring in those areas, they were thought to symbolize new life and resurrection.
Though the practice of waving pussy willow branches on Palm Sunday may seem strange to us, I have since learned that in parts of the world where palms are difficult to procure, the use of native plants in their place has always been typical—to the extent that in some countries the day is called “Yew Sunday,” or “Willow Sunday”, or, more simply (and comprehensively), “Branch Sunday.” Essentially, whatever plant looked alive (indicated by being green or visibly growing) was used.
As we celebrate Palm Sunday today—most of us without the traditional palm branches to wave—I encourage you to not only make note of the signs of resurrection and new life unfurling in the native plants just outside your windows, but also, more importantly (as an article I read this week noted), to perhaps consider how you might make use of another type of palm that most all of us have: the palms of our hands.
This past year has been difficult, and now, after so much has changed, and while so many are still apart, we should consider these palms carefully. Are they open hands lifted in praise, folded hands fervent in prayer, working hands reaching out to care for others? These are the ways we truly remember Jesus.
Here are some resources to help your child in worshipping today:
The Children’s Message for March 28th, 2021 will be livestreamed as part of Hope Valley Baptist’s Worship Service for March 28, 2021 on the HVBC YouTube Channel and the HVBC website. The livestream will begin at 10:50am. You will also be able to view a recording of the livestream after the conclusion of the service on the church’s YouTube Channel or website.
Blessings and love,