The Best of Christmas Pageants
Trying to get your head around the Christmas story? Go see a Christmas pageant! The kids at our church Sunday school put on a great one this weekend. Angels sang, shepherds gaped, wise men trudged, Mary rocked, Joseph wondered, but what I loved most was one line from a second grader.
First, some memorable moments from past pageants. There was the year our son William was only two and not even in the cast. But once he saw the angels in cardboard wings and wobbly halos, he dashed out from the pew and joined them in a liturgical dance. There is a part for everyone to play in a Christmas pageant.
A good pageant amplifies the biblical story. Why just have three wise men? After all, there is no number listed in the Bible, only three gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. (No stable mentioned either, just a manger.) One year, in a remarkable feat, a 12-year-old girl walked the length of the center aisle, reciting the long and complicated hymn Mary sang in celebration. As I listened, I thought, “Yes, Mary was not much older than that.” Just as brave, just as frightened.
Another year, an ambitious teacher included the flight into Egypt; Mary and Joseph on a donkey; and a blood-thirsty Herod in a jealous rage that there could be a baby king ready to usurp his power. What a good reminder that violence hovers in the wings of the Christmas story. All the more need for peace on earth.
I’ve seen cast members of different races and backgrounds. “Yes,” I realize, “this is a story for every race.” And I’ve heard of tons of adlibs, including the famous one in a Guideposts story when the innkeeper, overwhelmed with sympathy for the expectant mother, gave up the script entirely. “Don’t go, Joseph,” the boy called out. “Bring Mary back. You can have my room!”
The line at Sunday’s pageant that had the audience delighted came when Joseph was trying to explain to the census taker just exactly whose child his wife, Mary, was carrying. Yes, he was the father but not the real father. Finally in exasperation the boy exclaimed, “It’s hard to explain!”
It is indeed hard to explain. I can’t begin to fathom how God became man without experiencing the love I feel watching, clapping at, laughing with, praying over and singing along at a Christmas pageant. May yours be marvelous.
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