Opening Our Hearts to Christmas
Over the years I have helped coordinate many children's Christmas pageants, and my all-time favorite memory is the year we parents found a seven-foot paper mache giraffe in the church basement, put a blinking red nose on it, named him Rudolph, and made him a last-minute addition to the performance that year. Rudolph the red nosed giraffe turned out to be an excellent enhancement to the other stable animals the children played around the manger. Adding new animals to the stable was not without precedent. The year before we had two sisters dressed up as border collies. They had so loved wearing their dog costumes for Halloween that year that they wanted to wear them again for the church's annual Christmas pageant. They happily barked along in time as the rest of the kids, dressed up as Mary, Joseph, the angels, shepherds, sheep, and donkeys, sang Joy to the World.
And then there was the year a 75-year-old member of our congregation who sang a song we adults collectively wrote entitled The Innkeeper's Blues. He had been a blues singer in his younger days, and he brought the house down when he sang the newly penned song to Mary and Joseph after they inquired about a room at his inn. Everyone in the congregation loved it!
When I served as a pastor several years later, the family Christmas Eve service at our church featured the children's pageant and was by far and away the most highly attended service of the year. It wasn't just the parents and grandparents who loved it; everyone enjoyed this celebration of organized chaos. Whether it was an angel losing her wing, a shepherd tripping over his costume, the baby Jesus being dropped (it was a doll!), or someone forgetting their lines, there was always a new surprise every year. I have never experienced so much laughter and so many smiling faces as we did during those family Christmas Eve services. Every year when we closed the service with the children leading us in singing Silent Night, our hearts were fully open, and there wasn't a dry eye in the church.
The love that is palpable in all Christmas pageant celebrations captures the essence Christmas, the love of God made manifest through the birth of Christ. Christmas is the story of the "Word made flesh," of the love of God becoming incarnate amongst us. It was that love that we celebrated and incarnated in the children's Christmas pageants that I just described. It was that love that made all of our faces smile and shine as we laughed, sang, and cried together.
Children's pageants are not the only opportunity to celebrate and enact this Christmas love of God. We all have the chance to celebrate this Christmas love in the pageants of our own everyday lives. No costumes or red-red-nosed giraffes are required in these pageants (although they do add to the fun); all that is needed are loving hearts and minds, ones that are as open to wonder and mystery as any child's.
We at Living Compass wish all of you who celebrate this sacred season a Merry Christmas. In whatever role you play this year in your own pageants of life, and with whatever cast of characters you gather, may you open your heart and cherish the love of God in your midst.
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