“You are out of your mind,” I thought, as I heard myself say out loud, “We should do a children’s Christmas pageant!” I had seen those things. I had managed to avoid being connected to them in any way for my entire adult life. I had been an elementary school music teacher, and had still escaped from getting sucked into the Christmas pageant frenzy.
But this is a new calling, and I’m pastoring a church that has plenty of kids. “We’ll keep it simple,” I said. “Let’s just have fun with it,” I said. “It doesn’t need a lot of lighting or sets or new costumes – we can work with what we have in the storage closet,” I said.
“I can put it together in four rehearsals, I’m pretty sure,” I said.
At the first rehearsal, I realized the script I had was too wordy to keep the children engaged in the story. We had sheep climbing up with the angels and shepherds staring off into the hallway instead of lovingly looking at Baby Jesus.
The day of the second rehearsal, the schools closed because of the weather, and when the schools shut down in this town, everything shuts down. We had to cancel.
By the third rehearsal, I’d found a Christmas Eve Children’s message that I could adapt into a simple script. It had the children repeating just one line at intervals throughout the brief narration, and it got the whole Christmas story right, without being cute or overly romanticized.
Then someone volunteered to take care of the costumes. Someone else volunteered to bring hay for the manger. Someone came and read a picture book to the children that explained what a manger was, what a stable was, what a shepherd was … and the children listened. Someone organized a treat bag filling party. Someone borrowed a spotlight for the angel, that we decided we didn’t need, after all. Someone baked Happy Birthday Jesus cupcakes to eat after the Wednesday night presentation (aka, dress rehearsal).
Then the angel said, “Don’t be afraid.”
And a sheep crawled up the steps to sit next to the angels.
And when Joseph didn’t show up because he’d caught the bug that’s been going around and was home sick in bed, one of the shepherds turned into a wise man, and a wise man became Joseph, and no one whined or argued about it. They just did it.
The parents sang as many stanzas of “Silent Night, Holy Night” as it took to get three shepherds transformed into wise men, but it only took two stanzas, not three.
And the wise men marched up the center aisle, exactly five rows apart, just as they’d practiced.
At the end of the story, we sang, “Go, Tell it on the Mountain” while the wise men filed slowly out, and the shepherds led the sheep (and one cow) down the center aisle, followed by the angels, Joseph, and Mary with the Baby. Parents applauded. Children beamed.
Somewhere in there, Christmas happened.