December 22, 2012
‘Tis the season for Christmas pageants across the world in churches large and small.
Christmas pageants bring joy to children of all ages. As anyone who has ever attended or coordinated a pageant knows, they also bring plenty of surprises.
Christmas pageants tell the story of Jesus, a story of hope for those in darkness, a story that yearns to be told year after year.
Christmas pageants bring out the child in each of us.
Christmas pageants delve into the realm of mystery.
Christmas pageants delight with the sounds and songs of children.
Christmas pageants ensure that everyone has a part to play; no one is left out of the story.
But this year in particular, when I think of Christmas pageants, I think of the costumes. I can picture the costumes that I wore growing up; the excitement of knowing I would finally get to be Mary. The joy of dressing and being transported to that inn in Bethlehem. Now I picture the children in the congregation I serve and the smiles and patience they have once dressed in their costumes. It seems enough for the young angels to simply be a part of the story and to smile as they enter the sanctuary. I see parents and friends dressing the children, covering their hair, and giving them just the right walking stick. I see the twirling of young angels in their white robes. I see children who have outgrown last year’s costume. And then there is always that new child and their sense of wonder and joy. There is also the child who is a bit apprehensive of this whole costume and dressing up thing. And don’t forget the children who just like to run around and lift their angel skirts and wings in the air for all to see.
All the children in the pageant put their heart and soul into telling the story. Precisely because it’s not just a story for Christmas but a story for our lives every day.
Children know that when you play an angel in a Christmas pageant, you learn that life is a gift and that there are people in our lives who tell us: “Do not be afraid.”
When you play a shepherd, you learn that sometimes you have to walk into the unknown, leaving everything you once knew behind.
When you play a wise man, you learn that the best gifts come from following a star.
When you play Joseph, you learn to embrace family.
When you play Mary, you learn to say yes to the impossible.
When you gather to put on a pageant, the children are never alone. I look at the children in their costumes and I see and feel the saints of those who have been dressed in these costumes for years.
I feel the presence of all the wise men and shepherds throughout the years. I see generations of families passing on the traditions to the youngest among them.
I give thanks for all the Marys and Josephs who are now raising their own families across the world.
And I remember those angels who are no longer living, yet whose spirits live on year after year, pageant after pageant.
For you see, the Christmas pageant isn’t just about putting on a pageant. It was never intended to be. A Christmas pageant is about remembering the saints. Remembering the story. Remembering that all the angels, wise men, sheep, shepherds, and baby Jesuses continue to live on in us each and every day. We are a hopeful people who trust that each year we’ll celebrate the birth of Jesus with a pageant and ultimately that Jesus will come again. And until then, we’ll keep having pageants and telling the story.
We’ll keep giving thanks for all the angels among us.
Follow the Rev. Kimberly Knowle-Zeller’s blog at monkeyinbush.blogspot.com