In this season of Advent, which leads up to Christmas in many churches, one of the stapes of the season is the Christmas pageant.
Now you might think that these events are things that just "happen", and to some extent they are. But there is also a lot of anxiety, frustration and hard work to bring about a special event like this.
First of all, there are rules to Christmas pageants.
They take lots and lots of practice.
The Christmas pageant season usually begins right after Thanksgiving, or mid-October. If you listen closely, you can hear the faint sound of familiar carols and bells and a "Let’s do that again!" from an adult voice.
A Christmas pageant is the best way to tell a familiar story of faith and to help young people know and understand the events of Jesus’ birth. There is no better learning than speaking lines from the story which you have had to memorize by heart. Especially good characters may even, as they grow older, use their performance on their first resumes for a job. After all, if you can play Joseph or Mary or a wise man you can probably do just about anything.
A Christmas pageant gets people out to church.
This is what astonishes most preachers. You see kids and families in church you have not seen in years. Grandparents will bring grandchildren. Older and younger siblings will show up together and even co-operate with each other, much to their parents amazement. It makes the preacher feel good to see pews so full. The hymns even sound better with more voices singing. That makes church musicians and choirs happy.
A Christmas pageant draws all kinds of strange costumes and staging out of the cupboards and basements.
There are always the old dressing gown shepherds robes and the towels used as turbans on too small heads. But don’t forget the cardboard angel winds with glitter and the white choir robes that were used fifty years ago and never discarded. They might have even been worn by mom or dad or Grandma when they were little. The church has always recycled things like that.
Then there is the menagerie. Cardboard donkeys and camels, stuffed shee and a cow or two. Some are works of art worthy of inclusion in the Tom Thompson gallery while others are, well, a great effort.
On the day of the presentation, you can reasonably assume that the church sanctuary will be packed. Get there early. Relatives and neighbours will come and there might even be a struggle for a seat. But in the end, coats will be removed, backsides will be squeezed together and nothing will stop the audience from watching carefully and singing carols lustily.
In larger and perhaps more "with it" churches, there will be microphones for as many people as possible. This will result in a screeching and booming that is certain to raise the dead.
Sorry. Wrong season. That’s not until April.
Finally the event begins. Carols are sung and the story is told.
At some point one of the children will forget a line and a strong whisper will be heard.
"And there were in the same country..."
And again, "And there were in the same country..."
Finally the small voice is heard and the story continues.
There might be a meltdown on stage. There may be a moment of realization that they really don’t want to be there and go looking for mom or grandma.
Not only is it OK, it’s expected. It’s all part of the Christmas pageant experience and the joy of growing up Christian.
Merry Christmas, friends.
Rev. David Shearman is the minister of Central Westside United Church, Owen Sound and host of Faithworks on Rogers TV - Grey County