Monday, December 15, 2008

CHRISTMAS PAGEANTRY

Pioneer Woman's post today is of pictures of her children's participation in their church's Christmas Pageant yesterday. She played upon the antics of her youngest son, in his un-self-conscious role of shepherd. These pageants are wondrous things, teaching children as they learn their lines or make their costumes or just stand there holding aloft that star-on-a-stick. They're participating, they're learning, they're gaining spiritual growth. There are touching moments and AWWWWW moments and sweet, innocent words and actions which convey a concept and a faith that no sermon can supply. There's no face sweeter than a wide-eyed angel in a long white robe, her hair shining in the candlelight, and her halo slightly askew.

But there's no other church service as apt to go awry, no rite as easily unhinged, no time at the altar as unintentionally zany, no gathering of the faithful so prone to erupt into hilarity or dismay or howls of anguish or actors who rush from the stage for a cuddle in Mama's lap, as the Yearly Christmas Pageant. And you have to stick Yearly on there, to distinguish from any other Christmas Pageant you might observe.

Being a survivor of quite a few of those yearly wonders myself, I was just recalling several which sorta stick in the memory.

There was the year that Aquanet and close proximity to the candelabra caused not one but two hairdos to combust, and the time that our lead soprano fainted amongst the flower arrangements---she hadn't told anyone she was allergic, and they went wild with the camellias. But trouper that she was, she waited till the very last high note was finished before collapsing behind the pulpit.

And one time the pianist turned too many pages, gave the intro for the finale much too soon, and the choir burst brightly and strongly into Joy to the World when they should have been back on It Came Upon a Midnight. . ., causing the director to have to resort to arm-waving and hand-flapping to stop them before they finished the whole program, leaving out five songs long-rehearsed and necessary to the story. The gestures, worthy of guiding in a plane onto an aircraft carrier, finally ground the joy to a halt as the choir silenced, one by one. The shuffle, shuffle of pages kinda drowned out the titters of the congregation, but not quite.

But I think the most memorable moment was the year that the Linebarger’s two-year-old walked up the steps and wandered amongst all the robe-dressed angels and shepherds, her Mama’s high-heeled feet no match for her gleeful escape.

There’s just something so awkward, so ungainly, about a short-skirted, stilettoed young woman, stepping fast and reaching desperately for an elusive child amongst a crowd, especially from an unbecoming bendover hindside angle.

Little Linda Kay grabbed up Baby Jesus, who was more the round, rosy putti type than a newborn whose parents have seen hard times---a big ole BUBBA of a doll, almost too unwieldy for the child to carry. And she certainly knew WHERE to find him, since her Mama had lugged her to every rehearsal, being none too sure of her four-year-old shepherd. Who, as it happened, was the picture of decorum, being paralyzed with stagefright and too short to see all the revelry of the chase.

Those twinkly Mary Janes tripped time and again over the long swaddling cloth as the little girl ran, like a puppy dragging a blanket, and she would have been caught, except her Mama ran afoul of a shepherd’s crook and a BIG poinsettia.

The tiny girl made her way over to the font, where she reached HIGH, paddled her spare hand a bit in the water, then managed to poke the doll’s head and part of the blanket into the water (not Holy Water, thank Goodness). She dipped/bathed/baptized the baby, then dragged her dripping train back down the steps like a disheveled bride, smiling all the way. I don’t think anything Santa could have brought her would have made her happier than that naked, wet doll in its soggy blanket.

Good times.

5 comments:

John Thomson said...

I have read of many churches celebrating Christmas with Pageants that include an actual baby portraying the role of 'baby Jesus'. Our first child Ruth, was born December 12th, 1981 and was chosen to be 'baby Jesus' for our church's (Reba Place Fellowship) Christmas Eve service. Last year, our grandson, Charlie, born on Oct. 19th 2008, was chosen, also at Reba Place Fellowship. But in prison no such ritual exists.

I wasn't even thinking about babies being in Christmas plays back in 1972. This was yet another year in prison, the difference being this was my first Christmas as a christian. The Christmas service held new meaning for me as we sang the traditional Christmas Carols bringing with it a hope for a new life with a redeemed future. Christian volunteers were a part of our service at the U. S. Medical Center for Prisoners in Springfield, Mo.

As our service wound to completion a cry was heard. The faint
whimpering of a baby. My first thought was that I wasn't hearing what I thought I had heard. I had been in prison for many years and had never even seen a baby inside of a prison (not counting my infrequent times in the visiting room.) But there it was again, a baby crying. Someone, a volunteer, had brought their baby into the service wrapped in a blanket unnoticed by the guards. I then thought, there was our 'baby
Jesus'. The parents of the yet unknown child were the children of an older couple (Lloyd and Nita Colbaugh) who had only a few years previously began their ministry to the prison. Even the great-grandmother, (Mom Carter) was a volunteer and had played a significant role in my own conversion, telling me that God had a plan for my life.

Life would go on and the incident of 'baby Jesus' coming to prison would fade to a memory, until the baby grew up and now is known throughout many countries far and wide as acclaimed Christian singer/songwriter Sara Groves.

Maggie said...

What a beautiful thing this post is, Rachel, as I watch the snow drifting down. I was Mary in the pageant at St.James Anglican when a was a tiny tot. Too tiny: I didn't understand what was going on. What I do remember is the lovely old fir-bedowed church in candlelight, and the azure of my silky gown.

-Maggie

Mrs. G. said...

Lovely post. I did a short stint as the Virgin Mary in third grade. We had a real baby in the manger. It was magic.

racheld said...

I LOVE Christmas Memories---they're ALL magic in some way. Even when it's just a memory of that toy you DIDN'T get---it can kindle a like memory in an unknown friend, and the circle can grow, like lighting candles.

Kouign Aman said...

Last night the munchkin noticed blinking lights in the sky as we drove home from another state.
She decided they were Angels, showing their happiness at the beauty and wonder of Christmas.