There was a realistic-looking camel in our church narthex yesterday; also a wooden donkey in the sanctuary and woolly sheep on the chancel. Later, a baby appeared, nestled in a manger.
A young shepherd rolled on the floor clutching his sheep, while a diminutive angel, minus her halo and with a bent wing and bare feet, watched the proceedings and waited for her cue.
Sunday began the third week of Advent with its theme of JOY — and there was a lot of joy in that service!
Every year the church school children rehearse with the adults and come together for an intergenerational pageant depicting some aspect of the Christmas story. This year it was all about comparing the story as it appears in the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
What is it about these presentations that makes them much anticipated annual events? They aren’t slick, professional performances, but they always draw ‘a full house’. I think much of their value is in the preparation — the listening and learning, the unravelling of a holy story that is a mystery to children. Is it really so hard to understand that Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem and had a baby in the stable because there was no vacancy in the local inns? No, but try to explain to children the love that is so integral to the story.
Each year the church confronts them (and us) with the story of God’s incredible love as seen from different perspectives, and then leaves the result in God’s hands. The hope is that within their lifetime, the seed now sown will be nurtured into a meaningful and life-sustaining faith.
So no, yesterday’s giggles and halting recitations weren’t part of “just another Sunday School pageant”, but a joy-filled gathering, an experience of sharing and learning, helping the church convey the wonder of God’s love as expressed in a cradle and a cross.
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