Yesterday was the annual children's Christmas pageant at church and I can think of no other event that so clearly marks the passage of time. One minute your kids are among the preschoolers wearing sheep heads and donkey ears then you blink and they're an angel or a shepherd and after a few more weeks pass they're playing the big parts of Mary and the Wisemen. This year only Lilly was in the pageant and her big teenaged siblings sat in the audience-- a real sign that my kids are growing up fast.
Yesterday's event had it all: we had the cow who succumbed to a fierce bout of stage fright and burst into tears upon seeing the audience. The donkey next to him looked annoyed and tried to soothe him but it was no use. One of the adult wranglers had to go up to the altar and lead him to safety; we had the bossy angel (daughter of the children's choir director) who was exasperated to find a mic missing just before Mary's solo and stomped off the altar in search of a replacement saving the song just in time; and we had the perfect, tear-inducing solo, sung sweetly by Mary (oh, did I mention Lilly was Mary?)
When I went to pick her up from rehearsal on Saturday the pageant director shared with me that Joseph (an eighth grader) had suggested he put his arm around his wife when she comes to the manger. You can't blame a guy for trying. I mean here he has gone to the trouble to bring Mary safely to the warm stable and not only does he not get any credit for the birth thing but he has not one line in the Christmas play. Surely he had something to say that night like, "Can I get you some ice-chips?" During the rehearsal this Joseph tried to slip his arm around Lilly/Mary but she just shrugged it off without looking up from her script. I assume the first Mary was much more kind to Joseph.
I have seen many Christmas pageants over the years from the very modest to the slickly produced but I always prefer the slightly messy ones where angel's wings get tangled (one year one got set on fire) and sheep heads slip askew and Wisemen get a fit of giggles--the show that is far from perfect, kid-friendly, and full of hope and promise--just like the first Christmas at the manger.
Whatever kind of pageant you get to enjoy this year I hope it moves you to smile and be thankful for all the children, Sunday school teachers, church-lady seamstresses, and choir directors who bring us this little piece of magic every year.