We rehearsed this morning for tomorrow's Christmas pageant. The older children (fourth grade and up) have all the speaking parts this year. One of our high schoolers has ambitiously adapted a play based on a short story by Tolstoy. In the middle of that story, there's an opportunity for a telling of the nativity, and the younger kids, pre-k through third, have non-speaking roles in that.
The sweet girl is a shepherd this year, and looks precious (like a miniature monk) in her grayish-brown shepherding outfit. She is, of course, carrying her woolly stuffed sheep!
The five year old daughter of dear friends is at last getting to play Mary after longing for the part last year (when a much older girl played the role). We were so delighted that she's getting to do it, as this will be the family's last pageant at our church (they're going on the mission field next year). When we first offered her the role, earlier this week, she got nervous and said no; she thought she'd rather be a sheep after all and stick with her big brother, who's playing a shepherd. I suspect the real Mary might have had moments when she wouldn't have minded being an ordinary sheep either! But today, like the other Mary, this tiny girl said yes. She looked luminous in her little blue veil, and smiled with true delight when my dear husband (who's directing the pageant) asked her if she could hide the baby Jesus doll in the folds of her robe when she first came out, then bring the doll out and place him in the manger at the appropriate time. Her mom had a baby recently, so I suspect this all feels very close to home!
Other favorite moments: when I asked the oldest girl playing an angel if she would mind taking on the role of Gabriel. Hesitation. "Will I still get to be a girl?" Clearly important to her! I hesitated only a fraction (and decided in that instant that this was not the time to discuss angel gender or lack thereof) and then just said "of course!" "Okay then," she said.
Our Joseph got a little bossy. He kept asking "who's playing Mary? which one is playing Mary?" and then when we told him, he marched up to her and took her hand. "Come on!"
And after the rehearsal, that tiny little Mary, whose dad will be teaching theology next year, showed she has perhaps been reading comic books, while also perhaps giving some thought to the idea of kenosis (Jesus emptying himself when he took on flesh) when she commented on Jesus waking up in the manager. "He must've said 'hey, look! What happened to my powers?!'"
Even as I laugh, I think how strange and mysterious it must have seemed to all the heavenly host to proclaim the God of heaven and earth was lying swaddled in a feed box! "One born in a manger commands the beauteous files..." as Henry Vaughn reminds us.
Sometimes we just have to sit at Jesus' feet in gratitude and awe because there's no other appropriate response.