Playing piano for over twenty years of Sunday School Christmas programs at our little church, I’ve watched a whole generation of children go through the stages, starting as tiny angels with glitter garland halos, then shepherds in bathrobes and dishtowel head coverings, then finally to the more specialized roles of Mary, Joseph and the three kings. The plywood manger is a bit more wobbly, but the baby doll Jesus doesn’t mind. The few years we’ve had a newborn baby from the congregation available for the program, the manger remains a prop only, since mangers are not exactly comfortable cribs for a 40 minute program. Instead we choose a reliable strong-armed Mary, preferably a big sister, with mom staying close by in the front row.
Each year, and tonight’s program was no different, there are surprises and unforgettable moments (tonight’s was the suddenly lit Christmas lights worn by the ‘head’ angel making the shepherds “sore afraid”–the look on their faces was priceless). Unplanned moments aside, the annual Christmas program is meant to help children understand the most important Christmas gift they will ever receive.
The gift itself is said to be “indescribable”. And it is “unspeakable”: impossible to put into words that are adequate. So we try, every year, with scripture readings, songs, and a humble pageant of Bible time characters, simply to open hearts. It is the heart that will understand, even when the ears may not be able to hear.