Ever since I was a youngster on the platform in our one-roomed country school along with about 12 other children of varied ages and grades, I have enjoyed Christmas pageants.
At the age of 10 or 11, I was the chosen angel, Gabriel, and wore the new white flannelette nightgown my mother had made. To it had been added a tinsel necklace to match the halo laid on my hair. Onto the platform our fathers had built, came Mary. I held my hand out-stretched and high as I announced to Mary: “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you will give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High”(Luke 1:30b-32a)
Then those on stage, and those behind a side curtain waiting their times to come on–along with a mother or two teacher-helpers, one also playing the piano all sang: “Gentle Mary laid her babe, lowly in a manger….” Joseph came close to Mary as she laid a formerly concealed, snugly wrapped, little doll into a cross-legged wooden manger. Then Mary and Joseph sat behind the manger on a little bench as we sang: “Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head….”
Shepherds (my brothers among them), dressed in long tunics fashioned from rough brown grain sacks, arrived on the steps to the stage, and knelt facing the baby. Standing, they spoke excitedly something like this, alternating, in paraphrase of scripture. Said one: “We were shepherds living out in the fields nearby…” Said another: “keeping watch over our flocks at night.” Said the third: “An angel of the Lord (I step forward fast to show my presence) appeared to us, and the glory of the Lord (flash-light’s glow) shone around us, and we were terrified. But the angel said to us–” (With both arms extended high, I cut in:) “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today, in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (from Luke 2:8-12, in paraphrase).
Another two or three angels in white join Gabriel; and the tallest shepherd speaks: “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying–” (All the children join in loudly:) “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:13,14). Then we all sang verses of “While shepherds watched their flocks by night all seated on the ground, the angel of the Lord came down and glory shone around ….”
Then, singing, “We three kings of Orient are, bearing gifts we traveled afar…,” three wisemen appear in the most colorful of dressing gowns, asking, “Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star in the East and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2). We all sang as the wisemen knelt by the manger, verses 1 and 3 of “We three kings…” ending with, “Then entered in those wisemen three, full reverently on bended knee, And offered there in his presence their gold and myrrh and frankincense. Then let us all, with one accord, sing praises to our heavenly Lord, That has made heaven and earth of nought, and with his blood mankind has bought. The wisemen set their large, bright-colored gifts in front of the manger.
We climaxed with the audience joining in, on our invitation, to sing with us, verses of, “O come all ye faithful….”
Today the thoughts of those pageants, differing every year, have drawn me, and I hope you too, into deep worship.
Prayer: O Lord, accept our worship and praise from hearts touched by your glory. “All glory be to God on high, and to the earth be peace; good will henceforth from heaven to men, begin and never cease.” Yes, Lord, let us never cease to feel and offer that wholesome and deep worship. Amen. Thank you, Lord.
Isabel Allison Roland, Manitoba, Canada