"HEY! Unto you a child is born!"
This isn’t quite scripture, but can you identify this quote?
It’s the final line in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, my favorite childhood holiday story (I suppose I started training for this lay ministry early!). This book is about the Christmas a small-town church is turned upside down when the six Herdman children ("the worst kids in the world") stumble in looking for cookies and collection plates. Although they’ve never heard the Christmas story before, they end up claiming the lead roles in the Christmas pageant.
The Herdmans were known for starting fires, stealing, and giving bruises. Every parishioner agrees they are unexpected, unwelcome, and definitely there to ruin Christmas.
Only, of course, they don’t ruin Christmas. Despite dirty faces, a cigar-smoking Mary, and a wiseman bearing a ham, the congregation learns to hold their traditions a little more loosely and let God speak to them through new voices. And the Herdmans learn that baby Jesus--God incarnate--came to love and save even them.
This year, maybe you feel like the congregation at the beginning of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever when the Herdmans barge in--knocked off-kilter and grieved by the loss of how things ought to be. Or maybe you feel more like a Herdman--ragged, wary, hungry (and pretty willing to stuff your pockets with cookies if the opportunity arises). Whether they know it or not, both the prim-and-proper congregation and the rough-and-tumble Herdmans are searching for the peace and hope only God can bring, and God does not fail them.
I pray that this coming Sunday, you will open your hearts to hear the story of the birth of Christ from this congregation’s children. Our 2020 pageant will be different, yes. But the children’s ministry to you is as full of love and hope as ever.
May we all listen for the new voices that speak to us this Christmas season, whether the soft sounds of a candle-lit Silent Night or the bellowing voice of a small, mud-spattered Angel of the Lord making sure that everyone hears “HEY! Unto you a child is born!”
- Bryn Hollenbeck