The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
Is one of the best books I’ve ever read. It’s so funny and familiar and true…I found myself loving those little unruly Herdman kids in the story.
It’s by Barbara Robinson and you should definitely read it before Dec. 24th.
I attended a small church with my family once where we had a Christmas pageant. It was called Grace Fellowship, had coffee and donuts consistently after the service, and the Sunday schools met in the attic. There were also large families of small children there with names like Lois and Nathaniel.
I was one of those kids who breathed out of her mouth (therefore it was always open), and also the kid who left no stone unturned when it came to theological questions. A story would be told, a nice conclusion given and a little lesson about what we were to do to that story. My favorite teacher at Grace, Mrs. G with the 5 boys with all biblical sounding names and a husband who drove a golf cart at Disney World, added something. She asked if we had any questions.
My hand shot up every time she asked us, And now, do you have any questions. I walked away from Sunday school full of donuts and appreciation for my teacher.
One day, she told us she’d written a Christmas play for the church Christmas service, and that we would all play a part. The script was handed out, pages and pages long, and much of the service would be explained by a narrator angel, who sat above the pageant in the baptismal hooked to a microphone. The narrator’s angel’s parts to be memorized were full paragraphs, almost single-spaced pages of narration.
Guess who got to be the narrator angel?
I remember, in the end, my teacher realized she’d gotten a little overzealous with what I could accomplish as a fifth grader. I doggedly studied those paragraphs, reading them over and over and repeating them to my mom, but on the actual day I remember that she allowed me a cheat sheet to refer to. I read many of my lines from the safe perch of the baptismal.
At Crossroads, the church Frans and I now attend, there will be a 5 week series about Bethlehem that calls for some scripting and acting. Somehow word got out that I am a writer, and so guess who got to be the scriptwriter for the services?
It took me awhile to understand the creative director’s vision, but once I did, this non-fiction Nancy raised her hand to try to create words to make the service come to life.
Over lunch she said, So, you want to remember that the church is international, so it should be understandable to both native Dutch and English speakers. And…your audience includes adults and children, so aim for dialogue that’s understandable to both. Think ‘animated movie.’
Animated movie. It was a great description of my task, but writing an understandable, witty, didactic, simple yet profound Christmas script for Dutch and English-speaking internationals from the ages of 7-90 seemed a little tricky.
Here is the latest funniest association I make right now…it’s that surprising little drunk Cupid from Disney’s Tangled.
(I promise no one will be drunk in my script.)
The task still has me somewhere between “shaking in my boots” and “Bethlehem or Bust!”
I started on the script, not knowing if I would find any words, and found myself writing quickly and glibly, the characters on the page coming to life and corny jokes springing up from the italics and colons between the dialogue.
In short, it was fun.
I thanked my lucky stars for a long-ago model in Barbara Robinson’s The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
And I hope, like her story, the humor in my pageant opens the door for the reverence, beauty, the truth of Christmas to come dancing in.
Thanks to Jen Lawson for suggesting I write about this!