In Their Own Words and Actions
By Diane Sadler of Independence, MO, USA
…an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. —Matthew 1:20 NRSV
I’ll never forget the wonder and awe of one particular Christmas pageant. To prepare the children to dramatize the Christmas story in their own words and actions, we had them read and discuss the scripture passages in Luke—several times.
When it came time for the pageant, children showed up in their suitable Christmas costumes as sheep, shepherds, Magi, Mary, and Joseph. Mary was touting her baby Jesus, a much-loved “Cabbage-Patch”-type doll. When the children went onstage and gathered in a circle, Mary immediately showed her frustration and exhaustion by announcing to Joseph, “Here, you take him. I’ve had it with this kid!”
Instantly, the congregation and children’s leaders felt a mix of compassion and disaster. Yes, we could empathize with a young mother’s feelings; oh, no, what story would this pageant now tell?
Surprisingly, beautifully, in a moment that took our breath away, the little boy playing Joseph took the doll. He lovingly cradled and cooed to it, and we had a revelation of the tender love the earthly father of Jesus must have felt.
It didn’t stop there. Soon a wise man tapped Joseph on the shoulder and held out his arms to hold the baby. Then another tap, and another wise man, and a shepherd, and another. As the baby doll went around the circle, the congregation watched, breaking out occasionally in joyful laughter. This wasn’t a baby Jesus that simply lay in a manger. This was a baby Jesus that ALL wanted to hold and cherish!
Finally, one more tap on the shoulder. It was the sheep. Not wanting to be left out, the little girl playing a sheep held and rocked the baby Jesus.
The audience responded to the impromptu, child-inspired Christmas pageant by standing, cheering, and wildly applauding. What a joyful expression of children sharing the Christmas story!
Prayer for Peace
Sometimes God, we are playful, sometimes prayerful, but always in your presence. Sometimes an audience rises to its feet and cries, “Bravo!” Sometimes they fall to their knees and say, “Thank you, O God.” Somewhere between these two responses, we find peace.
Spiritual Practice: Listening to Children
Sit in your quiet place and center your heart and mind on God’s presence. Spend several minutes asking God to bring into your awareness the names and images of children in your life. You may see their faces or hear their voices as you receive these impressions. Listen deeply to the unique gifts and needs of the children who come to mind. Offer a prayer of blessing for each child and the needs you sense. If you feel led, you also may want to write a note or card and give a message of affirmation and love to each child.
Today, God, I will omit some pre-planned events and allow for spontaneity—space to interact with your Spirit.