Let us put by some hour of every day for holy things...

Think on th' eternal home,
The Saviour left for you;
Think on the Lord most holy, come
To dwell with hearts untrue:
So shall ye tread untired His pastoral ways,
And in the darkness sing your carol of high praise.

--from Keble's The Christian Year, Thoughts in Verse



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Annual Christmas Pageant

The charwoman, the undertaker, and the laundress... "What poor stiff have you robbed now?"
Ah, 'tis the season for Sunday School programs and amateur theatricals. Heaven knows I've appeared in my share! I've even written and directed some of them. They certainly seem part of the package where families, church, and Christmas are concerned. An acquaintance once referred to the yearly church Christmas program ritual as the "annual bathrobe nightmare" and perhaps you're of his persuasion. All I can say is--You Scrooge, you!
My first Christmas program experience was in a primary school play, where I portrayed the character of a bossy paper doll. I spoke two words: "I will!" and I remember how startled I was at the laughs I got. I guess that's when I got hooked. To this day I am an inveterate ham, and I've passed the baton to my kids as well.
Here's a photo of Wyatt when he appeared as the angel Gabriel in a church theatrical a few years back. It was a terrific part, and he played it to perfection. He's got a classic dry delivery style and perfect comic timing.  
While the script treated the scriptures with deep respect, it also attempted to have fun looking at the traditional Biblical tale with a bit of a laugh at the human foibles involved. Gabriel appeared, not in traditional "angelic" garb, but as a 1940s-era gumshoe detective type. He even had theme music. Every time he made an entrance, the music from the old television series Peter Gunn was played. I don't think anyone who saw that play will ever think of the nativity in quite the same stale way. It was so much fun, in spite of the stress involved in organizing and producing such a major undertaking.

"Gabriel" milling about backstage...

Wyatt's older brothers also had parts, one as Joseph (a Red Green handyman guy complete with a roll of duct tape) and the other as Zacharias in the temple, reacting doubtfully to the news that the middle-aged Elizabeth would have a son ("I'm an old man, and my wife ain't exactly a spring chicken anymore!"). And, okay, I'll admit it--I was in it, too, as one of the three road-weary wisemen, sick and tired of one another's company, and exiting Herod's palace to a recording of Elvis Presley's You Gotta Follow That Dream Wherever That Dream May Lead You.

The program experience has, no doubt, struck a chord with a lot of us who were born and raised in the 20th century. The theme crops up in movies, books, and magazine stories over and over. One of the best of the best is Barbara Robinson's classic tale, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

Every Christmas Eve afternoon, our family listens to the fabulous recording of this book, read by Elaine Strickland. If you get the opportunity, do track this CD down and listen to it. You will laugh until your sides ache, but you will also be moved and touched as you encounter the "old familiar story" in a fresh new way. It's also available as a book and was made into a movie with Loretta Swit. I can't recommend it highly enough. It's especially terrific for listening to in the car when making a long drive to the relatives for the holidays.
  
 
    (I just checked and you can see the movie version on youtube.)

How about you? Do you have a memory you'd like to share regarding a performance in a holiday program, recital, or pageant? Do tell! 


3 comments :

  1. is there a part in that movie with the little girl smoking? it seems like we watched it in 3rd grade and then the teachers said it was bad and turned it off.

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    1. I'm speechless... What a goofy teacher. The whole premise of the story is how these hooligan kids are transformed by hearing the story of Christ's birth and understanding it for the first time. It's also a moral tale about realizing that God loves all of us, and that sometimes those of us to whom Christianity is "old hat" are the ones who really need God's spiritual wake-up call the most!

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  2. For years I tried to remember what movie it was because I had been enjoying it before the teacher shut it off..I thought it was "A Christmas Story" at first but when I watched it I realized I was wrong..

    I really need to play catch up on your blog Im getting behind.

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