Ever since I was a youngster on the platform in our one-room, country school, along with about twelve children of varied ages and grades, I have enjoyed Christmas pageants.
At the age of ten or eleven, I was the chosen angel Gabriel, and wore the new, white flannelette nightgown that my mother had made. To it had been added a tinsel necklace to match the halo laid on my hair. Onto the platform that our fathers had built, came Mary. I held my hand outstretched 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 are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High." (Luke 1:30-32a NIV)
Then, those on stage and those behind a side curtain awaiting their times to come on, along with a mother or two, one also playing the piano (teacher's helpers), we 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 (flashlights 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 Saviour 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." (Luke 2:10-12).
Another two or three angels in white joined Gabriel, and the tallest shepherd spoke: "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 favour 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 traverse afar…", three wise men appeared in the most colourful 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). As the wise men knelt by the manger, we all sang,
- Then entered in those wise men 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 wise men set their large, brightly-coloured 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 profound and wholesome 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, may we never cease to feel and offer that profound and wholesome worship. Thank You, Lord. Amen.