Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas blessings and memories

Late last night all I could think about was a very special memory I have from a Christmas Eve in 1994.  The picture above is of my sweet Lia (in red) from 2009, when Gwen used the same format for her church Christmas program.  Here is my memory for 1994.....

I found this program in the late 1980's but never had a chance to use it until the early 90's.  The idea is that it is a "no practice" Sunday School program that lets kids decide what part they play.  During those years it was quite typical to do large, performance based programs that unfortunately excluded kids who, for whatever reason, couldn't make multiple rehearsals.  Someone quite brilliant came up with this format, and I loved it!  You prepare about 6-8 simple props for each of the "parts" of the Christmas story.  A paper heart necklace for Mary, a strip of cloth that become either a belt for Joseph or a headband wrap for the shepherds, a circle of tinsel for the Angels head piece, paper headband "ears" for the animals, and simple paper crowns for the Kings (we used Burger King crowns - they were perfect!).  I finally got the chance to actually use this program in 1993 when my church and Pastor always had a simple family Christmas Eve service where the Pastor dressed as a shepherd and told the Christmas Story interspersed with the singing of Christmas Carols.  (Thanks Faith Lutheran Church and Pr. Dave Dorpat).  I set up several rows of little chairs around the wooden manger, some for the Marys and some for the Josephs.  The first year was magical.  We had about an even mix of kids choosing the parts and the front of the church was filled with the faces of the sweet children.  So many thankful Grandmas and Grandpas and moms and dads sat in the pews watching these little ones act out this familiar story.  Yes, it was a big hit.  Many said that they never thought that their children would have a chance to be in something like this.  It was a blessing.  Then, the next year, I was asked to help with the same program.  So, I willingly prepared all the props and got ready for the service.

But something really extraordinary happened during that Christmas Eve service in 1994, First of all, the weather was terrible and it looked like the attendance would be very low for this service.  It was a weekday and many families had to work and the service was quite early in the afternoon.  Pr. Dave did not seem the least bit worried.   Families started to fill the pews and the service started.  When it was time for the Marys to come forward only one little girl came to the front.  I thought this was strange since you would expect 4 or 5.  Then the Josephs were called and again, only 1 little boy came up.  We had 1 little animal and 1 angel.  And then the shepherds were called to the front.  When 6 children stood there waiting for their headbands, I realized what an amazing gift we were witnessing.  That night, Jesus reminded us all that we need to listen and hear the message of the ages.  "Fear not, for unto you is born this night, in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord". 
And then we need to drop everything and go and tell everyone what we have heard. 

I remember reflecting on that particular Christmas Eve service so many times.  You see the shepherds were really the lowest of the low in this story.  They were sitting out in the cold, in the fields, doing a job that not many wanted to do.  It was most often the youngest and the least favored in the family who drew the lot to do that job.  Yet, the most important and world changing message was sent FIRST to these common men.  I loved that the children were drawn to be shepherds.  I wanted to be a shepherd right along with them.  Thankfully, Pastor Dave also saw the miracle of this event.  He spoke at great length that night, himself dressed as a shepherd, about the gift and the reminder that we had been given through these little children.  It was a teary and wonderful service that I will never forget. 

So, today, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.  I pray that you will all spend just a moment reflecting on those shepherds, doing their jobs and going about their business out in the fields. Take just a few breathes and then be amazed by the Good News from the angels. 

Glory to God in the Highest and Peace to all!   

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