December 20, 2015

A New Look for a Christmas Pageant

The annual Trinity Church Christmas Pageant was always eagerly anticipated by the congregation and the children who were involved. Mrs. Andrews, the director for thirty years, knew precisely how the Pageant must be performed for it to be perfect.  

That’s why she suspected that an angel descending on a wire from the church balcony when the shepherds appeared on stage was not a good plan, but the idea was promoted by the pastor, and she couldn’t say no. 

A few days before the performance, the pastor tested his idea, and when he discovered the angel moved too slowly down the wire, he put several  hymnals inside the hollow cherub for extra weight. Unfortunately, he never took the time to test the heavier angel, and the night of the performance, it charged down the wire so fast, it nearly decapitated poor Joseph.

Then the time came for Mrs. Andrews to retire, and Sarah, young drama student from the local college took her place.

On the night of the Trinity Christmas Pageant under the new director, when Mary placed the baby Jesus in the manger, she was smiling from ear to ear, a look that replaced the pensive and sedate appearance Mrs Andrews had required for her Marys. Some people in the audience were surprised by Mary’s smile until they realized the mother of the Christ Child was displaying her genuine delight over her new born baby.

Then when the shepherds appeared, the children dressed as sheep who accompanied them wandered all over the sanctuary. Where were the disciplined sheep who followed Mrs. Andrews’ shepherds?

Some people in the congregation that night thought the Christmas Pageant was spoiled. Others thought Sarah’s new approach to the Christmas Story was perfect. Maybe it was even better than perfect. It was real.

December 9, 2015

What Happened to the Wise Men?

Christmas Eve will soon be here and on this holiest of nights on the Christian calendar, millions of people will attend church to welcome the arrival of God on Earth. Many of them will not return until Easter Sunday to worship the Risen Christ.

One of the most memorable Christmas Eve meditations I ever heard was delivered to a huge crowd of worshippers many of whom were not regulars. Some call them “Chreasters" because they only attend church on Christmas Eve and Easter.

Facing such a crowd on Christmas Eve, the pastor could have used the moment to preach a grand inspirational sermon that may have motivated some people to return in the weeks that followed.

Instead, the pastor waded in with an unforgettable message that was, in essence, a reprimand of the Chreasters present.

The sermon that night was about the wise men who came to worship Jesus after his birth and brought with them gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Their journey was long and arduous, but they were determined to find and honor the Messiah.

"And then," said the pastor, "They were never heard from again." As I recall he paused to let those words sink in, and as people squirmed in their pews,  some were undoubtedly thinking, "Is he talking to me?" and clearly the answer was, "Yes." 

I’ll never know the result of the pastor’s message that Christmas Eve, but I am certain that many people who came that night to be uplifted went away feeling they were scolded. But the pastor knew in his heart it was message that needed to be shared . . .  just as I believe it should be repeated here.

December 1, 2015

Jesus and a Flock of Canada Geese

Each fall and spring Canada Geese fly low over our house near Keuka Lake in Upstate New York. In the fall they fly south to Georgia and and Florida, and in the spring they fly back to Canada.

Recently, we watched a large flock of geese flying south when a few birds broke off and headed southwest. Then another small group left the main flock and headed east. Finally, one more small flock broke away and flew north.

By the time they passed out of view, what was one large flock of Canada Geese became four smaller groups flying in four different directions. Each group of snowbirds thought their leader knew best how to get to their winter habitat

Christians are taught to follow Jesus, trusting always in his message of love, compassion and forgiveness. But Satan, who Peter says is always nearby ready to devour us like a roaring lion, relentlessly tempts us to follow a different path.

Bolstered by our own arrogance and self pride, we strike out on our own, and the love, compassion and peace we knew as followers of Christ turns to discontent, envy, hate and self pity.

Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life.” But beware! Satan is a powerful adversary who is unwavering in his quest to guide us in another direction.