December 27, 2007
Nobody moved until after Round Two
Every year I threaten to have a Puritan Christmas—which means “no special observance of the season.”
Everybody knows that the Puritans gave us the model for Thanksgiving (although a recent book on early New England history suggests that whatever the Mayflower Pilgrims ate on that first Thanksgiving, it was probably not much and likely not very good). Those were deadly days. And, the frank truth of the matter is that our Puritan ancestors did not keep Christmas.
It was not that they were Scrooges, they just believed the only holy day was the Sabbath, and when they preached on the birth of Jesus they made sure to do it on some other day than December 25 — because that was a “popish” custom. I think our Puritan ancestors would have thought it quite right to oppose manger scenes in the public square, and what use would they have had for carols in the mall?
My trouble is not theological; it is just that I dread decorating. I always enjoy it, though, once the effort gets underway. Diana Moore gave our church a new Christmas tree, and it really was fun to put it up and see it gleaming by soft candlelight.
We had our traditional children’s Christmas pageant Sunday. That is the highlight of the season for me. “Miss Brenda” likes to have it with just the simple carols of Christmas and the reading of the Christmas story from Matthew and Luke. No frills or frippery. Just the timeless story and the familiar music. I would not have it any other way.
Of course, given the timeless nature of the story, everybody comes to the church — not to find out “what happened” in Bethlehem, but to see what “might happen” among the children if something goes delightfully wrong. Our best was the year that no doll could be located in the nursery, so that a stuffed bunny rabbit was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in the manger.
All went according to script until one little tyke decided she wanted her “blankie” which had been pressed into service to wrap the “baby,” and seizing the corner of the blanket, she pulled it from the cradle with that kind of a jerk that magicians use to snatch a cloth off the table leaving the plates untouched, and the rabbit went rolling across the floor, to the hilarious amusement of the mothers and fathers who were watching the performance.
Needless to say, the scene was videoed, and I am quite sure it will be shown at a certain young lady’s “Sweet 16” party!
Things were definitely more precarious at the Christmas pageant in the Presbyterian Church at Covington, Tenn., several years ago. “Joseph” had been ill all weekend, but felt it a matter of strict Presbyterian duty to play his part that morning. He managed to walk down the aisle and stand by the cradle, but then, to his parents’ horror, he “urped.” Right into the cradle. And nobody moved — not Joseph, not Mary, not the babe lying in the manger. Mr. Kennon, the minister, didn’t know what to do. So the pageant proceeded to the next reading and song.
Nobody moved till after round two! After the second eruption, the whole affair came to a hasty conclusion, so that for one Christmas there was no star in the east or hopeful arrival of the wise men. It was no matter.
Everybody knew the story and was only concerned that this sick little boy feel better. (A hefty dose of paregoric and “Joseph” was ready to open his presents on Christmas morning.)
We got through our service just fine, and it made me glad again for Christmas, and glad too, that I did not give into my initial resolve to observe a “Puritan Christmas” this year!
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