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Christmas program memories

Walkin'

The children’s Christmas program at our church was an unexpected and delightful surprise this holiday season, bringing back a flood of memories.
Reluctantly compliant describes my attitude as a child when it came to religious duties. Given my druthers, I’d stay home and watch re-runs of “Flash Gordon” through to the end. But, Mom never asked for my input. Flash would be on the verge of fighting the giant Octosak, in a chamber filling with water, and the call came: time to go. And believe me, when Mom said it was time to go, it was time to go. Flash would have to make it without me.
It was especially onerous in the summer, the rules did not allow for young apostles to wear shorts. Indeed, not only did I have to don long pants, my “church pants” were made of wool. You might as well sprinkle me with fire ants. There was one concession: I could wear my cotton long underwear to ease the pricking from the wool. No doubt at least one passerby mistook my feverish red face for religious ardor.
Vacation Bible School was so much worse. Instead of missing the end of a science fiction story, VBS meant an entire summer’s morn of playing outside forfeited. Lost on youth today, with air conditioning and video games, is the glory of a summer’s morning.
Fidgeting and unhappy, I’m sure I was much less than the model student. If a teacher dared blink an eye, I’d duck under the table. In Sunday school, like presidential politics, the trick is to act decisively and not worry about ethics. With a little luck, I could disappear until the Kool-aid and cookies.
That, in turn, is why when the Christmas program came around, I was always put in the back row with the least critical role.
And, that brings me back to our church’s Christmas program: the production was fairly elaborate with 20-odd kids dressed up in costume. Besides the wise men, shepherds, in-keeper, Mary and Joseph, there were a half-dozen more dressed up as various animals. Besides the usual story line of how Jesus came to be born in the manger, there was another theme about how each animal did their share to comfort the newborn. The children sang, “The Friendly Beast,” which it turns out was written by Peter, Paul and Mary, and individual children sang the parts of the donkey, cow, sheep and more.
I think it was extra-heartwarming for several reasons. In this age where presidential candidates can talk blithely about making sand glow, the innocence of the children seemed extra vivid. And it was perfect because it wasn’t perfect. Although the kids were obviously well rehearsed, there still were the occasional miscues. But they were trying so hard, you couldn’t help but chuckle and admire the performer that much more. And finally, I didn’t see one red face in the crowd.
Merry Christmas to all!