Because the dad was smiling, I was pretty sure I hadn’t offended him too much. He asked, “Did you just say, ‘Every parent should force their child to be in the Christmas pageant’?”
Absolutely I did.
His high-school sophomore son had told me a week earlier that he was willing to participate, and ever since, I had been counting on the boy’s help. Now he was saying that he didn’t want a role in our church’s most special worship service. As pageant director, I needed the young man. His change of heart was one more disappointment to add to a rapidly growing list of challenges I faced in rounding out the cast.
I had scanned the church directory for every family with minor children. Then I left messages at each home. A day later, not one person had called me back. And a week later, no one had added any children’s names to the sign-up sheet I had left on the bulletin board at church.
Of the kids whom I was able to rely upon, my Joseph was going to miss most of the practices because of his wrestling schedule. My Mary preferred to be a narrator. And my Lead Angel would be rushing in from a soccer tournament on the day of the pageant, so she wanted to play . . . what I’ll call . . . a more dispensable role.
I had little choice but to cast her as a nonspecific angel from the realm of glory who wouldn’t have her own lines to speak and might not be missed if she didn’t really get to church on time.
I guess she could have been a sheep. Who would miss one little lamb from an entire flock?
But more importantly, God would.
Last Sunday, I tried to convince the high-school boy that the Christmas pageant is an amazing way of expressing our love for Christ. I told him that I understood his hesitancy. He hadn’t ever participated before. He didn’t know what to expect. I assured him that he wouldn’t be the oldest and that he wouldn’t uncomfortably stick out amongst a bunch of little kids. At that point in time, I was in short supply of youth and had already been recruiting adults for some of the roles. The pageant would include people of all ages.
Still hoping to tap into what might inspire this boy, I offered to place him into a role of his choosing. Somehow, I knew he wasn’t going to change his mind. It was easy for him to say no to me.
There are always other things we can be doing with our time. When we’re asked to be a part of the Christmas pageant, saying no instantly erases any anxiety that we may feel about singing and dancing in public; wearing a costume; standing before people tightly packed into every pew of a sanctuary; bowing to a baby.
Why should any of us force ourselves or our kids to suffer needlessly?
The Christmas pageant isn’t an obligation. It’s a privilege to reenact the birth of Jesus. It’s an honor to be a senior and get to fill a coveted role as Mary or Joseph. It’s a joy to push past our comfort zones, memorize our lines, smile while all eyes look to us as we welcome Christ into the world through our imperfect but personal story-telling. Some things are—this thing is—worth great effort.
Yes, every parent should force their child to participate in the Christmas pageant . . . but not because directors like me need willing participants. This isn’t about us and it isn’t really about your kids, either. If we do things right, the attention won’t be on any of us at all.
Free up busy schedules. Set aside discomfort and fear, insecurity and anxiety.
Welcome Baby Jesus. Worship the Messiah.
“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown” (A Charlie Brown Christmas, directed by Bill Mendelson, written by Charles M. Schulz, featuring Ann Altieri, Chris Doran, Sally Dryer, et al, aired December 9, 1965, on CBS).
Click on the image below to watch a YouTube video of the Christmas pageant I directed in 2015. It was truly a labor of love.