Christmas pageants always make me cry. There’s something about little kids dressed up as shepherds and angels that always undoes me.
She was dressed as an angel that year. I sat in the pew, beaming proudly as she took her place on the chancel steps with the rest of the angel chorus. Then I realized that she was crying.
In the brief minutes she was up there, I played through all the scenarios I could think of. Had someone said something to upset her? Was it stage fright? Had she hurt herself downstairs while getting in costume? Was she moved to tears by the deep significance of the story she was helping to portray? At the age of 7?
When the makeshift stage lights went down on the last of the wise men, I rushed into the chapel to see what was wrong. She was out of costume by the time I got there, and looking much more composed.
“You were great sweetie, but how come you were crying?”
She showed me her finger, still red where the thread had cut into the flesh. Her angel robe had had a loose thread at the end of one sleeve. She had absentmindedly wrapped the thread around her finger and then couldn’t get it loose again. Poor kid had been crying in pain the whole time she was “on stage.” Fortunately one of the Sunday School teachers had managed to free her finger once she discovered the problem. By the time we got to the after-church snack she had shaken it off. I was the one still feeling distressed.
I missed the kids’ pageant this year. Now that my own kids have outgrown Sunday School, it’s not quite the draw it once was. There are other things that make it Christmas for me now. Certain songs I have to sing–Hark the Herald Angels Sing is one of them. Certain stories I have to hear. Certain people I need to gather with. It all comes together for me in this Christmas classic: