Preparing for Worship – LeAnn Hampton.
While decorating our home for the season, we opened the boxes containing Christmas books. Seeing them feels like letters from dear friends, and I must read a page or two in each before placing them around the house.
Barbara Robinson’s book, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, is an old favorite with a timely message. The fictional story is told by one of the church kids who’s always been in the Christmas pageant and knows how everything is supposed to be done. She tells about the time the traditional pageant was turned upside down by the presence of the neighborhood bullies, the Herdman children, who were “absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world.” The Herdman children stopped in at the church because they heard a rumor about free snacks and decided to be in the pageant. The challenge was they had never heard the story of Christ’s birth and questioned every part of the story. When they commandeered all the main roles of Mary, Joseph, shepherds, etc., everyone in the church predicted the pageant would be a disaster — until it wasn’t. The Herdman children, as imperfect as they were, brought fresh eyes, new meaning and wonder into a story that many had taken for granted.
Some of us have heard and told the story of Christ’s birth many times. Have we allowed the familiarity of it to diminish the wonder of the truth that God became one of us? What would happen if during worship today, we were to hear and see the nativity story in a new way?
Where Shepherds Lately Knelt, today’s choral anthem, invites us to step into the story of incarnation. As imperfect pilgrims, we find ourselves at the stable where the shepherds had knelt before the Christ child. Even as we come with “half-belief,” we find ourselves “strangely stirred” by what we find when we see the baby. The anthem reminds us there is always room and welcome for all because Christ is present. The Christ who comes as a baby grows to be the Prince of Peace for each of us.
With fresh eyes, may we see that God’s all-encompassing love comes to our hearts “unasked, unforced, unearned,” and like the shepherds, let us respond with awe, wonder and joy.