12/30/2010

The Christmas Story


The church was small, the congregation young. They were all Catholic but more conventional than most Catholics in the area. The Men’s group hosted every year a Lunch with Santa free for all parishioners that wanted to attend. Included was a hot dog lunch, chips, soft drinks and a chance to sit on Santa’s lap for each boy and girl that attended. It was announced. Lunch With Santa, through the community so that any child could attend in the area, all were welcome, not just members of the parish. The goal of the Men’s Club was not one child would be left out of God’s house nor be missed from sitting on Santa’s lap. Christmas was simply weeks away.

Two young women, both moms with two small children of their own decided to make this year’s event slightly more memorable. Seeming as how they had just got involved with the youth group, they thought it was the perfect opportunity to get the young adults they were leading to truly see the light of Christmas through the eyes of the children. Too often that wide eyed innocence is lost. These two best friends, in their jeans and t shirts, with no assistance, and two youngsters each, began meeting with a plan to bring a play to life and week by week planned it with the youth group.

At first, it was met with much resistance. What teenager wants to get up in front of his/her peers in costume, look out of the norm and perform? Who wants to be silly in public and act interested in younger children? So they began with simply assigning stage duties, help to build stage scenery, as the play was Twas the Night Before Christmas, a fireplace was needed to be made, a Christmas tree had to be constructed, etc….. Quickly progress was made and a life force took hold.

Suddenly donations started coming in from nowhere. A costume was donated for Mrs. Santa, materials were donated for the construction of the chimney, and the young teens grew excited. Before the adults had a chance to discuss and re-approach the subject and ask individuals who should play what part, the group decided amongst themselves who should play what! The project took on a live of its own. Yes, God brought this story to life….the two women quickly realized they were nothing more but the catalyst and they were blessed to be there to enjoy the unfolding of a Christmas miracle.

As the rehearsals grew more frequent, the laughter abounded out of that hallway. As miscues happened, lost lines, hugs and songs were added, friendships formed, cookies were brought in to be shared, a real kinship was formed by all. It was a given that the moment the play would end, all present would lapse into a Christian Christmas song. It seemed only fitting.

Finally, the Sunday came for the play; lunch was served. The lights went down after plates were cleared. The two women stepped to the front of the crowd to introduce the play and then stepped off stage, where they silently held hands and prayed that God would let the play go without a hitch and more importantly, touch those present in a special way. Before their eyes were even open, they knew, , the prayer was not needed….they were in God’s house and He alone was in control. Surely, as God had drawn them together in friendship, the young people together for this project, the young children to be here this day, this play would indeed touch all present with its message of Christmas joy.

With all the practices under their belt, the play, that day was unlike ever before. It began and ended much the same way, pure perfection! Lines were said perfectly, the crowd laughed frequently and hard, the children were interactive and sat well throughout the show. Then, without a word, without a hesitation, once the play ended, the youth group in its entirety gathered on stage. They quietly assembled, joined hands and began to sing. As they sang in unison, with voices raised with joy and a light in their eyes, all present that day in the church hall joined in and sang with loud abandonment. Oh, did the sound of singing fill that hall? Oh yes, what a beautiful sound it was! Surely the angels came down from heaven just a moment or two to hear the praise given to Jesus that day.

And through the crowd, I dare say, I saw a tear or two come from both of the women’s eyes. They were smiling and singing, one slightly off key and one singing just as beautifully as can be as they smiled and held hands all the tighter. That tear, I realized, was a tear of joy. They knew, in that instant, in that fleeting moment, that they had been an instrument for God’s message that special Christmas.

Sing Alleluia. Sing. Sing it loud, sing it proud!