|Angel. Painting by Laura.|
I have always liked Nativity plays. Often one would be put on at our local church, for the Christmas service. It was usually mostly acted by children, other times adults would be involved as well. Usually there were few rehearsals. It was "home spun" amateur theatre, very much so, but it was an event to be treasured for all that.
I remember one year, that someone had made a few changes to the usual Christmas story, and the shepherds had a little mob of pigs to look after on the hill above Bethlehem, on that starry night when they were visited by angels wearing sheets of faded striped flannelette.
There was a clever arrangement where the cardboard pigs were strung on a line across the church near the front, and were pulled across from one side to the other... like they were flying through the air... , but something jammed and a cardboard pig stuck halfway swaying and twitching fantastically as the string was tugged to try to free it.
There was a Nativity where a very young and tired Mary, with a snotty nose, held Jesus by the chubby arm (or was it a leg?) and swung him in a distracted manner. Mary's cheeks were flushed and she looked a little feverish. There was probably some bug going around at school that year just before the school holiday.
Mary sucked her thumb, and looked over her shoulder at a point on the ceiling as a breathless Joseph struggled with his lines. They did not appear a happy couple. Meanwhile the Infant Jesus swung in slow circles.
|My sister and... um... Well, it was taken rather a long time ago!|
This "Jesus" was a large fat, and scary looking, plastic doll. Scary because one blue eye that should have blinked realistically had been jammed open years before, probably someone stuck a pencil in it, and now the eye seemed to stare accusingly at anyone who dared to come close.
The doll was obviously feminine, but that did not seemed to matter, she was back year after year, and looked OK when safely buried deep enough in straw in the manger so that you could see the top of her head, and maybe one chubby arm, but not a lot else.
There was the year when the three wise men left the church through the vestry door after doing their part in the play, and got locked out until the end of the service. The vestry door had snibbed shut behind them, and the main door of the church had been shut from the inside, because there was a strong wind blowing. The wise men had to spend the next half hour or so sheltering in the church hall, until the service was over.
I love plays like these. There is always a drama behind the drama.
There are children that arrive to church at the last minute, towed by a breathless and aggravated parent who simply could not find the safety pins to do up the shepherd's costumes, and garden twine had to be used... in quantity, so now the shepherds are trussed and tied so tightly that they look like more like a Sunday roast!
And there is the wise man that cannot say "Frankincense" no matter how many times he has been made to try.
So much can go wrong, and yet so much goes right. Somehow, as these adenoidal angels and stuttering shepherds and unwise wise men stand with feverish Mary, grumpy Joseph, and a fidgeting two person donkey, and they gather around the plastic scary doll in the manger, a miracle takes place.
We see beyond the sheets and the cardboard wings; and beneath the tin foil star we are taken back to an exhausted couple in another place and time.
They are standing by a manger with a real child. They are so tired, fearful, and yet there is a Joy that is spreading. Somehow in the early hours of the morning this young girl Mary has produced this beautiful baby. Their Jesus.
Joseph feels oddly proud, and protective too. He has grown to love Mary, even though their relationship went through a rocky patch with the disgrace of her getting pregnant when they were only just engaged. But he feels closer to her now than he has ever been before, and this little child in the manger, so frail and yet so alive, he will love him and care for him with every fibre of his being.
There are footsteps approaching. Who are these men, at this hour of the night, dressed in the rough clothes of farm workers? They are not drunk, thank goodness. Do they want something from the stable? It is almost too dark to see in here.
But, what is this? The men are kneeling around the manger, close to the child, and yet they are not a threat. These men of the hills are happy, gentle and quiet, and gaze in awe.
Somewhere far above in the very starry night sky voices are singing.
|Shooting Star Angel. Painting by Laura|
Happy Christmas to you all!