By Barb Arland-Fye
Isabelle had already slipped into her angel costume, wings attached, and Anna and Rylee were putting on their shepherd robes for the Children’s Christmas Pageant when I arrived in their fifth-grade classroom. Ava, also a shepherd, couldn’t get her robe on because of a tight knot in the laces that secured the neckline. As I attempted to loosen the knot, Lucy informed me that her costume — she was supposed to be the Star of Bethlehem — did not fit. “I was the Star in third grade,” she said. “It’s too small. Can I be an angel instead?”
Two of the fifth-graders were missing from class, which meant we had extra costumes. But what Christmas pageant takes place without the Star of Bethlehem? God provided a solution to my dilemma within minutes. While Mary, a mom with two children in other classes, did some mending on the Star, another mom entered the room and left with the costume, which she said one of the third-graders could wear.
A delighted Lucy put on her angel robe and wings and I unknotted Ava’s costume, with a pair of scissors Mary provided. We had time left over to work on a Christmas-themed crossword puzzle before the pageant started. The girls weren’t so sure they wanted to work on any activities, but I coaxed them into doing the puzzle as a team project and we had fun figuring it out together. So much fun, that we had to scramble to get upstairs for the pageant.
More than a few years have passed since I attended a Christmas pageant in our parish, Our Lady of the River in LeClaire. The last time might have been when my younger son Patrick, now 25, played a role. Now I understand what I have missed all these years, children and adults coming together with no other agenda than to celebrate the essence of our faith.
The youngest children looked adorable as their faces showed through their animal costumes. Then, the Star of Bethlehem walked down the aisle, wearing pink tights beneath her costume. Avery Grace walked up the steps of the sanctuary to sit on a stool and stretched out her arms, her face and eyeglasses showing through the center of her costume. She took her role so seriously. I tried to imagine the Star of Bethlehem two millennia ago, bearing Avery’s face.
All of the children performed their roles with enthusiasm. During the singing of Christmas carols afterwards, the toddler sister of one little performer (a girl dressed in a donkey costume) came up to the sanctuary steps to cuddle with her sister. Everyone in the church that morning from the youngest children to the oldest adults exuded joy and anticipation. They blessed my experience preparing for Christ’s coming.
Mary and Joseph’s journey to find a home as they awaited the birth of Jesus required the couple’s deep and abiding faith and hope. It may be years before the pageant performers contemplate and appreciate the meaning of Christ coming to be born among us, within us and leading us to eternal life with our Triune God.
For me, contemplation and appreciation occurs in moments like this, entering a fifth-grade classroom where I see the face of Christ in giggling girls putting on costumes for the Children’s Christmas Pageant.
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at firstname.lastname@example.org)