“A Christmas Pageant Story,” Dec. 18, 2012

Once, when I was very young — with lots more energy and less experience than I have now — I volunteered to direct the Christmas pageant at church.

“What?” said my husband, as if I’d just announced I was moonlighting for the Pentagon splitting atoms in the blender.

“It’s a kids’ play,” I shrugged. “How hard can it be? All you need is a manger, a few tacky costumes and a bunch of kids.”

“Including our three?”

“OK,” I said, “I see your point. It may take work. But you won’t have to do anything. The kids promised to help.”

“Sure,” he cackled, dumping Alpo in the dog’s dish, “like they promised to feed the dog.”

Here’s a little tip: It’s best to avoid, whenever possible, taking charge of any public activity — be it teaching or coaching or Christmas pageant directing — that requires one to take charge of ones’ own offspring.

“Why can’t I be Mary?” said my daughter said.

“You’re only 5,” I told her. “One of the big girls can be Mary. I need you to be an angel so you can watch over me.”

“OK,” she said, “but can J.J. be Baby Jesus?”

J.J. was her Cabbage Patch doll. He would make Baby Jesus look like the Pillsbury Doughboy. I would probably burn in hell. But what’s a mother to do? “OK,” I said. “We can bundle him up in, like, lots of swaddling clothes.”

“I’ll be Joseph,” said my oldest, who would grow up to be an actor and play bad guys on TV. “I’ll carry a big gun and shoot King Herod.”

“You’ll be a shepherd,” I said, giving him the same look I used to get from my mother, “and carry a big stick to keep the sheep together.”

“Can Nate be my sheep?” he said, falling down laughing.

His brother, my wooly-headed 3-year-old, was not amused.

“I no sheep!” Nate hissed.

“Of course, you aren’t a sheep,” I said, combing my fingers through his wool. “You can be my Star of Bethlehem.”

“Where will we get a manger for J.J.?” asked my daughter.

“That’s easy,” I said. “We’ll make your dad build it.”

And so it began, my well-intentioned effort to depict the glory of Christmas with several dozen sweet, innocent young souls — as easy to direct as a flock of penguins on speed.

We never got through a whole practice. Started lots, but never finished. I couldn’t believe how long it took to get to Bethlehem.

But on the night of the pageant, like the miracle of Christmas, the performances were flawless — pretty much. J.J. lay swaddled head to toe in his manger; like Baby Jesus, “no crying he made.”

The shepherd, a true ham, did a fine job with the sheep (when one of the flock wandered off in search of a cookie, he pulled it back with the hook of his crook and got a standing ovation).

The angel, as always, kept close watch over her mother.

And the Star of Bethlehem (with his curls springing out of a tin-foil costume and looking more like the Happy Star from Carl’s Jr. hamburger joints) shined brighter than the sun on a California Christmas.

Some called it the best pageant ever, but they were grandparents mostly, and you know how grandparents are. I assure you it was the best Christmas pageant I ever saw — and the only one I ever directed. My husband said it certainly had the best manger.

That was more than 20 years ago. The cast, except for J.J., is all grown up now. The Shepherd is still a ham, still keeping our flock together. The angel is still an angel, still watching over her mother

And the Star of Bethlehem cut off his curls, but he still shines brighter than the sun on a California Christmas.

Some things change, and some stay the same. That is as it should be, especially at Christmas. Here’s wishing you and yours a little of both.

Comments

  1. Tami Otjen says:

    Love your column. I am coming to Vegas for miss America pageant on jan. 10th my first visit to sin city! I will think of you and your column how you said your were moving to Vegas of all places!!! Keep up the good job!

  2. Deborah Jones says:

    Merry Christmas, Sharon! May it give you many more wonderful memories to share with all your friends. But most of all, may it be blessed beyond measure!

  3. Marilyn Kirby says:

    Hi Sharon 🙂 I’ve missed you sooo much, and your column too, lol, having gone through two PC’s and lost everything, including my Sharon folder with scores of columns that I couldn’t bear to delete. I’m still kicking (barely) on my mountain in southeast Upper Carmel Valley. Have my share of health issues, but so far manageable. You recently rec’d an e-mail from my best friend of 50+ years from HS days, nancysue39@yahoo.com, asking to be placed on your personal mailing list. She has forwarded your columns to me. This Christmas column (which I don’t remember) gave me many smiles – never enough of those these days. Now I’m asking you to please, once again, to include me in your personal e-mail list. I’ve been on my mountain 3.5 yrs, and it was about 6 mos. after my arrival that, for some crazy reason, I was no longer receiving your columns – no one’s fault, just a cyber mystery (what else is new? lol). I would appreciate so much if I could once again read your columns (still twice a week?). I wish you and yours the most loving, wonderful Christmas holiday, in good health of course! You are in my thoughts so often, sometimes I feel you’re still here on the Peninsula. Love, and many warm hugs to you, Marilyn (Mare) 12/19/2012

  4. Karen says:

    I love your column and look forward to reading it in the Sunday paper. Last Sunday you weren’t there! Don’t know if it was an error on the papers part….heaven forbid if they have stopped carrying it. If they have I may cancel my subscription…I have been thinking about that anyway..you were one of the few things in it worth reading….Glad I have found you here!!!

  5. Alice M. Anderson says:

    Blessed Christmas to you and yours, Sharon from alicemariefromtennessee. Glad you are taking some time to: God rest YOU, merry gentlewoman. See you next year!

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