How We’re Learning
By Brenda Pace
For many years, one of our family Christmas traditions was to read aloud Barbara Robinson’s Best Christmas Pageant Ever. The endearing story of children described as the “awful, cigar smoking (even the girls) Herdmans” is a tender but humorous tale of the true meaning of Christmas.
The terrorizing Herdman family, led by wild-eyed Imogene, shows up at Sunday School one morning because they heard there were refreshments. In Sunday School the Herdmans pay attention to the announcement about the upcoming Christmas pageant, and even though this was the first time they had ever stepped foot in the church they all decide to participate. The brazen Imogene ends up playing the unlikely part of Mary, and the other five Herdmans overtake the rest of the major roles. The siblings put their own hilarious spin on the story, like bringing the baby Jesus a ham and beating up Herod because he was mean. Their improvisational actions make sense to them, and in a strange and honest way, they make sense to me.
You see, the Herdmans are the unlovable people of the world, but they represent all of us who need a Savior. They are changed as they encounter the truth of the love of God born as a baby at Christmas. The church is changed as well, as the Herdmans remind the people of the true purpose and mission of the Body of Christ.
One of my favorite parts of the book is when Gladys, who plays the angel, runs down the aisle of the church shouting with freedom and abandon, “Hey! Unto YOU a child is born!” Her emphasis on “YOU” offers the most wondrous reminder of all. Unto me, and you, and every person who ever lived—a child is born! Can we agree that Gladys was bold to push her way into a starring role of the Christmas pageant? Can we also agree that her boldness became courage when she realized who the pageant was about? Don’t you love the brave way she freely proclaims the incarnation—Christ is with YOU!
How to Celebrate YOUR Freedom in Christ this Christmas:
How will you celebrate your freedom in Christ this Christmas? Here are some ideas to consider.
- Attend a Christmas Eve service. One of most important freedoms our military defends on an on-going basis is our freedom of worship. Like Gladys, let’s collectively raise our voices in our churches and communities and freely share our faith in Christ.
- Remember Christmas is not over on December 25th. In fact, some traditions look at December 25th as the beginning of the 12 days of Christmas. The traditional Christian celebration begins with the season of Advent where we await the coming of Christ. Christmas Day then ushers in a 12-day celebration that ends with Epiphany on January 6th.
- It’s not too late to read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and enjoy the fun and deep meaning of the story. Reading a favorite book or devotional at Christmas is a way to create family traditions and rituals that are important to any family, but especially to military families who are often separated at Christmas.
- Reenact your own Christmas pageant at home. Read the Nativity story from a book or the Bible and have family members act out the story as characters or use characters from a favorite creche. This is a great way to get little ones involved in relating the Christmas story.
Spend some time contemplating John 1:14. Read the verse in several translations and paraphrases. What does it mean to you to think that God became flesh and “moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14 The Message)?
Loving Savior, you came to bring a personal message of love and hope to individuals like me, my neighbors, and my fellow Americans serving the country in the military. Thank you for your personal presence and involvement in my life. Your coming changed the world, and your coming changed me. Help me never to lose the child-like wonder as I stand to praise you! Help me proclaim your presence to a world that desperately needs to know you are God with us. Amen.
 Barbara Robinson, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (New York: HarperTrophy, 2005).