Mrs. Snapper often talks about reality television beginning in the 90s with shows like Big Brother, Survivor, and, her favorite, American Idol debuting in 2002. But, there’s more to reality than competition and drama. Take the PBS classic This Old House, which started airing back in the dark ages of 1979.
My parents had us all watching reruns until we started trying our newfound skills of wall paper removal and furniture reclamation in the living room. Certainly This Old House does have its fair share of drama between homeowners and the cast of professional carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and landscapers. Even so, there’s more to it. A house with its own history, style, and imperfections is introduced and improved on. Within the push and pull between repair, improvement, removal, and rebuilding, something new is created. A new thing that still relies on the old to give it shape and meaning.
So, I would like to think, was The St. Mark’s Christmas Pageant, titled “The Gospel in Scales.” A telling of an old story in a way that was new and unexpected.
The sanctuary was packed with families, church members, and people just looking for something to do with their evening, seeing as nothing happens in Belliacre. When everyone had filed into their pews and Mr. Skink had given her a nod, Mrs. Snapper hit the lights, plunging the church into darkness. An expectant hush fell over the congregation.
The lights turned on over the altar revealing Pastor Basil in her white pastor costume (Mrs. Snapper calls it an alb, but whatever).
“Good evening friends and neighbors” she said with her usual bright smile. “Tonight you will hear a story that most, if not all of you know and know well. Some parts may be a little different and unexpected, to say the least. Even so, I trust that the Holy Spirit will guide you in filling in the gaps. Remember, you are all part of this story too.”
The lights dimmed and came back on revealing...Jealous Plant. Jealous Plant resplendent in a sparkly blue smock with an assortment of holes cut into it to allow for his many vines and leaves. An unexpected, but soon to be expectant Mary, if ever there was one.
Off stage, I clicked on my headlamp and started to read the beginning words of the Christmas Pageant “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said-”
Pastor Basil stepped into the light. A gold, silver, and white chameleon sporting nylon wings perched on top of her head. The chameleon stood up on is hind legs as Pastor Basil spoke.
“Greetings favored one, the Lord is with you! And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.”
Silence followed as Jealous Plant waved his leaves around. I glanced across the sanctuary and could see Mrs. Snapper nervously tapping her foot by the lights. She continued to have doubts about this part of the plan. Just then, Jealous plant lifted up a cardboard poster for all the congregation to see and as one every person, young, old, and in between responded “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
In many ways, Jealous Plant was the perfect Mary. He was light enough for Sybil to comfortably balance him on her back while the Kirtland Brothers carried her across the sanctuary, giving the inn/baptismal font, with its very aggressive snapping turtle innkeeper, wide berth. Mr. Skink as Joseph walked alongside. He looked pale and I could see his hands shaking. Was Mr. Skink getting stage fright? I saw Jealous Plant wrap one of his trailing vines around the reptile man’s wrist. Instantly Mr. Skink relaxed.
Now it was my turn again. Clicking on my headlamp I read more from the Gospel of Luke “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”
This was Jealous Plant’s time to shine. Gently he lifted Helen the Tarantula up into the air for the congregation to see and then, using every one of his trailing vines, he easily wrapped her up as if she was a fuzzy little burrito and gently placed her in the manger, while Mr. Skink looked on in paternal approval.
The lights dimmed and came on again revealing a flock of cotton ball decked house geckos with the Kirtland brothers crouched nearby in shepherd costumes.
Again, I began to read “In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.”
Pastor Basil stood over the flock of nervous house geckos, a resplendent chameleon once again perched on her head. “Do not be afraid;” she proclaimed “for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a... child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
With a chorus of whistles the rest of the chameleons appeared on the altar railings where they had been waiting, camouflaged. A resplendent angelic host if ever there was one!
The lights dimmed again, and came on for a brief percussive interlude led by the rattlesnake as the little drummer boy. The entire congregation clapped along.
Then, the lights dimmed one final time and came on to reveal Jealous Plant cradling the well swaddled Helen surrounded by house geckos, chameleons, snakes of various sorts as well and Mr. Skink, Pastor Basil, and the Kirtland brothers. Mrs. Snapper and I looked on from the sidelines while the congregation joined in singing “Silent Night.”
“Wow,” I whispered to Mrs. Snapper “we actually did it.”
“Yes we did” Mrs. Snapper nodded “if only we’d planned ahead, we could have turned it into a reality series.”
“About what? The drama of putting on a Christmas Pageant? A competition for the role of Mary? A docuseries about the repurposing of nativity costumes?” My head was spinning.
“No” Mrs. Snapper smiled, her eyes a little moist, “a showcase of what the kingdom of God looks like...in reality.”
His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
What is sticking in your heart after sticking with this devotional? How have the adventures of the residents of Belliacre MI changed how you think about Christmas, Church, and the way Jesus takes flesh among us?
A reading of Chapter 24 by Amelia Corbett
It was strange to find myself once again walking up to Mr. Skink’s trailer. The idea of stealing his eye patch seemed ridiculous now. I had more important and more interesting things to do and that’s saying a lot for a town like Belliacre.
I knocked on the door. No response. With a shrug I pushed open the door and stepped inside. There was Helen, crouched on the floor exactly where she’d been when we first met.
“Helen!” I grinned at her “Do you still want to be the baby Jesus?”
“No, she does not!” Mr. Skink stalked in from the back, his eye patch sticking out behind his ear. He looked like he’d just woken up. Is that all he did in his trailer? “Now get out of here before I call the police.”
“Last I checked, Helen can answer for herself.” I pointed down at Helen who had three legs stuck straight up into the air. “What about the rest of you?” I called out. “Who wants to go to Bethlehem?”
There was silence and then a light whistling as the chameleons appeared quite literally out of the woodwork. THUMP! Sybil had dropped down from the pipe she’d been wrapped around and was slithering across the floor. SPLASH! Harold hoisted himself out of his tank and once again headed for my toes, though this time he respectfully stopped about a foot away. I looked and saw the house geckos, still wearing their filthy cotton balls, scampering over, ready to try being sheep one more time. RATTLE! I didn’t need to look to know that the rattlesnake still wanted to have a go at being the little drummer boy.
I placed my hands on my hips and used my best ‘director’ voice “Now, Mr. Skink, the cast for our Christmas Pageant is ready to perform. You can either make yourself useful and drive them over to the church, or we’ll all pile into Mrs. Snapper’s car. Either way, we’re going.”
Mr. Skink stood there with his mouth hanging open. I’m not sure whether he was shocked by the mutiny of his reptiles and arachnids or trying to imagine Sybil slithering into Mrs. Snapper’s tiny ford focus.
“You can be involved too, no one is leaving you out” I said. “But we need to get moving.”
“All right, let me get the pick-up” muttered Mr. Skink. “But what in tarnation are we going to do about the silent angel chorus and your lackluster tarantula swaddling?”
“Don’t worry” I gave him my best Pastor Basil smile “Jealous Plant and I have a plan.”
To Be Continued
Ho, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Why are Mr. Skink’s creatures so eager to rejoin the Christmas Pageant cast? How is the narrator’s offer to “go to Bethlehem” a departure from the old life they’ve lived in Mr. Skink’s trailer. What is Mr. Skink’s response to the narrator’s invitation? Have you ever had the experience of choosing between two different ways of living? What happened?
A reading of Chapter 23 by Amelia Corbett
I explained my plan to Pastor Basil as we walked out of the church and into the parking lot. “You see? It solves all or most of our problems!”
“I’ll admit, your plan has some good points, but Mrs. Snapper-”
“Can stick it in her ear!” My remark was met with a decidedly stern look from Pastor Basil. I backed up, “ok, maybe not, but if anyone can persuade her to go along with it, it’s you.”
As luck would have it Mrs. Snapper was still in the parking lot, sitting in her 2008 two door ford focus having a good cry, while re-watching a first season episode of American Idol on her smartphone. This was far worse than I thought.
“Maybe we should just let her be...” I suggested.
Pastor Basil sighed “No, I’ll talk to her, you hold Jealous Plant.” Pastor Basil knocked on the passenger side window of Mrs. Snapper’s car and then opened the door and got in beside her. I could pick up bits of their conversation, mostly Pastor Basil.
“No, Eliza, no one thinks you’re a bigoted, old stick-“ Eliza? Not only did Mrs. Snapper have a first name but it was Eliza?
“Listen to me, we were all tired and frazzled, and all of us said things that were hurtful and really not all that true.”
Mrs. Snapper sobbed something I couldn’t make out.
“Yes, we all could do better, but Eliza, listen to me, you have so many gifts: you are organized, bold, creative, and honest no matter what.”
More sobbing from Mrs. Snapper (I would never be able to think of her as Eliza).
“We’re not in this mess because of you, far from it. We need you. No one’s perfect, but even with all of your imperfections, which you’ve just listed in detail, Eliza, God does such wonderful things with you. Can’t you let God give you one more try?”
It sounded like Mrs. Snapper has ceased sobbing. Pastor Basil was maybe making headway. So while they continued to talk, I tried to reassure Jealous Plant that my plan would work.
“It’s ok that you can’t talk, Jealous Plant. You just need to be able to hold up a sign, can you do that?” Jealous Plant waved his leaves in agreement and, I hoped, excitement. “You really are perfect for the role-“
HONK! I looked up to see Pastor Basil sticking her head out of Mrs. Snapper’s car. “Get in!” she yelled “We’re going to see a man about a snake!”
2 Corinthians 12:10
Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.
What are Mrs. Snapper’s strengths and what are her weaknesses? How might God work with Mrs. Snapper when she struggles with her weaknesses? What is a weakness you have confronted? How did acknowledging your weakness make you stronger?
A reading of Chapter 22 by Amelia Corbett
Pastor Basil collapsed on the altar steps. I carefully climbed down from on top of the altar and sat beside her. I had never seen her look so tired and so very sad. I offered her a brownie, but she shook her head.
“Well,” I tried, “maybe we could-”
Pastor Basil interrupted me with a sigh. “No, don’t bother, whatever it is you think we should try. It’s no good. I-” she glanced around the sanctuary “I need to talk to Jealous Plant, where is he?”
“I’ll go find him.” I had an idea of where the plant might be hiding. Jealous Plant was pretty predictable. If we wasn’t looking at the nativity set, he would likely be in the columbarium.
As I headed out of the sanctuary, I realized that Jealous Plant could have prevented the current catastrophe. He had a calming effect on the geckos and they were less prone to stage fright when he was around. The chameleons loved Pastor Basil, but Jealous Plant was a close second. They turned practically neon to impress him. Even Harold the grumpy snapping turtle had a soft spot for Jealous Plant as did Sybil the python.
Sure enough, there was Jealous Plant sitting in the columbarium. It was getting into evening and flurries were already settling on his leaves. We didn’t have much time until the performance, not much at all.
“Jealous Plant,” I said “you are going to catch a cold out here. Come inside”
Jealous Plant didn’t move. Shivering, I sat beside him on the cold ground. And, as people tended to do around Jealous Plant, I began to talk. I told him about the absolute disaster of a dress rehearsal, how Harold had nearly bitten off my toes, and how the evening’s pageant was likely going to be an absolute bust.
“We were doing so well,” I explained, “but we’re just missing something and the longer we go without it, the worse it gets...and don’t start with the whole baby Jesus thing, Jealous Plant. Pastor Basil reminds us that Jesus is the reason for the season at every rehearsal.”
With a sigh, I picked Jealous Plant up and brought him back into the sanctuary, plonking him down next to Pastor Basil. The two sat there in the sanctuary, a bedraggled Pastor and her Jealous Plant against a nativity backdrop. Pathetic.
Maybe that’s the same thing the angels thought when they saw the shepherds huddling with their smelly sheep on a hillside long ago: pathetic. But, as Pastor Basil always pointed out, such pathetic people were the bearers of good news, they were given a role to play. Ok, so how could this equally pathetic pair be inspired to bear the good news in just a few hours’ time? If the shepherds were given a role to play, maybe they needed one too.
That was the answer. The story of Jesus didn’t make sense unless there were people, or plants, or other creatures to tell it.
“Yes now, come on, I have a plan, but we need to get ahold of the rest of the cast!”
To Be Continued
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
We talk a lot about Jesus being at the center of the Christmas experience. But, what about our role in sharing that story? What gets in the way of our own evangelism as individuals and as a community? How have you experienced sharing the story of Jesus?
A reading of Chapter 21 by Amelia Corbett
Mrs. Snapper may be all about the on/off stage drama of singing and dancing competitions like American Idol and Dancing with the Stars, but I prefer a more practical approach to reality TV. In the event that civilization grinds to a halt, but Jesus still hasn’t arrived (I worry about this sometimes) singing, dancing, and scheming are not going to do us any good. This is why my favorite reality competition is the Great British Baking Show. What better way to wait out the end of days than with a stockpile of perfectly baked tarts featuring a variety of flavors?
Unfortunately, when I showed up to the pre-performance dress rehearsal with a large plate of warm brownies fit to impress Mary Berry, no one even noticed. The entire production seemed to be collapsing, just like a souffle put in an oven that's just slightly too hot.
The geckos, in a fit of nerves, had soiled their snowflake/sheep costumes. Instead of resembling the first December dusting, they looked like March slush. Sybil the python kept trying to strangle the Kirkland brothers and they had to wrestle her all the way to Bethlehem. The chameleons were still unable to say their lines or even whistle out an angelic chorus. To make matters worse, Mrs. Snapper’s endless scolding had caused them to vanish into the background in terror. Our angelic host was both silent and invisible.
I still could not figure out how to adequately swaddle Helen the tarantula. After a final try which ended with Helen hiding under the manger, me with a diaper stuck in my hair, and Mr. Skink laughing at both of us, I wished I could vanish into the background too.
Jealous Plant was missing, of course, probably hiding my Mary smock under one of the pews again. I was just looking around to see if I could see him anywhere when Harold the snapping turtle launched himself out of the font and made a beeline for my toes.
“HELP!” I shrieked, clambering onto the altar and knocking one of the candlesticks to the floor with a crash. Even from my rather high vantage point I could see the candlestick had been badly dented by the fall.
This was too much for Mrs. Snapper. She finally...snapped. “Get that thing out of my church!” she cried, grabbing the damaged candlestick and brandishing it at Harold.
“But your sign says-” Mr. Skink began, but Mrs. Snapper had had enough.
“I don’t care what the sign says!” she snarled “I have had it with you and your slimy, scaly, hairy heathens! They insult God with their crawling and splashing and do not have a drop of theatrical blood in their vile little bodies!”
Mr. Skink pushed his eye patch to the side, giving Mrs. Snapper the full force of his glare “Well I’d rather hug it out with Sybil than spend another minute with an unimaginative, bigoted old stick like you!”
“That is enough!” The usually cheerful Pastor Basil pushed herself between Mr. Skink and Mrs. Snapper. “The both of you need to take those awful words and stick them...in your ear!”
Mrs. Snapper and Mr. Skink stared at her with open mouths. Pastor Basil continued, her voice getting louder and faster as she spoke “How dare you let your own petty little arguments distract from telling the story of Jesus! How dare you take this most Holy Story and use it to insult each other and tear apart God’s church!”
“No, Mrs. Snapper, you should be ashamed of yourself. Mr. Skink is right, all are welcome here, but instead of welcoming these guests you have shamed them, stressed them, and treated them like outsiders. No one is an outsider in the Body of Christ!”
“You tell her” snickered Mr. Skink.
“No, I’m going to tell you!’ Pastor Basil rounded on him. “We welcomed you and your family as guests, we have done our best to include and love them and you. But all you have done is take advantage of our kindness. You have not lifted a finger to help or encourage. You have thrown our hospitality back in our faces and you have let your family down!”
The entire sanctuary went dead quiet except for the sound of Pastor Basil’s ragged breathing and a nervous whistle or two from the chameleons.
“I think I’m done here.” Mrs. Snapper turned on her heel and walked quickly out of the sanctuary.
“Yeah, me too” Mr. Skink straightened his eye patch and shuffled out behind her, all of his various reptiles and spiders trailing after him.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Why is it so hard for the members of St. Mark’s and Mr. Skink and his family to be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving to one another? What are the things that set the different characters off? What makes you angry and what makes it hard for you to practice forgiveness. What happens when we don’t work to forgive each other?
A reading of Chapter 20 by Amelia Corbett
Meanwhile the quilters were meeting during rehearsals to design costumes. The usual blue and brown get-ups for Mary and Joseph required little modification. Jealous Plant kept “misplacing” my Mary smock, but it was usually pretty easy to track down. The real challenge, though, was the reptile and arachnid costumes, which had to be made up from scratch and ingenuity.
I was reminded of the time that Mrs. Snapper got on a Project Runway kick and had the other quilters competing to redesign Pastor Basil’s stoles. It had seemed like a great idea until Pastor Basil was nearly set on fire when the brightly colored feathers tacked onto her red stole ignited during the Pentecost service.
Sybil the python’s ears and cover cloth were easy enough in their design and presentation. Harold the snapping turtle really only needed to have the font decorated to look like an inn so he was easily taken care of too. The tropical house geckos, on the other hand, proved more of a challenge: they needed sheep suits.
At first Mrs. Snapper championed the idea of knitting them all little white onesies with a back flap for their tails. In the end that task proved to be too much work and the geckos themselves unwilling. So the quilters settled for tying cotton balls to the lizard’s backs with a ribbon around their middles.
“They look like snowflakes” grumbled Mrs. Snapper.
“Quite appropriate for the season too” Pastor Basil pointed out and Mrs. Snapper couldn’t argue with that.
It was easy enough to use wire hangers, nylon, and glitter to construct wings for the chameleons. How they were supposed to proclaim the good news, however, was still uncertain. For all of her effort, Pastor Basil could not get them to talk or even whistle. They did look splendid with their sparkling wings and stunning array of colors, though. The plan was to have them fade into the carpet until the very last minute when they would reveal themselves to the shepherds in a blaze of gold and silver.
Jealous Plant naturally sulked throughout the fitting procedures. I tried to cheer him up by making him his own set of nylon wings and even bringing Helen over to visit him. The Jealous Plant and the Christlike tarantula had become fast friends over the past couple weeks.
Even so, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something Jealous Plant wanted and I just couldn’t figure out what that was.
To Be Continued
Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord.
While the Narrator doesn’t anoint Jealous Plant, she does bring in Helen the Tarantula to try to make him feel better. We might think that healing is something we do by ourselves with a bottle of medicine or advice from a doctor. However, healing is most effective when it is a communal experience. We are encouraged when people visit us or send us cards when we are sick. We feel a bit better when someone makes us some soup. When have you experienced healing with the help not just of a doctor, but the support of a community?
A reading of Chapter 19 by Amelia Corbett
Worse than having to “ride” Sybil the python was the whole being a mother to Baby Jesus played by Helen the tarantula. Though Helen had initially given me a bit of a shock, I soon discovered her to be quite friendly. Holding her was almost like cuddling a hamster, just one that had a few extra appendages and a poisonous bite. The only difficulty was the part of the story where Mary wraps the baby Jesus in swaddling cloths.
It all has to do with ratios. The ratio for swaddling a baby is 2:4, two hands versus the baby’s four limbs. If the baby is on the mellow side or plastic that ratio works. If the baby is a kicker, all bets are off and a backstage parent might need to intervene. Ok, fine, it happens. BUT, with a tarantula that ratio is 2:8 and Helen was a wiggler. To make matters worse, Mr. Skink as Joseph refused to be of any help whatsoever.
“It says here that Mary wrapped the baby, not Joseph” he pointed out thumbing through one of the pew Bibles.
“But I need an extra set of arms!” I complained as Helen wriggled out of her swaddling clothes.
“CUT” yelled Mrs. Snapper “too slow! Mary, you need to up your swaddling game.”
To Be Continued
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Mr. Skink is right that Mary is described as the one giving birth to Jesus, wrapping him in swaddling clothes, and placing him in the manger. However, it’s unrealistic to think of Mary doing all of these things by herself. The narrator describes how the pageant performance relies not just on the actors but potentially backstage parents ready to assist even if they are not actually part of the story. Who might be “backstage” in the story of Jesus’ birth? Who, though not included in Luke’s telling, might have been present alongside Mary and Joseph? Who are the people who are “backstage” in your own life? Who are the people who are always ready to help, but not always given credit or noticed?
A reading of Chapter 18 by Amelia Corbett
Jealous Plant was not the only one who was unhappy, though. In spite of my pleading and flat our whining, Pastor Basil refused to assign the role of Mary to someone else.
“Mary needs to have a voice” Pastor explained. “She needs to proclaim the wondrous deeds of God, and she needs to make a joyful noise-”
“But the rattle snake-”
“Words! Mary needs to say words!” Pastor Basil looked meaningfully at me and then rushed off to continue running lines with the chameleons who were definitely lacking in the words department.
Saying the words was fine, but the blocking was proving disastrous. There was no way that I could actually “ride” Sybil the 8-foot python. Mr. Skink refused to let me sit on her and Mrs. Snapper was horrified when we tried having her wrap her tail around my ankle and drag me across the stage.
“It looks like she’s being dragged off to a tree to be eaten!”
Finally, Pastor Basil got James and Silas Kirtland to carry Sybil across the stage with a brown cloth draped over her while I walked beside her, my legs hidden by the cloth. With a neatly crocheted pair of donkey ears wrapped around her scaly head the effect was halfway convincing.
To Be Continued
Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
Pastor Basil thinks it is very important that Mary be a speaking character in the Christmas Pageant. In addition to verbally accepting the angel’s news that she will give birth to a son, Mary has a longer conversation with her friend Elizabeth about God’s liberating work (Luke 1:46-55). When was a time when it was important for you to say something out loud? What needed to be said: thanks, warning, wonderment, etc.?
A reading of Chapter 17 by Amelia Corbett
Right up there with American Idol, Mrs. Snapper adores Dancing with the Stars. During confirmation she insisted that the show provided the perfect illustration for how God’s grace worked in our lives. We poor humans were the bumbling celebrities, rendered unworthy under the eyes of the disappointed judges. Jesus was a professional dancer, both providing a model for appropriate living and actively grabbing hold of us and dancing us into salvation. Pastor Basil found out and nixed Mrs. Snapper’s “dancing with the saints” curriculum in the fifth season.
The thing is, Dancing with the Stars always has a bunch of rehearsal montages where the celebrities are seen practicing their dance moves, working with their partners, and trying different strategies to get a handle on dancing as opposed to acting, singing, sports, or whatever it is they do in real life. So you might think that rehearsal for the Christmas Pageant involved similar non-stop activity. Nope. Most of rehearsal consisted of sitting around while Pastor Basil, Mrs. Snapper, and Mr. Skink argued about what we were all supposed to do.
The constant sitting and waiting did give me a chance to give Jealous Plant regular pep talks. Jealous Plant should have been having the time of his life. He was a favorite among the spiders who loved to spin webs between his vines. The tropical house geckos felt safe with him and hid in his pot whenever the stage fright got to be too much. Even Sybil the Python took a fancy to him and dragged him around the sanctuary when she wasn’t onstage.
But Jealous Plant continued to have sulking spells. His leaves would get droopy, his vines would hang limp from his pot, and he’d go sit by the wooden nativity set already arranged near the entrance to the sanctuary. I’d find him examining each of the pieces, the sheep, the angels, Mary and Joseph, and the rest.
To cheer him up and hopefully ease his jealousy, I’d talk about how he was like the different Christmas story characters.
“Jealous Plant” I’d say “You’re like the angel, a terrifying agent of God.” or “Jealous Plant, you remind me of a shepherd, keeping all of those geckos together.” That seemed to cheer him up for a bit, but by the end of each rehearsal he’d always be droopy again.
Pastor Basil had little insight to offer on the matter. “He just gets like that around Christmas” she shrugged. “I think he’s jealous of all the trees.”
To Be continued
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit[a] of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
How does Mrs. Snapper’s Dancing with the Stars metaphor line up with what Paul teaches us about Jesus? Can you think of another way to describe how God intervenes in our lives through the life of Jesus Christ? When have you ever felt judged and how did that situation resolve?
A reading of Chapter 16 by Amelia Corbett
I was right, there was a terrifying lack of direction in the sanctuary. Pastor Basil was sitting in front of the altar with a Bible on her lap. I could count five chameleons crouching around her, though more might have been camouflaged nearby. Reginald was perched on her shoulder. She was slowly reading them the Christmas story, trying to get them to respond.
Meanwhile Mr. Skink and Mrs. Snapper stood glaring at each other on either side of the baptismal font, a wooden stand that held a large bowl filled with water used for baptizing babies and sometimes adults too. It had been given to the church in memory of Mable Monitor, a grandmotherly type had who handed out candy to keep us kids quiet when Pastor Basil got a little too into the sermon. Ms. Monitor had always managed to make everyone feel like they belonged at St. Mark’s. She took the whole family of God thing seriously. But even Ms. Monitor, God rest her soul, would have struggled to welcome the enormous snapping turtle that was currently splashing in the baptismal waters.
“Get it out!” shrieked Mrs. Snapper.
Mr. Skink snorted and adjusted his eye patch “Why? He’s happy there.”
“He doesn’t belong there!”
“Your sign says-”
“I know perfectly well what the sign says, Mr. Skink, and let me assure you that ‘all are welcome’ does not mean ‘open swim.’ Get him out!”
Mr. Skink sighed and rolled up his sleeves “easier said than done. Turtle like that can take your finger off.”
I decided that the best way to direct might be to re-direct. “Tell me,” I said, putting Jealous Plant down beside me for moral support, “what is this snapper-” Mrs. Snapper glared at me “oh, this snapping turtle, auditioning for?”
“Innkeeper” grunted Mr. Skink.
“Absolutely not” snapped Mrs. Snapper.
I glanced down at Jealous Plant who waved his leaves encouragingly. “I disagree.”
Both Mrs. Skink and Mrs. Snapper stared at me. Adults generally don’t know what to do when a kid takes charge of things. I figured it was best to use their temporary stunned silence to my advantage.
“The snapping turtle is a perfect fit,” I explained. “Mary and Joseph are told there’s ‘no room’ in the inn. Who better to deliver that message than a territorial snapping turtle? We could even move the font up to the front and put a sign that says ‘no vacancies’ on it.”
“Hmm” grunted Mr. Skink.
“Hmm indeed” Mrs. Snapper crossed arms thoughtfully.
“I think that is a splendid idea” Pastor Basil walked over to the font followed by an orderly line of chameleons. “Ms. Monitor would have been so pleased to have her memorial font used in telling the story of Jesus. She used to love watching the Christmas Pageant.”
Mrs. Snapper’s eyes grew moist. She and Mrs. Monitor had been co-quilting lieutenants and any mention of the woman still made her get weepy. “She did always want to welcome everyone” she sniffed.
Pastor Basil put a hand on Mrs. Snapper’s shoulder. “Then this is a right and proper way to honor her. Now-” Pastor Basil glanced around the sanctuary “we have finished our auditions. Rehearsals start next week, I look forward to seeing all of you then.”
I glanced down at Jealous Plant. “Thanks for backing me up” I said.
But Jealous Plant was looking decidedly droopy again and I could only wonder what he would get up to next week.
To Be Continued
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
Ms. Mable Monitor made a big impact on the community of St. Mark’s. That impact is still felt even after her death. How did Ms. Monitor make a difference at her church? How do the members of St. Mark’s still feel connected to her? How does her life continue to change the people who knew her?
A reading of Chapter 15 by Amelia Corbett
About the Blog
Journey through the season of Advent with daily updates on the adventures of St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Belliacre, MI as they attempt to cobble together a Christmas Pageant with an unlikely cast of characters.
Stephanie is an art educator and a landscape/portrait artist. Her inspirations come from the amazing people she meets and the gorgeous state of Michigan as well as her home state of Florida. She and he husband love nature. They are out in the water during the summer months and on the snow in the winter enjoying the simple pleasures of life.