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
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.