Jesus is often thought of as the Light of the World. We celebrate the coming of that light at Christmas, and in a sense at Epiphany, which is just around the corner. With that in mind, I want to tell you a story I ran across, and recently included in a sermon at Parkview Retirement Community. The story is about a Christmas pageant, which, incidentally, is not my favorite thing. I’m told the story is true; I hope so.
The parish of the story made an annual event of staging the pageant with the kids of the parish. Scenery consisted of well used flats which depicted a stable and was a staple of the pageants. Not everyone had costumes so some resorted to wearing bathrobes of various colors and patterns with a towel tied around their heads as they try to look as near Eastern as possible. Had it not been for the flip flops and tennis shoes the illusion would have been complete, but as it was, it was good enough.
Of course there was a little manger constructed out of wood and filled with hay. In a stroke of genius, someone suggested that Baby Jesus be played by a small light bulb. The bulb couldn’t be seen from the congregation’s viewpoint, just the glow of the Light of the World. Behind the stable on a short ladder stood an angel who also held a glowing star. Mary and Joseph had taken their places and in the semi-darkness of the chancel and nave, the light bulb washed their faces with a soft glow. “Silent Night” played softly in the background as parents, grandparents and friends strained to see and hear everything on stage.
The time had come for the shepherds to make their entrance and, dressed in their bathrobes, they marched solemnly down the center aisle to join the others already gathered come to worship the newborn. When they arrived near the altar, a precocious ten-year old shepherd, in a whisper much to loud for the occasion said, “Hey, Joe, when you gonna pass out the cigars?”
Caught completely off guard, Mary and Joseph burst into laughter, as do all the others who’ve gathered in the little stable. The angel holding the star completely lost it and fell from her perch, taking the stable with her. The congregation didn’t know if they should be horrified or not, but they couldn’t help bursting into laughter. In a moment that would become legendary in that parish, complete chaos set in and the tender moment was irretrievably lost.
But you know what? Throughout the chaos, the light bulb continued to shine in the darkness. And so it is everywhere today. Darkness still threatens us; turmoil seems to be everywhere; evil seems to be pervading so much of life, but as Christians we know the Light still shines. We may need to look for it a bit harder sometimes than others, but it’s there because He’s here.