The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. Have you read the book or seen the movie? I’ve loved it since I was a child.
The book starts with the line: “The Herdmans were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world.” The author goes on to describe the Herdmans- six children with virtually no parental supervision who are dirty, dishonest, uncouth, mean, and feared by their peers. They end up in church looking for snacks, and find out about the annual Christmas pageant.
The story pokes fun at church traditionalism- the Christmas pageant has been done the same way by the same person with the same children in the primary roles for years. When a family of children who knows nothing about church rules or even the Christmas story itself decide they want to be a part, the entire congregation is thrown into a tizzy. The woman drafted to take charge of the pageant fears that no one will even come to watch.
The miracle is that finally, people do watch the pageant, and actually see it, perhaps for the first time. It makes them think about the fact that maybe Mary wasn’t some pristine, rosy cheeked girl with long eyelashes and a serene expression. Maybe Mary was a poor, dirty refugee with no money and no place to spend the night.
All human institutions are going to be imperfect, even when Christ is supposed to be the head. Like people, churches can miss the mark or even go astray. Sometimes they get caught up in the way things are done rather than the reason that they started being done in the first place.
I want to issue a call to all churches in the new year to take a moment to evaluate what they’ve done in the past year. Has it honored Christ? Has it served others? Has it increased growth among members? What can we do in the next year to make the best use of our resources and reach the most people?
We really don’t know how many Herdmans are out there- people who misbehave, because they’ve never been taught differently, who no one bothered to reach out to, because they seemed unreachable.
This year, may God open each of our eyes, to see the world and the church, as He sees it, and use us for His glory, to make both places a little brighter.