Saturday, Third Week of Advent
“For a child has been born for us!
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
At the Christmas midnight mass this past Sunday, Father Croghan read what is probably my favorite Christmas story of all time: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. It’s about the Herdmans—a family of particularly mean bullies (even their cat, the narrator tells us, is mean). Although previously unexposed to the Christmas story, the Herdmans crash the town Christmas pageant, taking on all of the major roles only because the other kids are too scared to try out. Everyone is talking—people are shocked, curious, indignant.
Somehow, the pageant ends up being a huge success, and it has nothing to do with the “taming” of Herdmans or the cues of the director. It seems rather that the Herdmans, in acting out the Christmas story, are truly experiencing it for the first time. Their reactions to the story are based on no preconceived notions, but are totally instinctive: Imogene, as Mary, is ready to fight tooth and nail to protect her infant from a murderous king. Ralph, Leroy, and Claude, as the wise men, bring a gift that they feel will be most useful to the new parents—namely, a Christmas ham. But the best scene, in my opinion, is when the littlest and meanest Herdman, Gladys, BELTS out the words of the angel of the Lord: “HEY! Unto you a child is born!!!” as if it’s the best news she’s ever heard.
I reread this book every year before Christmas, to escape from any feelings of neutrality or complacency with the Christmas story. I want to re-experience it through the eyes of the Herdmans—with a fresh sense of utter amazement and bewilderment at the birth of Christ. After all, HEY! Unto us a child is born!!!
-- Rebekah McPheeters ‘13