This is the time of year at church when I put on my Cecil B. DeMille hat and direct the Christmas pageant. I really should wear a traffic cop hat instead, because that’s more what the job involves; preventing angel and wise man collisions has become a specialty of mine. We’ve used the same, minimalist script for eons, and frankly I was very tired of it.
So, when the pandemic precluded an in-house production this year, I decided to ask our young families to film themselves acting out short scenes, which will then be assembled into one YouTube video. Since things were going to be unusual anyway, I saw it as a good excuse for a re-write. Not to worry, I did not change the essential elements of the Nativity Story, but I did try to inject a bit more fun than Luke saw fit to include in his gospel (Scripture as a whole is not exactly a laugh riot, as we all know).
My shepherds, for example, are so transformed by their Christmas Eve experience that they decide to change their line of work, and become yodeling goatherds. The angels prefer to sing “Holly Jolly Christmas” and “Frosty the Snowman” instead of their traditional, sacred musical numbers. The Magi have no clue what frankincense and myrrh even are, and comment that Legos might have been a “wiser” gift choice. You get the idea.
Well, the videos are finished, and “Joy to the World: A Pandemic Pageant” is ready to be put together. There’s still work to do before posting, but the most important part was a big success: my cast did me proud. The parents were the narrators and held everything together, but I must say even the littlest kids were also really terrific. What I discovered was, they may have stepped on a few of my “clever” lines, but they more than made up for it with their hilarious improvisations. A tiny performer fell over at one point, and her big brothers just ignored her and kept right on going. Another family decided to have the father play the part of a sleeping shepherd, lying out in the field for the angels to awaken. At the magic moment, one of the adorable angels yelled, “Wake up, Daddy!!”
I am keeping it ALL in.
We are interspersing the scenes with some carols to (hopefully) be sung by viewers. I will post lyrics, and a talented musical parent has recorded piano accompaniment. Not sure if anybody really will sit at their computer and bellow “Silent Night” to an audience of none, but maybe. It just seemed mandatory to include, in a year when so much has been denied us, even singing together.
Christmas Eve of 2021 we will, please God, be back in church, and I will once again be directing “live” pageant traffic. But you know what? I think I’ll miss our YouTube presentation, and the joy of watching 17 families making this decidedly different Holy Night, very special.