Have you experienced it yet? Sooner or later, it comes to all parents: that one fleeting moment when you feel tremendous pride in your children . . . until the next instant, when they open their tiny mouths and take it all away.
Cathy and I have never lived close to our families. When we married, we left her little hometown of Hannibal, Mo. and moved to Quitman, Texas; then to Mesquite; finally ending up in Tulsa where we have lived for the past 25 years. I served on a church staff most of our life, so I only got a week or two off every year. We spent nearly every vacation visiting either her parents or mine.
One Christmas, we arrived at her parents’ home just in time to go with them to their little church’s children’s Christmas program. I realize that some readers may not fully understand the differences between a small church and a large church children’s Christmas program. In a large church, the children’s Christmas program is an event. In a small church, it is a program. A large church has multiple rehearsals, costumes, props and backgrounds called sets. Sometimes, these sets are scale reproductions of the entire city of Bethlehem.
The props for a small church’s children’s Christmas program include a bale of hay borrowed from Uncle Fred’s barn. He needs it back immediately so his horses can eat. In a small church program, the background consists of several sheets sewn together and painted to depict the hills of Jerusalem. In 1972, Aunt Harriet took a Holy Land Tour called, “Running Where Jesus Walked.” Naturally, when the Children’s Christmas Program Committee needed someone to paint the background sheets, Aunt Harriet was asked to do it. She wasn’t a very good painter, but she was the only one who had a clue what the real hills looked like.
In a large church, the children have racks of costumes from which to choose, all authentic period reproductions. In a small church, the children are draped in sheets. Mary and Joseph get the new blue ones and the angels don the slightly used, semi-white ones. Other props include a plastic baby Jesus and halos made of pipe cleaners. Have you noticed that halos and children never go together well? No matter how they’re attached, something always seems to . . . slip.
In a large church, you are greeted at the door and handed a professionally printed, four-color program listing each child’s name and part. Below the children’s names is a list of auxiliary personnel including set designers, costume designer, program designer and a special thanks to the caterer. In a small church, a teenage usher hands you a bulletin run off on a 40-year-old mimeograph machine, leaving an inky smell lingering in the air. The large church children’s Christmas program uses live animals. In a small church, the children smell somewhat like animals. When a large church program begins, the lights dim, the kettle drum rolls and a spotlight encircles Mary and Joseph as they begin their trek across Bethlehem.
In a small church, if Grandma and Grandpa happen to bring a grandchild that night, the Christmas program gains a new participant. After all, nothing pleases grandparents more than seeing their grandchildren up on stage during a Christmas program. And that, my friends, is right where the Moore family found ourselves on that Christmas long ago. Naturally, Cathy’s parents had done their share of bragging about our children taking part in our large church children’s Christmas program (excuse me; I meant . . . event). And of course, these proud grandparents wanted our youngest son to sing the song he sang there. Obediently, he got up to perform. My chest began to swell. Deep in my heart, I knew his big church training would make him a star.
Valiantly, he began to sing, “O, Come, All Ye Faithful.” I could tell by his face, though, that something wasn’t quite right. He couldn’t remember all of the words. With a “big church voice,” he reached the chorus, “O come let us ignore him. O, COME LET US IGNORE HIM . . . ” At about this time, I was looking for a pew to hide under. I had to give him credit. After all, the words “adore” and “ignore” sound similar. Still, you couldn’t find words more opposite in meaning if you tried.
Yes, my son was the hit of the small church children’s program, for all the wrong reasons. In this season of honoring our Savior sent to “dwell among men,” which will your life reflect: “adore” or “ignore”? Oh come, let us adore Him . . . today.