Kids and cousins, parents and grandparents,
a few aunts and uncles, and the usual members
make their way into the church building
on the last Sunday morning before Christmas.
Even with a few regulars missing from the group,
most of the pews are pretty well filled.
The kids are doing the service this morning:
everything from opening to closing
and each one hoping they get their part right.
After the announcements and the singing—
led by one of the teens while her younger brother plays the piano—
there’s the lighting of the last Advent candle,
a bit more singing and the prayer,
then the offering,
the Children’s Lesson,
two short numbers by the color-coded bell choir,
and then the play.
With an angel occasionally shouting directions
from a three-step stool,
Joseph and Mary make their way to the manger,
from Bethlehem to Nazareth to Egypt and back again
with the signs of the times mysteriously appearing
from behind the curtain.
The shepherds and the wise men
show up at the appropriate times and places,
King Herod’s short tantrum is duly replaced
by “his” timely demise on stage,
and is gently dragged away—feet first, stage right.
In the telling and retelling,
in the smiles and laughter,
in the coming together of neighbors and kin,
we visit again in this season of celebration,
this barn-born hope of salvation.