At the 4:00 p.m. Christmas Eve service we invite children to help us tell the story of the birth of Jesus. As they come in, kids can choose to be Sheep or Shepherds or Angels or Stars. Each group gets a different small prop. Sheep get sheep ears, Shepherds get a headband, Angels get halos and Stars get a star on a stick. It’s all very precious, even when some of the stars figure out what you can do with a stick with a star on the end of it.
We also have a newborn and parents sitting up front for the characters in the story to come and “adore.” I give each group instructions on what to do when they come up to see the baby Jesus. Stars shine. Angels fly. Shepherds look surprised. And sheep… well, sheep baaa.
This year the baby Jesus did not make a peep the entire time. So the sheep and shepherds come up last. The sheep are often the toddlers and other little ones, but they do baaaa very well. This year the sheep are baaaing away, and one of them says, “The baby Jesus is asleep.” Without missing a beat, one of the shepherds says, she says this right next to me sort of into my microphone…she says, “Well, the baby Jesus must have been counting sheep.” Do you get it, sheep in front of the baby baaing, the baby counting sheep and sleeping? I can’t make stuff like this up.
The moment was cute and funny and so very appropriate. How does a kid who I think is maybe a fourth grader know to say that and with just the right timing? And why is it that we all laughed so hard, that it felt like it came from a deeper place within us than the wit of a wisecracking shepherd warranted?
This time of year has a way of doing that, when we sit around with families and tell the stories and laugh a little louder or our eyes well up with tears a little more quickly than the new boyfriend or girlfriend who is hearing about the time this or that happened for the first time.
Just what that is about may be a little different for every one of us, but the thing we share in common is that need to be connected….to share in a common bond… not so much to have a secret, but to have something that is between us that is priceless…something you just can’t make up if you tried.
This little story and our response tell me that we have that something here at EPUMC that you can’t make up. And in the months and years to come, I am so looking forward to experiencing more of these kinds of moments and trusting that although we can’t make this stuff up….that maybe God can.
Keep the Faith,