If you live in a small town, take time to go to a church Christmas pageant and enjoy the children’s rendition of this wonderful story. You will most likely recognize a few of the kids, and they will make you laugh. Although they take their biblical roles seriously, something inadvertently happens to make the congregation chuckle.

Play preparation starts the week after Thanksgiving. All the children are gathered and assigned important parts. There are players from both ends of the age spectrum – the shy 3-year-old the 13-year-old who would rather be doing anything else, and many children in-between. Experienced directors know how to handle them and they also know a couple other tidbits. Don’t ask a child to bring the baby Jesus because five little girls will want to bring their favorite doll. Assign an adult to fill the manger with hay because it doesn’t take half a bale to fill a space the size of a shoebox.

Digging the costumes and props out of the attic is always interesting. How do those coat-hanger angel wings get bent in storage every year? The stick holding the star of Bethlehem is broken, too, and the cardboard inn did not survive.

The day of the pageant is exhilarating. The whole church is filled with excitement. The wings have been fastened, the head pieces are finally staying on, and Mary and Joseph are dressed. The minister gives an abbreviated service and then announces it’s time for the pageant; and he is sure this will be the best one ever. The children stroll down the aisles. Mary and Joseph come in first, and due to preteen growth spurts, Mary is much taller than her husband. Then in come the 7-year-old boy shepherds who have discovered that those shepherd staffs can be used for more than just herding pretend sheep; they are great for poking one’s best friend.

Next comes the youngest players and they might have to be chided to go toward the front of the church. Sometimes an older sibling will gently or not-so-gently nudge the younger stars to their proper position. By this time the minister has shed his robe, and donned a wise man costume because someone is sick and he graciously agrees to fill in.

The show begins, and some of the smallest children forget their roles completely. They practiced in an empty church and never expected to see this many people in the pews. Again, the older children step in and help guide the little ones. There is always a mom to whisper, “Say we have no room at the inn, but we have a stable you can use.” Hopefully the cardboard inn is still standing and no one has knocked it over. The children know they have to pay attention to the 13-year-old narrator because she is running the show. They do pretty well until the three kings come down the aisle bearing gifts. Everybody laughs when they see the church elders wearing their finest majestic bathrobes and crowns that look uncannily similar to Burger King headpieces.

The pageant goes on with just a couple of kids running into each other because they are not paying attention, and only one little angel wanders off stage to sit in Grammy’s lap. It ends with the last hymn, the children take a bow, the congregation gives a standing ovation and the minister says, “That truly was the best pageant ever.”

I do hope you take the time to enjoy the simpler pleasures of rural life during the hectic holiday season. Since farming often involves multiple generations, grandparents are able to see their grandchildren frequently. We may not live in a stable with our animals, but we derive pleasure from working with them every day. And to me, the stars I see every night in the country sky are as beautiful as the star of Bethlehem.

Cover Photo: Adyna/istock