The little country church we attend doesn't have enough kids old enough to do a full fledged kids' Christmas program this year. Because most of the children are still preschoolers, we opted to act out a portion of the Christmas story during the children's story section of the morning worship service on Dec. 23. I found enough costumes for some miniature shepherds, angels, and Mary. We were fortunate enough to be able to have a real, live baby Jesus, a one month old who just happens to be named Trinity.
Sunday morning arrived. I already knew we were minus a shepherd and angel because of a stomach bug. Another little shepherd was rerouted to Grandma's house when his mom, a registered nurse, got called in to work. We were down to two shepherds, two angels, Mary, and baby Trinity.
I helped the kids put on their costumes before the worship service. One little one decided she wanted to be a sheep, but I told her that wasn't an option. “Why?”, the puzzled three year old asked. “I only have people costumes,” I told her.
One of our shepherds, Josiah, is a three old who lives with autism. I'd sent his costume home with his mom the week before so he could get used to wearing it. He showed up Sunday morning with it on, but, sure enough, by children's time, he'd shed it. I've baby sat him enough to know that with autism, it's best to leave conventional expectations behind and prepare to be surprised.
One, by one, the kids took their places; Mary with baby Jesus, two shepherds, the first angel.
Up bounded our un-costumed shepherd, hands clutching an open church choir book in his hands. He landed front and center, followed by his 18 month old “angel” sister just as the narrator read “Suddenly there was with the angel, a multitude of heavenly hosts praising God and singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill to men.”
The congregation joined the children in singing “Away in the Manger.” Josiah sang the loudest, blue eyes shining. The other little shepherd lost her crook. The littlest angel's halo slipped to one side as she toddled back and forth behind Mary and the baby Jesus.
I felt the magic and caught my breath. This little nativity scene, unrehearsed and incomplete, was absolutely, 100 % Christmas perfect.