for release December 20, 2002
by Melodie Davis
The little shepherd boy had refused to take a nap that day, as kids often do when something big is happening. But the show would go on. The father, a drama teacher at a local middle school, was to be the main character in a skit at our church's 5:00 p.m. "Family" Christmas Eve service. His three-year-old son, Andrew, was to play the part of a little shepherd boy. Andrew has a cherubic face with soft marshmallow-cheeks, and he was all dressed up in a very realistic drama-department costume (no making-do with bathrobe costumes for this shepherd and son).
The father shepherd delivered most of the lines, but Andrew, never at a lost for words, piped up with his planned lines perfectly on cue. He loved attention anyway, so the drama was a perfect outlet for his budding gifts.
But about half way through the drama, the little shepherd boy's eyelids began to droop considerably. The father, well versed in glossing over hitches in productions, ad-libbed "You must be getting tired. Why don't you come sit on my lap and I'll finish the story."
Andrew climbed into his shepherd-dad's lap, smiled, and the drama went on. But the eyelids got heavy again, and I thought, "Wow, this little boy really is a great actor because he sure looks believable, like he's really getting sleepy." His little head would nod and jerk, and father stroked his arm in a futile effort to keep him roused.
By this time most everyone in the front of the church had caught on that yes, Andrew, the little actor, was really falling fast asleep right up there on the stage, and there wasn't a thing his poor father/drama director could do about it. How do you keep a nodding three year old awake? There were titters throughout the audience and finally even dad broke character and couldn't help suppressing a chuckle about his sleeping little shepherd boy. We imagined that yes, if there were any little shepherd boys really out helping their dads watch the sheep on that big big night, that they very well might have nodded off on Dad's shoulder about the time that the angels were singing their "Glory to God in the highest."
It was the highlight of the whole Christmas Eve service. Somehow it is always the unplanned, unscripted moments that bring serendipity to Christmas programs and activities. Maybe it is how God breaks through to us when we have a set idea of how things should go, of how we should live our lives.
I'm sure Mary, the mother of the baby Jesus whose birth we dramatize and celebrate during this season, was not thrilled with her unplanned pregnancy. She must have been mortified not only because of her unwed status in that day but because of the fact that she could be rejected by her fiancÚ, Joseph, and actually stoned to death. She was not expecting to meet an angel or heavenly visitor telling her that she was going to have a baby. And most of all, I'm sure she didn't think she was up to being the mother of the long-expected Messiah of her faith tradition. Who would?
But, after a few awkward moments, she responded, "I am the Lord's servant. Let it happen as you have said." Later, when she visited her cousin Elizabeth who was also unexpectedly and joyfully pregnant, Mary burst out with a beautiful poem which we refer to as the "Song of Mary," (in the New Testament book of Luke, chapter 1), as poetic as any scripted by a polished dramatist.
And Joseph was equally caught by having the script change for his life. He was just a plain carpenter. He was no king or prince with royal bloodline, yet through the son he raised, Joseph's name was destined to be remembered for all time. Joseph did not shrink from his assignment, either. His fiancÚ, pregnant. What would people think of him, no matter what were his protests? What would people think of Mary? After receiving a heavenly visit, too, he reversed his decision to not marry Mary, and went ahead with the wedding. To his everlasting credit.
As parents and as persons, there are many times we have to pick up when things don't turn out like we've planned, and ad lib. There are times when God uses unusual circumstances to break through and give us a new script: go here, try this, be this kind of person.
May you have a serendipitous moment this season that becomes the highlight of your Christmas. Maybe you'll even receive new insight for your life, or experience a turning point. The creative God of unplanned, unscripted moments is like that. A joyous Christmas to you.
Do you have any unscripted Christmas moments/stories to share for possible use in a future column? Send to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
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