Pageantry and All Its Glory.

Last week I included a hyper link to a new Nativity video that was released by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir this year.  I've probably watched that video 10 times this week.  It is magical.  You should watch it again by clicking HERE.  As I was watching it, I was reminded of my next holiday favorite and that are children's nativities and my favorite short story, "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" by Barbara Robinson.  

Before we get any further, let's just talk about that super cute and sassy redhead angel in the photos above!  You wonder where the buns began?  Right here, folks.  This was a nativity photo shoot for church that we did when I was about 4 and I still love looking at the photos.  I had my mother send them to me in electronic form so I could share them with all of you.  There is something so stinkin cute about rambunctious children coming together to re-create one of the most important stories of Christianity.  When I was growing up we would always read the story of Christ's birth as a family on Christmas Eve, but those years that we acted it out (when we had a real baby that could be Baby Jesus in human form, not just some lame doll) were so much more memorable and enjoyable.  Notice the theme that memories vs. things prospered in my household?  I also remember another year that we had a nativity with all the church kids in our congregation and I was Mary and my crush was Joseph.  How dreamy?????  We were 11, but it was perfection.  Every time I see his family when I go home to visit I giggle inside because I still think of my time as Mary fondly.  He was a pretty dishy Joseph even for a man of 11.  
So let's talk about the book.  "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" is a book that we read often when I was growing up.  My parents had the original copy from their childhood collections and I LOVED reading it.  The story was written in 1971 and is about six hooligan children who raise so much hell in their town that no one wants to deal with them.  The book opens with us finding out about their love for fire and stealing, among other things.  Before long they get wind that they serve "food" at church (bread and wine) and that every year they put on a pageant that's all about Baby Jesus.  As you can imagine these kids were hooked at the word food and miraculously become the most faithful cast members ever.  What unfolds is so hilarious, but ends with a pageant that everyone thought was going to be a COMPLETE DISASTER, but is actually the town's finest performance ever.  A few years ago I found a new edition of the book at Barnes & Noble and decided to buy myself a copy to read each year.  I always read it the week of Christmas so that I am warmhearted and prepared for Christmas the way that everyone should be prepared..remembering the reason for the season and that is little baby Jesus.  I'm still in the process of reading it this year so I won't give away too many of the good quotes.  I will just say this....read it!  It's so cute!  I also noticed online that they've created a children's story edition that is shorter and has bright fun pictures.  You can find that here.  There was also a cheesy, low budget TV movie made in the 80's and it is classic and might bring a tear or two to your eyes both from laughing and crying.

As you've probably gathered from reading my blog posts, I am a big fan of the technique, "how can I apply this to real life?"  So, here's the deal.  Living in Ogden means I am surrounded by children who are living in conditions far worse than I care to admit.  My lovely friend, Sarah aka Ethel, teaches kindergarten at a local inner-city school and every year she tells me about her kids whose primary residence is the homeless shelter.  Sigh.  That is just shitty for them.  The other day when I was driving to work, one of the school districts was busing kids to a local theater to see "The Nutcracker."  It's the same school district as Sarah so I knew that a good portion of these kids were probably elated to have a fancy outing in the middle of their school week.  I happened to catch a green light while turning left so I had to wait for like 40 kids to run across the street.  As I sat in my car, I watched a child run across in a t-shirt that looked like a tent and a dirty little face and matted hair.  And then I thought of this book.  I thought of crusty Imogene as Mary and Gladys as she says, "Hey!  Unto you a child is born!"  and then I got all misty eyed and in mamma bear mode and almost missed my opportunity to turn.  I've been tasked with running the Facebook page for the Weber-Morgan Children's Justice Center and I posted some interesting, but very sad, content this week about children who are neglected.

Did you know?
1. Children exposed to maltreatment are at increased risk of educational underachievement, including lower verbal and math scores.
2. Neglected children have poorer academic performance than physically maltreated children.
3. Maltreated children have higher rates of absenteeism from school than non-maltreated peers.
4. Maltreated children are at substantially higher risk than non-maltreated children of repeating a grade.
5. Maltreated children are at increased risk of dropping out of school before high school graduation.
6. Maltreated children are more likely to be referred for special education services.
7. Maltreated children are more likely than their peers to exhibit poor social skills and classroom behavior problems.
8. A child’s risk of poor academic functioning is substantially heightened by multiple victimizations.

Ref: National Children's Advocacy Center "As A Matter of Fact: The Relationship Between Child Maltreatment and Academic Achievement"

That, my lovelies, is sad, sad and sad.  I often wonder what the author was really trying to prove when she set out to write "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever."  Was she proving that kids are hilarious, but can still portray the story of Jesus' birth in a moving and semi-spiritual manner OR was she trying to make a point about watching out for the kids in our communities who are probably hooligans more for the attention and seeking of love than just being little punks?  No matter her motive, I am so grateful that she created this story because it makes my heart happy and I STILL laugh out loud a lot when the pageant directors try to explain the story to the Herdman kids and they are nearly saying "what the hell" for chapters on end.

The moral of the story:  Kids are always going to be kids and generally that involves hooliganism and cuteness wrapped all into one.  But, if we will show some compassion and take heed to look out for the kids who really have no one else to love them, we will be richly blessed and so will they.  You can do it.  I can do it.

Until next time, my lovelies!


  1. I think the point of that book is that the Pageant was literally the best one ever! It moved people in ways they never could have imagined and lifted the lives of those ratty little neighbor kids. It made a difference. And seeing kids in reduced circumstances really brought it home about the humility of Christ's birth. I love that.

  2. "Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ has come uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it...his place is with those others who do not belong, who are rejected by power...who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, tortured, exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world." - Thomas Merton

    Ironic that a monk who took a vow of silence for most of his life is more articulate than I am about these things, but I must admit I love taking my grace with a touch of irony. The joy of the season to you, Raylynn.