Yes, I'm already thinking Christmas, have been for a month now and it has nothing to do with Black Friday or the thrill of buying presents, decorating the tree or baking the goodies. Oh, the drama of it all! But I'm thinking drama in a different sense, a dramatic presentation.
Every year the church I attend holds a Christmas trail at our church park the week after Thanksgiving. (Details here.) By default I have become the director, but that's okay because I am fortunate to have eager volunteers that step up even before I ask. We present the story of Christ's birth using our walking trail as a background, with twelve scenes and numerous actors. Counting them and the workers in the parking lot, the picnic shelter, the bonfire and the hot chocolate tent, we need over fifty people a night just to operate.
This is entirely outdoors, so the weather is like an additional character. Sometimes on the hill the wind cuts through the thin costumes and freezes even the sturdiest of Roman soldiers. Most often, though, the weather cooperates and walking through the woods under a blanket of clear stars becomes a highlight of the evening. Many visitors say this has become a tradition to start their Christmas off, grounded in the true meaning of the message.
At Pilot Mountain School, before religion was removed from education, the teachers held a yearly Christmas Pageant, complete with the manger scene and adoring shepherds and wise men. I know this because several of the people I interviewed burst out in recitation of their parts as we talked in a once learned, never forgotten sort of way.
I'm sad though, for the schoolchildren of today who won't have innkeeper stories or donkey-gone-wild stories to tell their children and grandchildren. The child actors in our Christmas trail do have stories to tell of roasting hot dogs over the shepherd's fire between groups, of eating the chicken that was cooked over the fire in the traveler's scene, of pretending the shepherd's staff was a machine gun during the scene. Behind the scenes is probably more meaningful to them than performing the same scene a dozen times per night.
We will be ready to welcome visitor on our trail this week, starting tomorrow, skipping to Thursday through Sunday. It's not the same experience as viewing a manger scene on a stage in the school auditorium, believe me. It is the same story, though, told for two thousand years. In the end, that's all that counts.
Catch of the day,