An author’s pastor friend told him about a Christmas pageant that ended with an unscripted and wonderful surprise and the author describes what happened like this...
The manger was down in front at the chancel steps where it always is. Mary was there in a blue mantle and Joseph in a cotton beard. The wise men were there with a handful of shepherds, and of course in the midst of them all the Christ child was there, lying in the straw. The nativity story was read aloud by my friend with carols sung at the appropriate places, and all went like clockwork until it came time for the arrival of the angels of the heavenly host as represented by the children of the congregation, who were robed in white and scattered throughout the pews with their parents.
At the right moment they were supposed to come forward and gather around the manger saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among men,” and that is just what they did except there were so many of them that there was a fair amount of crowding and jockeying for position, with the result that one particular angel, a girl about nine years old who was smaller than most of them, ended up so far out on the fringes of things that not even by craning her neck and standing on tiptoe could she see what was going on. “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will among men,” they all sang on cue, and then in the momentary pause that followed, the small girl electrified the entire church by crying out in a voice shrill with irritation and frustration and enormous sadness at having her view blocked, “Let Jesus show!”
And I can think of no better cry in the midst of the Christmas season than that: Let Jesus show!
The strange irony of Christmas is that it is the one time of year, of all the times during when Jesus should be clearly seen, and yet often he is hidden from view. In the season that proclaims God’s presence with us in Jesus, it is the absence of God and Jesus that seems most real.
And what hides Jesus from us? For many of us, perhaps, it is the expectations and exhaustion, the demands and money worries and all the rest. For others of us it may have to do with the endless emphasis on family and friends gathering in good cheer — an emphasis that only makes sharper the emptiness and pain we feel at the thought of family and friends who have died and can’t gather with us any longer. Of course the little girl was in church when she uttered her cry and sometimes churches themselves hide Jesus from view — crowd him out with business and busyness and more.
Let Jesus show! And it’s what we seek, I think, more than we might realize — to see Jesus, to glimpse something of his light in a dark and dangerous world, to experience something of the healing and hope and peace only he can give. It’s why we decorate trees with glimmering lights and glittering ornaments and hang wreaths and light candles and give gifts. We do it all, I think, in the hope of bringing something of Jesus near, of bringing joy and peace near, or rather, in the hope of Jesus coming near enough to us to grace us with what we long for and can never quite give ourselves.
Let Jesus show! And the truth is that if Jesus is to be seen in this often violent and uncertain world, then it will have an awful lot to do with you and me. It will have to do with letting Jesus show in our own lives, in our believing and trying to believe, in little acts of kindness and compassion, in remembering those who are far from joy, in giving life and hope to those who need life and hope by giving ourselves to them. And it will have to do with our looking for Jesus day after day in unexpected, ordinary places and people — something like the very places and people in and through which he once came to birth — looking for him even in emptiness and pain and confusion.
Let Jesus show! So that no matter where we may be in our lives, this season will truly be a season of God’s presence and a time to rejoice in Christ and know something of the hope and peace and gladness that can come to birth in our lives because of him.
God be with you,