We have a Christmas play in our church service this Sunday. Lots of churches do a Christmas play. Usually on the third or fourth Sunday of Advent, but sometimes, really daring churches will do it on Christmas Eve.
It’s a great idea, the Christmas play. It can be anything from a traditional dramatization of the Christmas story to something a little more exotic that explores a Christmas theme or one of the many social justice issues that are in the story (yes, they’re there) or examine questions of faith. It might be put on by kids or by adults for the kids or by everyone for everyone. It might have a script or follow the biblical narrative or be made up on the spot. It could be rehearsed and practiced for a few weeks or, well, not. There’s lots to be said for the spontaneity of an “on the spot” Christmas play.
We’ve done lots of those things over the past years. We’ve had a traditional “here’s the bible story” play, we’ve had plays about being stars and angels and giving gifts and finding the stable and, as I recall, one involved an altercation between ninja sheep and desert pirates. One year, we even handed costumes to people as they came in and literally everyone was in the play that day.
I think the whole point of doing it is to bring life to the story, to refresh a story that can become just a little too familiar and maybe offer a different perspective. The story is full of drama, why not dramatize that? Besides, what a great opportunity to bring people together, create community and find a way for an ancient story to still be so relevant to our lives today.
Hmm. Well that’s going to be tricky this year, isn’t it? Especially since we, like many churches, have decided to not have in-person services until next year. Even if we were, under the current restrictions, we still couldn’t bring people together and there’d still be no costumes. And who wants a play in which everyone would wear a mask?
Well, as it happens … did I mention we have a Christmas play in our church service this Sunday?
Thing is, Christmas will happen and the story will be told. It might be accompanied by the story of this Christmas. In fact, the story of this Christmas might well be how we found new ways to make an old story new again, to find new traditions, new ways - simpler ways, perhaps - to share the love which is at the heart of the Christmas story. It might be about how we overcame physical separation to realize just how deeply in our hearts love lives. It might be an opportunity to see just how much stuff we pile around ourselves that gets in the way of how we really feel, what we really hope for, and how we really love. However Christmas comes this year, it will come and the love that breaks into the world with Jesus’ birth will still find its way to us.
Oh, our Christmas play this year? It’s a video. It includes short video clips from some people in our congregations. It includes an odd assortment of animals, a donkey and a very pregnant couple and, yes, there are a lot of masks. There’s a pandemic on, you know.