Zensights provides a space for gentle contemplation in a world filled with hectic action and stressed-out situations.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

An Older Mary’s Memory

In the same year that my mother died, the same year that both of my grown children had moved out and gone on with their own lives, I greeted the Christmas holiday with a considerable dread. As always the commercialism of the season was distressing, but this particular year rang with a deep hollowness that made me quite sad. The flurry of activities that surrounded my life that year became chores. Holiday parties were to be avoided, if at all possible. Shopping was no longer fun and had become a tedious parade of traffic snarls and long lines at the checkout counters. Even the cheerful tones of “Merry Christmas!” simply reminded me that I was hardly in a merry mood.

When my choir director called me one night after Thanksgiving and asked if I’d be in a Christmas pageant, I was hardly thrilled. I was even more distressed when I learned that I was being offered the part of an “older Mary” who would be reminiscing about the birth of her child Jesus. In my most secret heart I still see myself as a young woman, but for some reason I consented to playing the role. It wasn’t long before I was kicking myself for having said yes. I had lines to rehearse, practices to attend, and a few unfamiliar hymns to learn. I also had to wade through the antics of about forty mischievous second through sixth-grade actors. And all this at the end of a grueling day of teaching teenagers at a nearby high school.

As each day brought me closer to the performance, the more nervous I became. It wasn’t that I couldn’t play my part. I had been in choral performances before, but this time, my heart and soul just weren’t in it. Even though I tried to “get into the part,” I just ended up going through the motions because I had made a commitment.

As each rehearsal passed, I felt somewhat like I was in the center of a great storm.. The kids were running all over the place or creating havoc with the microphones. They tapped them, knocked them over, and sang silly songs into them. Costumes kept drooping over shoulders, and haloes kept slipping over eyes. Shepherds often hit each other with their crooks and the props for the gold, frankincense, and myrrh often clanked noisily to the ground. Nobody knew the lines. Everyone missed cues.

So, when the day of the performance came, I went through my work day with an honest apprehension. I had a feeling something akin to going to the dentist. “At least by this time tomorrow, it will be all over,” I kept telling myself. Finally, the appointed hour came. Dressed in my first century costume, my long gray hair peeking out from under my blue veil, I took a deep breath and walked out into the sanctuary for The Annual Christmas Pageant.

That was when something truly miraculous happened. Suddenly, everything came together. The children knew their stuff. No one dropped anything, not even a line. The tinsel-winged seraphs, the humble shepherds, and the Techni-colored wise men enacted the older Mary’s memories with precision and care. And as our narrative unfolded, I kept seeing flashes of past pageants my children had enacted. There was even an ancient “sugar plum” moment that descended upon me from my distant past. I could clearly remember my mother’s beaming face out in the audience. Surely, she was there smiling at me that night as well.

As those lovely visions came to me, I realized that life is good and it will go on, much as it has always done. That for years to come, children and parents will be enacting and watching the age-old Christmas story that provides meaning for the faithful and hope for those who have doubts.

It was in those moments that my Christmas started to happen. For the first time all season, the twinkling lights began to touch my eyes. Christmas carols finally reached my ears, and the cold empty feeling that described my holiday melted with a joyous crescendo as we all belted out “Joy to the World.” I truly felt the joy of the season at last.


Blogger Toni said...

I was looking online for this same Christmas pagaent.
This is the only thing I am seeing.
Would you know the name of this play, so I might be able to find the narrative.
I am trying to put a Christmas program together for our church and choir.

10:11 AM  

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