Right now, this very instant, you should drop what you are doing, go to the local bookstore, library, or ebook distributor and secure your copy of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. I know that book reviews are not the normal M.O. for my blog, but this brief work has brought such great warmth and Christmas understanding to my heart that I feel compelled to get America (or at least my five faithful readers) to digest it.
The funny thing about The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is that both Michelle and I remember it from our childhood. Originally published in 1971, it was read to both of us growing up in public schools. Fat chance of that happening today! This book is way too politically incorrect! There is too much Jesus in this book for the public school system.
In this brief little work (you can absorb in one evening or over two cups of coffee), we get the tale of how the Herdmans, the community’s ragamuffin family, invaid the Christmas pageant at the local church in small town USA. Having never heard the Christmas story before, the Herdman kids ask questions that shake the town (and me) from its sterilized understanding of the birth of Christ. We need to get back to understanding the Christmas event for what it was – a mind-blowing miracle! We go too far when we paint halos and portray a baby that didn’t cry (Thanks, Away in a Manger!), a birth that didn’t have any birth pangs, and a stable that was surgically clean. An honest reading of the biblical narrative will cause us to wonder at a God that would love us that much! Maybe we will remember that the real wonder of Christmas has nothing to do with reindeer or snowmen.
In The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, the local church deals with the strain of loving these pagan children and setting limits on their wild behavior, a real-life struggle that, as a pastor, I am all too familiar with. The story is narrated through the eyes of a child and the dialogue is laugh out loud funny. But more importantly, the plot line is heart warming.
With the onslaught of holiday meals, gift exchanges, out of town company, battle royales at the mall, and insanely busy schedules, we must all be very intentional about being centered on the true meaning of Christmas. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever helps us reconnect with the mystery of a God who loved us so much that He came wrapped in humanity to a dirty, sinful world that would despise and reject Him. If you know what is good for you, you will make arrangements today to get your hands on The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. I guarantee that it will help to focus you this holiday season!
A brief excerpt – no spoilers included:
“What were the wadded-up clothes?” Claude wanted to know.
“The what?” Mother said.
“You read about it – ‘she wrapped him in wadded-up clothes.'”
“Swaddling clothes.” Mother sighed. “Long ago, people used to wrap their babies very tightly in big pieces of material, so they couldn’t move around. It made the babies feel cozy and comfortable.”
I thought it probably just made the babies mad. Till then, I didn’t know what swaddling clothes were either, and they sounded terrible, so I wasn’t too surprised when Imogene got all excited about that.
“You mean they tied him up and put him in a feedbox?” she said. “Where was the Child Welfare?”
One more because it’s just so good!
“Why didn’t they let Mary name her own baby?” Imogene demanded. “What did that angel do, just walk up and say, ‘Name him Jesus’?”
“Yes,” Mother said, because she was in a hurry to get finished.
But Alice Wendleken had to open her big mouth. “I know what the angel said,” Alice piped up. “She said, ‘His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.'”
I could have hit her.
“My God!” Imogene said. “He’d never get out of the first grade if he had to write all that!”