Children's Christmas Programs. Is there a better way to get in the spirit of Christmas?
As our 4th & 5th grade choir prepared to present their "Living Nativity" musical, they gathered in the foyer, each in costume and awaited their cue. Angels with tilted halos. Wise men with crowns of paper. The only thing missing was a baby doll Jesus swaddled in a towel. There were, however, shepherds with little stuffed sheep.
The shepherds were quite proud of their sheep. Two little girl shepherd(ettes) held their lambs out to me. "Pastor Neal, This is my sheep. Her name is…" (something…. I don't remember). A second said the same thing, "This is my sheep. His name is…" (sorry… I don't remember that either.)
A boy shepherd stood beside them holding his lamb under his arm. "This is my sheep," he said. Then he made his voice deeper, squeezed the lamb in a headlock, and dramatically declared, "He must die!"
I apologize. I laughed out loud. I encouraged him. It was funny at the moment. Shepherds and shepherdettes. There is a difference.
In the hours following this encounter, God began to whisper that there was much theology reflected in those comments. For example, we have been taught often that shepherds know their sheep and that sheep know their shepherds in return. Shepherds give their lives to protect their sheep and guard them from harm. Those two simple thoughts were the foundation of Jesus' self-description in John 10:11-14.
On the other hand, I wonder how many of the sheep being watched by the shepherds on the night the angels came (Luke 2:8) were destined to die, not for food, but as a sacrifice for sin. That is not necessarily a part of our contemporary nativity story. We forget the price, the requirement, and the messiness of the slaughter of the lambs that was demanded for the atonement of sin. Perhaps, while we acknowledge Jesus was the lamb of God, when we come to the nativity, we ignore the price, the requirement, and the messiness of His slaughter that was given for the atonement of our sin.
Oh, there is so much more to the story of Christmas than we can comprehend. I can content myself to reflect in the lessons He reveals bit by bit, story by story through the mouths of shepherdettes and shepherds and the words of scripture. And, as I come year after year to the nativity, I'll always be reminded that there is a lamb, born to die.