Merry Christmas! Here is a classic Christmas tale from my family to yours.
Participating in the annual church Christmas pageant gave me the erroneous impression that the humble barn where Jesus was born was a quiet setting. The crowning moment of each December’s extravaganza was the Nativity scene. Dressed in bed sheets and their fathers’ oversized bathrobes, all the children solemnly sang Silent Night.
Then I moved to the country, got my own barn, and had my own birth in the stable.
Drought forced a farmer to sell livestock, including a soft-eyed, pregnant mare.
“She’s just like Mary,” my children implored. “She needs a place to have her baby.”
So this innkeeper found room in our stable for the mother-to-be. A baby monitor allowed us to hear what happened in the barn during the night. Birds in the rafters supplied a cacophony of twittering, mice scampered through hay, and horses slurped their feed before rustling through straw to bed down. Once asleep, the horses groaned while they napped and passed gas so loud we thought the mare was giving birth, and dashed to the barn at 3:30 a.m.
Following weeks of false alarms, the baby was born in her own time on a night I was too sleep-deprived to tiptoe to the barn. What an exquisite wonder that morning to discover a newborn in the stable.
That’s why this year’s Christmas pageant was my favorite. “Let’s have live animals,” the music director crowed.
Opening night the staging was elaborate. The well-rehearsed choir took its place. The orchestra began on the downbeat. “Joy to the world,” the audience joined the choir as the words appeared on the overhead. “Let men their sons employ.”
Choreographed to mask the noisy rearrangement of animals on stage, the pianist’s solo was a wasted effort. The keyboard was unplugged. From behind the curtains, the audience heard the trainer smooching at the donkey who was reluctant to come on stage and was more reluctant to walk off.
The violinist’s microphone was not on, as the wise men bowed before the wailing Christ child. Mary and Joseph tried to look holy while sheep nibbled their robes, between burping and chewing their malodorous cud.
At that moment a runaway sheep left his post and dashed about the little town of Bethlehem. Engrossed by the drama, the drummer forgot to drum. The conductor looked up from conducting and paled as the speeding sheep fairly leapt into his arms.
By the second performance the “g” was added to sons, the keyboard and violin found their plugs, and fencing was added for the sheep. The rest of the performances went without hitch, but my favorite was opening night. It seemed a better reenactment of what probably happened in that starlit stable many years ago.
PeggySue and her children currently have two horses because horses are like potato chips – you can’t have just one.
Nutcracker Suite’s Russian Dance performed by the Anderson Youth Ballet at the Paramount Atmospheric Theater in Anderson Indiana.