Every year, the thought crosses my mind: Maybe I’ll not participate in this year’s Christmas Musical at church. There’s always a litany of (completely illegitimate and erroneous) reasons–I’m busy, they don’t need me, work is intensely insane, I can’t make all of the rehearsals, and blah, blah, blah.
And, every year, the pull to participate thankfully wins out.
This year is no different. I had the very same misgivings way back in August or September, when we did the initial run-through on a Sunday afternoon in our church gymnasium, festively decked out in spite of the summer dragging on outside. I had the same thoughts as work and other trips and kid activities and extreme vehicle challenges kept me from attending the rehearsals like I should have. I had the same thoughts even two days ago as I frantically finished up a last-minute work task and flew to the church for dress rehearsal, arriving 20 minutes late, sheepishly and harried.
But, here it is Friday “Opening” night again, and in one hour we’ll begin final prep for this year’s musical. And, once again, I am thankful for this opportunity. This gift. And, here’s why:
Usually by this time in the season, my warmth for Christmas music is wearing a little thin. Not this year, though I’m not sure why. I’ve had a great time blasting Christmas tunes while working and cleaning and driving around town. And, although I lost my musical practice CD, um, several several several weeks ago (a yearly thing for me), I’ve located a couple of the songs we are singing in the musical and added them to my daily play list. Have you ever wondered why music is such a part of the Christmas season? I have, many times. I wonder if it has anything to do with Psalm 71:23 and so many other similarly worded verses from other Psalms:
Joy. That is what the story of the birth of Jesus entails. Joy unspeakable, for his birth facilitated the redemption of our souls.
I. am. not. an. actor. I couldn’t be in a skit or a play if my life depended upon it. I’ve done them before. I hate doing them. I don’t get nervous or scared, I’m just no good. I am awkward and ridiculous. But, goodness, I admire those who can elegantly create a role on stage that conveys a story to the audience. And, it is so much fun when it is done by people you know and love–getting to see such creative acting talent is always so much fun. My favorite character this year? Grover, the county police man, with the Southern-Bubba accent so thick you could slice it.
What’s a Christmas musical without the somewhat-typical-and-sometimes-not-always-completely-accurate-in-setting-and-depiction “Nativity Scene”? And, what’s a nativity scene without a “Baby Jesus”? I love seeing who baby Jesus is going to be played by each year. Each of my crew have been Baby Jesus when they were itty bitty (and shepherds, and angels, but I don’t think we’ve had wise men. We have had Biscuit the sheph-dog.) In Hawaii, we had a baby Jesus who went on to play Claire’s baby in the hit TV show “Lost”. This past Wednesday night during dress rehearsal, “Mary” brought me baby Jesus (she was just so cute). I’m not a big “baby” person because they usually cry when around me, but oh, goodness, he was so cuddly to hold, with his shock of the blondest hair you’ve ever seen and his sweet, chunky baby rolls and big eyes. I even kissed his chipmunk cheek and left my over-makeup-ized lip print (see note below on makeup) on his cheek. Yep, baby Jesus is definitely a highlight of the Christmas musical each year.
Which, brings me to the wise men. You know the ones–sometimes they are deacons, maybe Sunday School teachers, Ushers, Stewardship Committee members, Elders, Building and Grounds workers–a variety of backgrounds. I don’t know why, but the wise men always crack me up. I love watching them be told where to stand with their gifts, in their gold painted, jewel encrusted paper or plastic crowns and their lovely robes. This year’s most fashionable wise man is sporting a peach lame’ (I don’t even really know what lame’ is, but it sounds good), shimmering gown. Giggle.
I don’t know how they pull it off, but every single year, our church band pulls out all the stops for the musical and blows us away with their performance. And I know we don’t thank them enough. They are incredible. This year, I’m particularly enjoying the addition of two violins, a french horn, and our drummer’s son, who has taken over the chimes, jingle bells, the other pretty thing that I can’t think of the name of it, and a couple of cymbals. He’s doing a fantastic job, as are the rest of our band members. I’m also envious of them, cause they get to wear black every year.
Ok, this part I don’t like. At all. I don’t like to wear make-up in real life; mainly because I really don’t know how to put it on. The idea of caking it on for the musical (which I know is necessary so those on stage do not look like Casper), well, let’s just say that I put an extra layer on at home, then try to avoid the make-up room at all costs once I arrive. This was worked for years.
Ok, so this is another thing that I’m not crazy about. But, hey, we look better if we’re all kind of sort of in the same similar kind of get-up (for the choir). But, like I said above, the orchestra are the lucky ones.
There is something unique in the atmosphere of the sanctuary during the Christmas musical. A buzz, if you will. I always love being in the sanctuary at night anyway. Add to that the huge Christmas trees with their lights, the tones of the band warming up, and the hushed anticipation, and it just “feels” like Christmas.
Live Animals in the Sanctuary
Ok, so the church I attend today doesn’t have live animals in the Christmas musical, but man, I wish they did!
Dedication and Hard Work
Every year I’m astounded by the gifts of talent (see “Creativity” above) that are brought together for the Christmas Musical–or any Christmas Event. Soloists, Actors, Children, Set Builders, Directors, Organizers, Instrumentalists, Costume Designers, Program Printers, Behind-the-scenes workers, Sound, projection and lighting technicians, custodian; the list of jobs is long and there are probably a zillion I am unaware of, and every year people give selfishly of their time to provide the best leadership and support possible. It’s truly, truly amazing.
Ok, another cute-factor bonus. All those little, ahem, cherubs, dressed in their Christmas duds, singing their hearts out. Loudly. I’m particular fond of the ones who wave at the audience, fall off of the risers, hit their buddies, and pick their noses. Nose-pickers are my favorite.
Granted, I can’t really see them from the stage because of the lighting, but I kind of take a peek into the audience before-hand cause I’m restless and am no good sitting in my assigned-off-stage seat. I love seeing people I don’t know out in the auditorium. Love it. I love it on a Sunday morning, and I love it during the musicals. I love seeing families attending together. I love seeing my crew all there, attending together (even though they aren’t new faces to me). There is just something very awesome about visitors at Christmas time….which leads me to my next point:
It’s hard to imagine that there is someone in the United States that hasn’t heard the story of Jesus’ birth. I know that there are; of course there are. But here in Virginia, it’s hard to fathom, apart from some potential international students who may be attending. But just because you know the birth story of Jesus doesn’t mean you know the core of Gospel. “Gospel” essentially means “Good News”. But, how can something be Good News to you, if you don’t understand it? Or if you doubt its truth; its validity? In those cases, it may still be Good News, but not to your soul. Not to your mind. Putting the Gospel into music and words and images combined with a clear explanation changes things up a bit. It’s like shining a flashlight–the concentrated light blinds the periphery, allowing one to focus on the object in the circle of the light. Not that the periphery should not be taken into consideration–but many times it is so noisy that clear consideration can not be given. The Christmas musical provides just that–clear consideration of truth.
Most musicals I know of include some sort of cookie or dessert social following. I’m not big on the social aspect of it, but gosh, I love cookies. What’s not to love about Christmas cookies?
**Disclaimer: The above stock photo is not a photo of the musical at our church. The picture above contains “Jazz Hands”. You’ll see that “Jazz Hands” is not on my list above. If Jazz Hands were a requirement, I probably wouldn’t have a list to write. Just say no. To Jazz Hands.