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Every part is important in the nativity

By Staff | Dec 18, 2009

While viewing the display of nativity scenes at First Lutheran Church last Sunday, I got into a conversation with some of the ladies about how as children we all longed to portray Mary in the church Christmas program, only to have the part go to the “other girl.”

We all lamented how we were relegated to playing angels instead of the star part of Mary. Always a bridesmaid, never the bride as they say.

The part of Mary in the church Christmas program was the coveted spot. Mary was adorned in the baby blue head cloth and sat reverently at the side of baby Jesus. Sometimes she even got to hold the doll used to portray the baby. What an honor to be Mary.

We all couldn’t be Mary. After all, there could only be ONE Mary. But in my church the part always went to the quiet girl. She was the daughter of the deacon and was the “religious” one. It just wasn’t fair.

We all wanted to be Mary, but alas were cast as the choir of angels. I guess the rambunctious, talkative kids like me made better angels. Sort of ironic when you think about it that the kids who liked to talk and goof around were angels, but were more like little “devils.”

Mary was the real star. She was the top role. All of us angels were just “extras.” Sorry, no part for you? Well, I guess you’re an angel.

To top it all off, we had to wear those itchy halos made of tinsel garland. One year some of the boy angels in the back row tried to start my halo on fire with our candles. That was the end of the open flame candles for the angels. Too many close calls resulting in singed tinsel.

I guess when I really think about it now, I was not really Mary material back then. Mary was quiet. I was not. Mary was reverent. I was not. Mary was meek. I was not. Mary was obedient. And you guessed it, I was not.

The church program brings back so many wonderful memories. Sure it was the same story every year and everyone knew the plot, but it was still special. There’s just something about a live nativity scene made up of children that makes for such a sweet scene.

Everyone knows the cast includes Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, angels, shepherds and the wise men.

The boy cast as Joseph was always nervous that his buddies would tease him about his “wife” Mary. And the shepherds, well those were always played by the big, husky boys because they had to stand in the back and still be seen. Casting the wise men was the tricky part. The teacher was looking for three wise men, not three “wise guys” who would mess up the play. Plus, you had to find a kid who could pronounce frankincense.

For me it was all about who got the chance to play Mary, but when I look back on it, it was really about all the kids gathering to play the part that best fit them and make the tradition come to life each year.

After all, the nativity scene is the ultimate symbol of family. Here’s a family from very humble stock who came together in the most primitive of settings to reveal the world’s greatest gift.

It has nothing to do with shopping for gifts. There’s no need for glitzy wrapping paper. There are no rushing out to fulfill the wish lists and no hustle and bustle.

Just one family, on one night with one very special delivery.

So what if I never got to play Mary? It wasn’t until many years later that I realized how significant it was to be an angel. They were the messengers. They brought the good news. After all, what is a nativity scene without angels? We were an important part after all. Even if we were a ragtag group of angels – singed tinsel halos and all.

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