Winter 2003
Volume 7 Number 2

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inSpire is pleased to introduce this new feature that invites our readers to share ideas/stories with other readers. For each issue, we will pose a question (some serious, some light-hearted) and give submission details via email. To receive the questions, alums should sign up at and non-alums at We’re thankful to those who sent in entries for this debut, are sorry we could not print all of them, and look forward to hearing from many of you in the issues to come!

The Editors

What is a favorite memory of a Christmas pageant at your church?

In Wide-Eyed Wonder

Just a month before Christmas, my colleague was installed as a pastor at our congregation. At their former church, his wife and teenage daughter had been very involved in liturgical dance, so it was decided that as part of the Christmas Eve worship service they would liturgically dance to “O Holy Night,” as my colleague sang that beautiful Christmas carol. It was the first time that dancing had been part of this service.

As my colleague sang, the women danced. Out of the corner of my eye I glimpsed one of our two-and-a-half-year-old worshipers slip away from her parents and slowly, ever so slowly, make her way up the chancel steps. She came and stood directly in front of me. Her parents started to leave their seats to retrieve her, but I motioned for them to stop, letting them know all was well. I was ready to grab her in case she came too close and into harm’s way.

The child stood, eyes and mouth wide open in awe and wonder, as she watched every move the dancers made. Tears came to my eyes and to the eyes of many others who experienced this epiphany. Oh, if we all could stand, eyes wide open in awe and wonder, as the Christ Child comes to us, into our hearts, each Christmas and each day of our lives.

“Jesus said, ‘Truly, I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’”

Roberta Arrowsmith (M.Div., 1991; Th.M., 1994), associate pastor
Newtown Presbyterian Church, Newtown, Pennsylvania

Let It Be

I was young and ambitious; I wanted a Christmas pageant. I wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. I had been at Farringdon Church for only a few months and was busy rebuilding the Sunday school from the ground up, welcoming dozens of new members into the congregation, and reorganizing everything. (Now that I have been at Farringdon for 15 years, I realize what I did to those poor people. But being Canadian, they were too polite to object.)

The night of the Christmas pageant arrived. We were not prepared. The cast looked their parts, but did not know their parts. Ten minutes before curtain, Imogen, the little girl who was cast as Mary, broke down and cried. I did my best to assist her in her time of need. It was then that I realized that instead of “Mother Mary comforts me,” I was comforting Mother Mary! Oh well, “let it be.”

Joe A. Dunkerson (M.Div., 1985), pastor
Farringdon Independent Church, Brantford, Ontario, Canada

What the Grinch Stole This Time

As a quite proper but self-conscious middle-aged woman was giving Christmas program directions to the children assembled before her, men were stretching a coiled wire across the front of the platform, from which would hang a stage curtain. As one of the men tried to loop the wire into an eyehook, it slipped from his hand and whipped across the auditorium, catching the corner of the woman’s wig (which had been a secret) and throwing the wig over the heads of the children.

Rehearsal was dismissed, and she was never seen again in this church.

Wallace Alcorn (Th.M., 1965)
Wallace Alcorn Associations, Austin, Minnesota

The Christmas Scandal

One year we were low on angelic-looking primary students, so the senior high youth group was given the task of putting on the pageant. The expectation was that the youth would do something nontraditional or contemporary, but that was not to be. Many were from a local children’s home (abused and runaway kids), and the idea of a traditional pageant was comforting for them, not “cute” or “corny.” It was a symbol of a childhood they had never known.

The group chose as Mary one of the girls from the children’s home: 16, tough as nails, and a leader of the others. She took the role to heart and spent hours on the realistic costume, even borrowing a “sizing pad” from a local maternity store. So it was on Christmas Eve that our “Mary” appeared in the doorway looking all the world like an about-to-be teen mother. As the interracial Mary and Joseph walked hand-in-hand down the aisle, shopping-cart donkey in tow, I heard a sharp matriarchal gasp behind me, along with the whispered words: “Oh my God, she’s pregnant!”

Suddenly, I understood the story as never before. This is what Mary faced: the scorn, the shame, the hushed comments. The following year, the youth group was replaced in the pageant by young children, who embody the story’s charm, but none of its scandal. To me, however, Mary will always be a streetwise teenager, who walked down the aisle with her head held high and her face absolutely shining.

Thomas L. Blackstone (M.Div., 1987), pastor
Grant Memorial United Methodist Church, Presque Isle, Maine

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