At the first rehearsal, as parts are assigned, Imogene Herdman stops the director and says "Hey, can you start from the beginning?" Much to everyone's surprise, the Herdmans have never even heard the Christmas story before. And so, the director reads the story of Jesus' birth from Luke. And the Herdmans are filled with questions... like who's the bad guy? Why can't we go take Herod out? What are wadded up clothes? It was so eye-opening to be reminded of the mystery of the Christmas story through the questions of those hearing it for the first time.
The night of the pageant was one of low expectations... yet everyone came to see what the Herdmans would do. And that's where the beauty of the Christmas story appeared. Imogene saw the stained glass window of Mary cradling Baby Jesus and learned how to be gentle with this precious child. She walked in burping the baby and while the story unfolded, she never took her eyes off the child. She caressed him and even cried. The rough, tough, cigar smoking gal was transformed by Baby Jesus.
The Herdman Wise Men came bearing the gift of their Christmas Ham, complete with a red bow. And this wasn't just any ham, it was the ham they received in their welfare basket. After the pageant, they wouldn't take it back because it was a gift and you don't take gifts back. They learned the importance of giving through the story of Jesus' birth.
The "church goers" were humbled by this rendition of the pageant. They judged these kids... had no hope for them... no forgiveness... no one reached out to them at all. The list of Herdman offenses was long and surely no good could come from the bullies, right? Yet the Christmas Pageant had more meaning through the actions of Herdman kids giving their all to the One who gave His all to us that very first Christmas. And as everyone left, they all agreed that something was different about the pageant that year... and it was all due to the Herdmans.
Tears were streaming down my face as Imogene walked in burping Baby Jesus, as I watched her tenderly adore the doll that posed as the Son of God. This rough and tough girl was gentle now. The entire Herdman clan was changed by the message of Hope. The only reason we have hope is because of Christmas day. We have hope because Jesus, God's own son, was wrapped in swaddling clothes and lay in a manager... because of His perfect life and His horrific death... and most importantly, because He rose from the dead on the third day... WE HAVE HOPE if we invite Jesus into our hearts as Lord and Savior (John 3:16). When we do just that, our eternal destiny is secure. We have the promise of heaven... a place of eternal joy, free from crying and pain (Revelation 21:4)... waiting for us when our earthly bodies die. Can we ever thank God enough for this?
As I consider the Connecticut tragedy, I'm clinging to 2 Chronicles 7:14-15:
... if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.
God is our only hope during this tragedy. We need to humble ourselves before God. We need to ask for forgiveness, for ourselves and on behalf of others. And we need to beg for God to heal our land. We, as Christians, need to unite in prayer. We need to let go of our judgement... for we are told not to judge (Matthew 7:1). We don't know the stories behind the story. But we know our God. We know that He has brought good from tragedies in the past. And we know that He is the God who keeps His promises. We have to choose gracious gratitude and we need to invite Him to fulfill the promises in His word.
I'd like to invite you to join me in prayer. Please pray these scriptures over those suffering in Connecticut right now. And be on the lookout for God to do what He says He will do... for our God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love (Psalm 103:8).
- Thank You, Lord, that You are close to the brokenhearted and You save those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
- Thank You, Lord, that You are compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love. Psalm 103:8
- Thank You, God, that You can deliver us from all our fears. Psalm 34:4
- Thank You, Father God, that You can work all things for the good of those who love You, who have been called according to Your purpose. Romans 8:28
- Lord, thank You that when we lack wisdom, we can ask You, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to us. James 1:5
- Thank You, Father God, that nothing is impossible with You. Luke 1:37
- Lord, thank You that You can do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine. Ephesians 3:20
- Father God, thank You that over time, You can turn wailing into dancing; and that You can remove our sackcloth and clothe us with joy just like You did with David in Psalm 30:11.
Today, I am thankful for...
1. Another precious day with my family
2. For my mom, who is more than my mother, because she's also my friend
3. For weekly outings with my mom and niece
4. Jesus, our reason for Hope in the midst of our Hurt
5. God, who is faithful and always does what He says He will do
6. God's forgiveness
7. God hearing our prayers
8. God reminding me that Jesus transforms lives through a simple Christmas play
9. God's divine timing with seeing the play today
10. Experiencing the play with my boys and hubby
11. Eating lunch in the trolley at The Old Spaghetti Factory
12. Receiving Christmas cards in the mail
13. The power of praying scripture
14. Knowing my eternal destiny is in heaven with Jesus
15. Middle of the Miracle song by Francesca Battistelli
Here's to 10,000 reasons... Only 5,135 to go...