I strongly dislike Christmas programs since they are so often located outside in the blistering cold. When you are a “preacher’s kid” you get volunteered to do way more dirty work than nearly everyone else’s kid. You were default free labor. When you are employed by a church you get paid to do that rotten work but that doesn’t really make it more enjoyable. Here’s a run down of these atrocious events.
It All Started With The Pantomime.
I was very young and my part was very small. I was a playing the part of one of the village children that would come running up to the baby Jesus in order to give him a gift and sing a song. But for some reason, the production folks decided that even the kids with the 2 min appearance needed to wear makeup. I didn’t like the fact that I had to put on makeup and liked it even less as it was being applied to my face. That’s where it all begins. Associating Christmas programs with a sense of apprehention and dislike. Not a very good start.
The Bethlehem Walk of Shame.
The church I grew up in decided to do a Bethlehem Walk when I was in school. This is where the church puts on a big drama in which people come, get divided up into clans, and get an interactive experience with what Joseph and Mary might have had long, long ago. You see an old man prophesying the coming of the Christ, watch the angel Gabriel appear to Mary and Joseph, travel to the inn (which is full), get harassed by Roman guards and officials, hear the sounds and see the crafts of a bustling market place…AND THEN FREEZE YOUR BUTT OFF WHILE LISTENING TO YOUR GUIDE HURL INSULTS AT THE SHEPHERDS. Sounds kind of cool, except for maybe the part about the shepherds. That was me, a shepherd who is uneducated and smells like “sheep and dung.” Awesome.
The first year we did the Bethlehem walk we had such a bad snow storm that we had to move the entire market place indoors. The Shepherds had to stay outside. I was miserable. I already didn’t want to do the thing and on top of it I got the worst job…. or so I thought.
You Have To Push A Button To Save The World
After my rotten first (and freezing) experience with being a shepherd I decided to go with a more behind the scenes job. I figured I could dress as warmly as I wanted, I wouldn’t have to wear a costume, and best of all I didn’t have to memorize lines. I got a job operating the tape player at the very end of the Bethlehem Walk. All I did was push play so that the folks playing Mary and Joseph could sing along with the accompaniment track. Then, I’d rewind the tape and wait for the next group. Oh yeah, I was behind a wall in the dark, by myself. It was so boring and I hated every second of it.
Angels We Have Heard on High
After college I got this gig at Mega Church Missouri where their Bethlehem Walk is called the Journey To Bethlehem and it is about 10 times bigger. The production value was outstanding and since nearly the entire thing was staged outside in some wooded area behind the church it was much more immersive. I still hated it though.
I got the job of leading the team of angels which I realized by year two that it must be some kind of punishment or bad karma or something. Every group was provided with a fire pit or was stationed inside so that all of the hundreds of volunteers could stay warm. Every group except, of course, the stinkin’ angels. But it gets worse. I wasn’t just an angel. I had to get teens to volunteer for the worst job of the whole event, and THEN act excited about the whole thing. I guess they must’ve liked me or something because I have no idea how I got them all to stand out in the cold/rain/snow/mud with no source of heat, wear a ridiculous costume, and sing Angels We Have Heard on High about 50 times per night for 4 nights in a row. That was the real Christmas miracle.
And Then We Did It In Public
At this point I think Christmas Programs are lost on me. I’ll never be excited about them unless I am just watching them by my own free will. At least the times I’ve described thus far, they were on our home turf and yeah I felt silly but you came to see me, I didn’t go participate in this crazieness out in public. Enter the Christmas Walk.
I’ve been around for 4 Christmas Walks. This event is me begging teens to go act out a live nativity in downtown Oswego. There are no lines, just action mixed with narration and a few Christmas Carols. It was certainly way less work that the other Walks, but not any more fun. The difficult part was that, again, I had to ask teens to freeze outside while wearing shabby robes. But these teens have been extremely reluctant to participate because we’re out in public and they know their friends are going to see them and well reputations are probably on the line. So on top of the freezing cold and overall distaste for this kind of thing, I now have to add stress that some kids simply won’t show up because they think it’s lame or maybe they think their friends will think it’s lame. And did they sometimes not show up. You bet. Ugh…I hate this stuff.
Last year at the warmest part of the day it was a whopping 4 degrees F. All the Bible characters looked like beached whales because of the amount of clothing they had to wear under their costumes. The upside is that other than organizing students, running practices, sorting through costumes, setting up sound and stage, and making frantic reminder calls, all I had to do was sing about 10 Christmas carols a cappella using a pitch pipe that was sketchy at best in the cold. Blah.
The Final Straw Was in the Barn
As if the Christmas Walk wasn’t enough torture, I also had to organize the students to put on a pageant for kids (not including kids) with the high schoolers. The pageant would be located in the loft of a working barn (which means filled with cats, goats, chickens, sheep, and LOTS of poop). Yep, I must be some kind of genius to get high school kids to act like a member of the Wiggles in a frigid barn, wear another silly costume, memorize lines, and do it all for free. But I did just that 3 years in a row.
If it were up to me, I’d never do an outdoor Christmas Program ever again. But these things are hardly ever up to me. Christmas Eve (candle light) services hold a special place in my heart and I’m extremely excited about tomorrow’s service. But I can’t handle the outdoor stuff. Maybe I should move to Florida or something.