The Christmas pageant in the Episcopal church was a carbon copy of similar pageants around the country. Only in this one, in this year, at a critical moment, a little nine-year-old girl said something that the people would never forget.*
The manger was in front, as always. Young Mary wrapped in her blue mantle. Joseph sported a beard glued together from cotton balls. The wise men were there, too, as were the shepherds. And in the middle of them all, was baby Jesus, lying in the manger.
The nativity story was read, carols were sung, everything went off without a hitch.
Various children were the angelic host. They were robed in white and sitting beside their moms and dads throughout the church. At the right moment, they were to come up, circle the manger, and sing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will among men.”
And so they did. But there was a problem.
As the angelic little children gathered round the manger to sing, one little girl couldn’t see. She was nine years old, smaller than the rest of them, and ended up being so far back that even on tiptoe she couldn’t see what was going on.
In the momentary pause after the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest…,” the little girl “electrified the entire church by crying out in a voice shrill with irritation and frustration and enormous sadness at having her view blocked.”**
She said, “Let Jesus show!”
Let Jesus show. I'd like to take that little girl on a tour of churches around the globe and ask her to cry out those words again and again.
When the manger is barricaded behind a mountain of congregational committees, accountability groups, budget meetings, and denominational bigwigs talking about how their pet project is the greatest thing since prefabricated communion wafers--get out of the way. Let Jesus show.
When the conservative parish wagons are circled tight to guaran-damn-tee no gays, left-wingers, tree-huggers, pot-smokers, or foreign-car-driving libs get within fifty feet of the manger; when your Republicanism is a sign you're among the predestined; in churches where being anti-gun is tantamount to being anti-Christ--get out of the way. Let Jesus show.
When around the manger there's a string of rainbow flags unfurled and flapping, along with banners celebrating Earth Day, Abortion Rights, and Coexistence; when there's a mass of advocates blocking the manger, each one competing to be more anti-conservative, more accommodating, more progressive than the other--get out of the way. Let Jesus show.
When there's a pile of Bieber-sounding songs heaped up around the manger; worship that's a bastardized offspring of circus and rock concert; when the whole area is choking from the fog machine; when the sermon sounds like Osteen and Oprah are dancing inside the preacher's mouth--get the hell out of the way. Let Jesus show.
Is that really too much to ask of the church?
@@If you're blocking Jesus, then for the love of God, get out of the way.@@
Let Jesus show.
*Frederick Buechner tells this story in his sermon "Let Jesus Show" in his book, Secrets in the Dark.
**Secrets in the Dark, p. 268.