There is no such thing as a children’s Christmas program that fails.
Year after year the adults in charge shake their heads and wonder how they ever got into this. They work and sweat, and on the night of the program everything that can go wrong does, but still the program is a dazzling success.
I remember one year when our youngest boy was a kindergartner. He was to make his stage debut in the “Christmas Corral,” as he called it. Judging by the number of friends and neighbors he invited you would have thought he was the star instead of one of 40 children in a choir.
He was totally confident as he strolled to his classroom alone the night of the show, no longer the shy, wary little boy who had to hold on tightly as he went reluctantly to that same room when school started.
We went to the gym, and just a little later the angel choir marched to their places on stage in their white choir collars and their red and green bow ties. There were broad grins and an occasional wave as angels spotted family in the audience.
As I recall, the smiles of the children coupled with the proud smiles of their parents just might have rivaled the star of Bethlehem for brilliance.
Just a few days later we were treated to another super production by primary classes containing two more of our boys. Their costumes were reindeer antlers made of construction paper and tied to their heads with anything from official Indian headbands, through their sister’s yarn ties to the more conventional elastic.
The program highlight for the kids was the appearance of Santa, but for the audience it was the rendition of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Each little deer in the first row produced a little red cardboard circle which they stuck to their noses and then either watched cross-eyed, sniffed at or grinned about as they sang.
Then there was the year our oldest daughter who was in junior high was chosen to sing a solo for the midnight Mass. We sat proudly as she began “O Holy Night.” Her older brother looked shocked. I whispered, “You should have brought your tape recorder.”
He replied, “How was I supposed to know she’d be good?”
This year kindergartner Laura called me a few weeks ago. “Grandma, can you come to my Christmas program?”
“Of course, when is it?”
The night of the program I had a terrible cold. I almost stayed home, but I had promised her I’d be there. I went in just before the children arrived and slipped into the back pew instead of up front with the rest of her family, and I tried not to breathe on anyone.
There was a stir in the back of the church when the children arrived. I quickly spotted Laura as she looked around nervously. Finally she saw me and there was one of those room brightening smiles that became absolutely incandescent as she moved down the aisle into the smiles of the rest of the family.
As the stars looked down on the Infant Jesus, Laura was to move a cardboard star back and forth through the sky. Everyone agreed she moved a real swinging star.
As I watched the children beaming at the audience and the families glowing at the children, I realized all over again that Christmas really is the season of love.
Author’s Note: This column was first published in the Greenville Advocate on Dec. 22, 1999.