Theologian Stanley Hauerwas argues that to truly learn a story, we must act it out.
In my experience, Hauerwas is spot-on, but I’d like to apply his theory a step further. I believe the real, most-important learning comes not only from the acting out, but in the company of the actors.
Every Christmas at pageant time, the kids act and I direct, but it’s the company that changes us. The kids come to that first rehearsal either struggling against or showing off their part. They come clutching their scripts and focused on their own small scene.
No, we can’t have the shepherds use a GPS to find the manger. No, you can’t ask Joseph if he made a reservation. No, the Angel of the Lord can’t wear a gun and holster…
The irony isn’t lost on me that I’m the one who must lead them.
I come convinced my preparation and performance will make a good show. I come…
…thinking I get to decide what’s good
…beating my own drum
…waiting for the ox and lamb to keep time. My time.
But this Story refuses such a selfish score.
No, you can’t twist God’s Word. No, you can’t blame another. No you can’t cover your own sin…
No, you can’t play God and worship Him at the same time.
This year’s pageant was no different from the ones before it, and yet its miracle always bolsters me. Somewhere in all of the line-repeating, the doing-over, and the making-sure, we each eventually lay down our own script for Another’s. We learn to gently correct, encourage, and serve one another. As a group, we surrender to The Story for the sake of others hearing it.
And we actually start having fun.
It’s clear this Story can only be truly known and proclaimed through the transformation of its tellers.
It was never meant to be told as a monologue. It’s to be delivered by a cast and crew who love, fail, and forgive one another. Who serve and sacrifice for The Production. Who look more forward to the cast party than their big moment on stage.
Because the enemy applauds when good kids pull off a sweet production. But he runs for his life when a united community of believers – of any age – walk and talk the Joy of the Lord.
I believe the enemy was trembling alone and far away on that night.
However, after the glow of Christmas we are quick to forget the joy of community. We go back to work and forget to play together. We ignore our neighbor and the fact that God intentionally placed us in families. We present ourselves independently of God who reveals Himself as a Community of Three.
We boast of telling The Gospel Story without a hitch, but we forget the angels won’t sing until all of God’s children act it out together.
The Good News is the final curtain hasn’t fallen and we are free to run it again. We have Emmanuel on the set of our very lives. We have the hope of Christmas, the power of the Resurrection, and each other.
And if we act on those promises, the Story will tell itself.
Let’s take it again from the top. Together, this time.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25
Photo credit: Jeff Brown