Thank you to the Sunday School teachers and students for presenting us with such a beautiful pageant. And thank you to all who work and serve in this chapel, for your service during this advent season and in every season. I am also grateful to all of you for your full engagement in this brief and hectic downhill sleigh run into the Winter Break. We have some good work ahead of us—and some fun, too—and I am looking forward to all of it—especially supporting the many artists preparing for and performing in all of the events of the coming weekend. And then, of course, the Carol Shout: Make sure your wool socks and sweaters are ready to go since we are going to be outdoors this year.
But before all of that, we have the pageant. As a Sunday School teacher of many years myself, I am always challenged by the message of the pageant. For starters, there is a great gulf between the name “pageant”—which is a word we use to describe an elaborate spectacle and show—and the contrasting subject matter of the pageant—that God chose the simplest, humblest, and poorest of circumstances to begin His time on earth.
The contrasts within the scene are arresting—the splendor of the wise men—the dirt and special fragrance of the lowly farm animals. (Maybe a little dash of mayhem, too—or at least there is always the potential for it.) In a tiny nutshell, this is a microcosm of the world we inhabit. And, God tells us, the contrasts here are irrelevant to Him. We are called to honor every creature.
There is no “high” or “low” in this manger. Everyone in the scene has an important role to play in welcoming the infant Christ. And so, within this scene, we see ourselves—in all our imperfections and with all our flaws. We too are represented and invited into the presence of this miracle of love.
And so, of course, it makes sense that our messengers tonight are children. Following in the spirit of the season—where, as we wait for the holy child, there are no meaningful distinctions between high and low, rich and poor, old and young—tonight, the children are our teachers.
There is nothing so complicated about this story, which fundamentally is about love, astonishment, worship, and togetherness. The message is simple and can be easily communicated by little ones. Sometimes as adults we find it necessary to make our lives, our explanations, and our understandings complicated. This can especially happen in schools and universities, where you will even occasionally hear adults use a verb I feel is truly terrible: “complexify.”
I would urge you to guard against that tendency. As you reflect on this pageant, I hope you will be inspired to see how the most important things are actually quite simple. Remember the message of the pageant and these children, and—simply—adopt their sense of wonder, anticipation, and joy.