The annual Christmas pageant (Nativity Play) was held again this winter at Inariyama Kurumi Kindergarten. A handmade invitation was sent to me for I was scheduled to speak and read the Bible at the beginning of the pageant as the chaplain. As practice begins, children’s singing voices echoes in the chapel. Children who were in tears because they were not able to play the role they had wanted and are also practicing. Looking at the children wearing their costumes, the memories of those days when I wore such costumes came clearly back into my mind.
Even children who are usually fine will feel nervous as the day of the performance approaches. I remembered what the angel had told Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds, who received the news of the great joy of Jesus’ birth, “Don’t be afraid.” At first, they were surprised and afraid, but receiving the news from God, they set off on a journey which was not going to be easy.
The familiar faces, voices, and gestures of children overlapped with the people from the Bible, and its events came to life. Joseph may have had such a look. It must have been difficult walking around each inn with two of them. The children who I had thought were still young were moving with their own intention.
On the day of the performance, family members gathered at the chapel and as they looked on, the story began with a narration by the second-year children wearing white cotters. The first-year kindergarteners acting as “star children” sing in cute gestures, and the oldest children play the roles of Joseph and Mary, the angels, innkeeper, shepherds, sheep, and wise men. The kind innkeeper sings, “I’m really sorry, we have no rooms available now,” and points to the adjacent inn. The singing of the shepherds and sheep was wonderful, and at the climax of the play where each wise man gives an offering and sings, I could not help but think that the main character in the play was everyone.
The Christmas story may be called as an invitation of joy from God to each of us living in our respective places. We are all essential in the eyes of God. And the protagonist of Christmas, Jesus the Son of God, shines light on all lives.
The most wonderful part of the script was where the shepherd and sheep, the wise men, and the innkeepers all came to the stable to worship the newly born Jesus, saying “Mary and Joseph, congratulations.” The angels join, and everyone surrounds Jesus. “Congratulations” is not a word that only Mary received. This was a scene where we were made to realize that the Lord had come to us, and that it was a joyful greeting that God had come to us. How wonderful it is to see a Christmas pageant where we can hear the Words through the children’s voices, appearances, and lives.
The other day, there was a woman who came to her first Christmas Eve service. She was a graduate of a missionary school, and said laughing, “I wanted to do something Christmas.” There is no doubt that she must have heard the Christmas story once. I pray that again in the year 2020, we will be a church continuing to share and sing this joy that the Lord has come to us.
Deacon Mary Reiko Yamato
Nagano Holy Savior’s Church