Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Christmas Play

I wrote this years ago - yet, with the arrival of the Christmas season, I bring it forth every year.  It never fails to make me cry, because this is a true story.  It happened in the midwest in the late 1950s, before the mention of God was banned and prayer in schools was legal.  I pray it blesses you - and if you've read it before, perhaps a second reading will bless you, as well.

The Christmas Play

The first grade class prepared for the Christmas play with great enthusiasm, especially Karl. Karl was what we used to call "slow," He tried so hard to fit in, and wanted so much to help with the yearly school play,  that his teacher moved him from task to task, trying to find a place where he would fit.

Painting scenery didn't work out, his donkey looked like a dachsund, and no one knew exactly *what* his palm trees looked like.

From there he went to props, where he accidentally knocked them over, then to the choir of angels where he lost his halo, and on through the list of helpers. His teacher couldn't bear to crush his open, giving heart.

Finally, she decided to make him an innkeeper.

All he had to do was open the painted cardboard door and say gruffly, "There's no room!" and shut the door.

Rehearsals went well. Karl enjoyed being gruff and "slamming" the cardboard door as best as he could. And finally the big night arrived.

Parents dropped off excited children and found seats in the auditorium. The jumble of voices died as the curtains opened.

Backstage, Karl's eyes grew bigger and bigger as the play progressed. With everyone in costume and the bright lights on, the cardboard and bathrobes really looked like wood and eastern cloaks. He could almost hear that donkey clopping down the Bethlehem street, and didn't that man look dusty and tired, and his wife seem exhausted and hungry?

Mary and Joseph passed the first inn.

"There's no room!" the innkeeper shouted, his beard falling off as he flung the door shut.

The few steps to the next inn seemed to take all of Joseph's energy...

"Please, sir, my wife is great with child and we have no place to stay..."

"Go away! We're full up!" the next innkeeper growled.

Karl swallowed twice as the couple came towards him. He'd practiced so hard, but now the words weren't fun anymore. Suddenly he heard the knock on his door.

"Please, sir, my wife is great with child, and we have no place to stay."

Karl swallowed again. Then he forced the words out. He tried to bluster and yell, but the lump in his throat wouldn't let him.

"There's no room," he whispered, and as the tired, disappointed Joseph began to turn back, the tears in Karl's eyes overflowed.

"Wait!" he called as they began to move away, "Wait! You can have my room!" And with that he rushed through the door crying, enveloping Joseph in a big bear hug.

Pandemonium broke loose as parents laughed and cried along with him. Joseph hissed, "That's not what you're supposed to say! Lemme go!" and, finally, the teacher came onstage to comfort the sobbing Karl who would not let the struggling Joseph go free. They never did finish the play.

Some of the children say that Karl ruined the Christmas pageant that year.

Their parents, however, remember the tears in Karl's eyes and the love in his heart, and they are not so sure.

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