It's the children's play at church. That is what it seems to take every year to bring me to the place of recognizing the weight of Christmas. Ironic that a simple children's musical with catchy songs and a few subtle jokes could have such an impact. The title of this year's play-- "Arrest These Merry Gentlemen"-- if you don't get the pun in text, try singing the line to the tune of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and you'll begin to get it. My son played the role of the sidekick to the town sheriff. He was the "rookie cop" named... you guessed it, Rookie.
But my favorite set of roles were the Shepherds. My daughter was a shepherd, her name was Vince. A shepherd named Vince you ask, well, she stood in the middle of Frank and Merv. Frank and Vince and Merv-- I don't want to insult your intelligence, but just in case you missed it, Frankincense and Myrrh. Amidst the joyful noise of children's voices and clever puns that many of the actors are too young to get, God speaks.
Nicodemus had a hard time understanding what Jesus meant by being "born again."(John 3) Jesus said "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 13:3) When I watch the children creatively tell the story of Jesus' birth every year, all of the mental exercises that I labor over all year long wash away and I simply know-- Jesus was born on Christmas Day. Simple as that, on Christmas, God became flesh and entered humanity. It is a story simple enough for a child to tell and rich enough to ponder for a lifetime.
I spend so much of my life intellectualizing my faith, thinking deeply about the meaning of Jesus, but when I hear these children proclaim the Good News-- my intellect takes a back seat and I know that all is well; Jesus was born on Christmas Day-- Salvation is Here!