The church auditorium overflowed with excited, chatty children, harried choir workers, and proud parents and grandparents. I arrived too late to get a front seat, but managed to squeeze into the fifth row. The children’s Christmas musical at our church is always a highlight of the season for me. I helped direct it for several years before my bout with cancer. The older children this year were my former students. I didn’t know anything about the program other than the title before the lights dimmed. Was I in for a treat.
Two of the kids I remembered as shy carried lead acting roles this year. One younger little guy almost stole the show. But the ones who captured my attention were the “extras” in the choir. The sheep. Only a young child could be convinced to wear a white sweat suit and don cotton-ball ear muffs. These were first, second and third graders. A set of twins in the front row kept us in stitches. One of them never seemed to do what she was supposed to. The other one continually tried to correct her. Then there was the sheep whose ears stuck out sideways instead of hanging down. And the sheep who needed a nap, I guess, because she yawned all through the program.
The children knew the songs and sang them with gusto. Loud gusto. The shepherds knew their lines, even the shepherd with huge black-framed glasses. The idea of the drama was simple. Shepherds discuss their low place in society just before the angels appear to announce the birth of the Savior. They corral the sheep and head over to the stable to see the baby. They’re overcome with wonder. End of story.
It was the discussion about how the shepherds felt they were treated by others that grabbed me. The angels appeared to the lowest of the low to announce the birth of the Savior of the world. This fact is not new to me. But somehow on this night, it spoke straight to my heart. I thought about how I treat others who might be a few rungs down the social ladder from myself. I thought about how society treats the unlovely. I realized all over again that Christianity is about relationship. I must invest in people. Whatever I do, whatever accolades I may collect, nothing is valuable unless it indicates I’ve poured myself into others.
Jesus demonstrated how to put others first from His birth to his death and resurrection. We have a primer in 1 Corinthians 13, the Love Chapter. If we want to know how to treat others, we can follow Jesus’ example as Paul described it. This is not a popular concept today. We’re encouraged to take care of ourselves, and then whatever energy we have left over we can expend on others.
But the shepherds understood Jesus’ way. And the children on that stage understood. After the program, I hope all the adults in the room understood and will practice the concept the kids taught us. Love one another.