went out from Caesar Augustus…”
Even at his young age, Joey knew the story by heart. He had been in the Christmas play ever since he could remember. According to his mom, he even played the baby Jesus just after he was born, but he, of course, couldn’t remember. He liked to hear the story; in fact, he never tired of it, even after the yearly pageant, Christmas services, and his dad’s reading of the story after Christmas dinner. He did like the story, but the pageant was not his favorite thing to do.
“In the same region there were shepherds…”
This was their cue. Joey tried to walk around as he was supposed to, but the sheep had worked his head all the way through the wooden rail and was chewing on his robe. As he moved, the sheep wouldn’t let go, but kept chewing insistently on the fabric. He tried to swat the sheep’s nose, but that didn’t work either. The stubborn sheep was not going to let go.
There were various re-tellings of what happened next, depending on who you talked to. The best Fr. Richards could make out from all the stories was the following.
As Joey swatted the sheep’s nose a second time, the animal reared back and broke the wooden rails of the sheep pen. This sent the shepherds scattering everywhere and scared the other sheep. Bleating and “baaahing,” they all began running around the stage and then separated, running out in different directions. One jumped through the cardboard mountain and another tipped over the cradle in the manger – which, thankfully, did not contain the baby Jesus. The third lamb had run through the manger scene, down the stairs, and through the sea of chairs toward the back door. He was followed by the one who had been eating Joey’s clothes.
The fifth one, however, headed behind the stage and startled Mr. Oswald. He was so shocked that he let go of the rope holding the herald angel, who promptly fell into a pile of straw while her fellow angels were jumping up and down on the scaffold, screaming in terror.
When all was said and done, the scenery was toppled, the manger in ruin, and the sheep were finally corned by the Stringfellow boys. Well, all except for the hungry one, who was now chewing on Mrs. Williams’ dress.
Mrs. Williams, by the way, had stood motionless through the whole disaster; her whistle still hanging from her lips and not believing what had just taken place.
Outside of the pastor’s office, Joey could hear Mrs. Williams crying and Mr. Stringfellow laughing behind the closed door. It really wasn’t his fault – not really, but he still felt responsible. The door to the office opened and he heard Fr. Richards say, “Not to worry, Henrietta. Tom Oswald said he could have everything back to normal for tomorrow night’s performance. It will be fine, you’ll see.”
Still dabbing her eyes with a lace handkerchief, Mrs. Williams walked down the hall and out the door. Joey was glad she hadn’t seen him.
“Well, young man, I think we’ve had enough excitement for one day. Let’s go find your dad, mom and sister so you can head home.” Placing his hand on Joey’s shoulder, they walked silently down the hallway, up the stairs, and into the new parish hall. Samantha and her mom were hanging the last costumes on the rack in the storage room – now dressing room – near the stage. Joey surveyed the disaster as they walked by. It was hard to believe that just a half hour ago all was right with the world.
That night, Joey dreamed of sheep. They were hanging over his head wearing halos, running around him chewing on his clothes, and blowing whistles that hung around their necks. He was glad when morning finally came.
At breakfast, Joey could tell that Sam was still mad. She wasn’t mad at him, just mad. This was her big year for the play and it might end up a disaster. She sat quietly, stirring her oatmeal and staring out the dining room window. Joey wasn’t hungry either. He slumped in his chair, hoping he might just be able to come down with an incurable disease before tonight’s performance. He didn’t want anything more to do with sheep, shepherds, mangers, or babies. He wanted to be out of the pageant business.
His mom and dad walked in silently to the kitchen table, each carrying a steaming cup of coffee and a plate of food. There was a knock at the door.
Joey heard his father invite Fr. Richards in, offering him a cup of coffee and roll. The pastor joined the family around the kitchen table.
“Guys, I’ve been thinking,” he said, after a few minutes of sipping coffee and eating a few bites of food. “Last night gave us an idea of what might have happened on that first Christmas. Can you imagine how frightened the sheep might have been when all those angels appeared? Just think how they may have scurried around. This was the most important night in history and something very different was taking place. Who knows, ...
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
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