Learning the Ropes
one to one: Lessons about life, ministry, and grandkids
by Keith Burden, Executive Secretary, National Association of Free Will Baptists
The church I grew up in averaged about 100 people in morning worship. It provided the primary frame of reference spiritually for the first 18 years of my life. From my perspective, it was the “gold standard” for all things church related. Our pastor was the only full-time staff member. Volunteers worked with children and youth.
One Christmas season remains etched in my memory. A group of ladies decided to produce a Christmas pageant. The narration was taken straight from Scripture, and familiar carols were sung to transition between the various passages read. Members of the youth group wore appropriate costumes and reenacted the nativity. The spectacle was presented on the Sunday night before Christmas. Only one rehearsal was scheduled—the afternoon before the performance.
The pageant had the usual cast of biblical characters: Mary and Joseph, a couple of angels, shepherds and, of course, the Magi. The stage setting was simple but effective—a stable constructed of wooden poles and cardboard accented by a manger made of sticks and a few bales of hay. A star wrapped in aluminum foil was carefully positioned above the stable. Except for the angels, costumes consisted of bathrobes with towels for headdresses held in place with drapery cords.
Like most young boys, I was a reluctant, yet somewhat excited participant. Proud that I was chosen to portray one of three wise men, my assigned task was simple and straightforward. On cue, I was to enter from the back of the sanctuary and slowly walk down the center aisle singing “We Three Kings.” Thankfully, the words to the song were written and taped to the top of the gift I bore from afar (a decorative cigar box painted gold).
The rehearsal went relatively well except for one small bobble. The oldest teenage boy in our youth group was spared the embarrassment of wearing a bathrobe and given the task of serving as narrator. His escape from embarrassment, however, was short lived! Obviously nervous and not accustomed to reading King James English, he said, “And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his exposed (espoused) wife, being great with child.” Needless to say, the mispronunciation was corrected at the performance.
Chances are, most who attended that cold, December evening performance have long since forgotten the Christmas program. However, it still lives on in the memory of one of the wise men more than four decades later. Such experiences leave a lasting impression on young minds. Church Christmas programs and family celebrations involve time and work. But it is worth the effort to create spiritual memories with the children in your life. Those memories may just last a lifetime. Merry Christmas!
About the Column
One to One is a regular feature of ONE Magazine. Written by Keith Burden, executive secretary of the National Association of Free Will Baptists, the column explores life, ministry...and the joys of grandchildren.