This year I find myself realizing that not having a large family Christmas gathering leaves plenty of space to think about what we’re really celebrating at Christmas. To slow my heart to a more tempered pace this 2020 Christmas, I’m focusing on one of my favorite Christmas stories, Barbara Robinson’s The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
I wrote this blog post about it a few years ago. The post reminded me about all the things that make me love the story.
This classic story, written in 1972, never fails to remind me that I need to leave room in my heart to respond to Christmas as if I’d never heard the story of Christ’s birth before. And the story reminds me that even people I think don’t deserve to participate in the Christmas pageant might well be the people who will startle me into a new awareness of God’s great love.
The cigar-smoking children
As you will recall, the six Herdman children are the town’s bullies, who lie, cuss and smoke cigars–including the girls. They set fire to toolsheds and other buildings out of boredom. The one haven from the Herdmans for the rest of the town’s children is church, which holds no interest to the Herdmans.
That is, until one of them steals a kid’s dessert at school, and the child says, “That’s okay. I can eat all the desserts I want at Sunday school.” The next Sunday the Herdmans show up to case the joint for dessert.
The worst Christmas pageant ever
It happens to be the week of tryouts for the Christmas pageant, and the Herdmans end up with the lead roles. The town is aghast, and the mother who was so proud to have her baby play Jesus, withdraws her little one. Because of the Herdmans, the play isn’t rehearsed all the way through a single time. This is going to be the worst Christmas pageant ever!
But the Herdmans bring their own gifts for the newborn King at the actual pageant, and their authentically open hearts to the story they had never heard before causes everyone to see it afresh.
What makes this story a classic?
The Herdmans and their antics are fun. But the innocent way the rest of the town falls into their control is downright funny.
These wayward kids, who seem so tough, remind all of us not to prejudge whose heart is open to the Gospel. This 96-page story convicts the reader about his or her ideas of who is worthy to hold baby Jesus.
The sweet truth of what makes Christmas the best holiday ever (after Easter, of course).
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever brings us round to the essence of Christmas in so many ways. It takes aspects of it that we easily ritualize and draws us up short.
What’s your favorite Christmas classic and why? What about the writing makes it a winner?
What makes a story a classic? Click to Tweet
Why The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is a classic story. Click to Tweet