Posted by: trevormeers | December 20, 2009

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

As a kid, I remember being bothered by just one photo of myself. Despite a long series of school pictures showing polyester suits, cereal-bowl haircuts and unfortunate eyewear, I took long pause over only a single shot. Someone snapped it when I was in about fifth grade, on the day the whole school gathered to give the principal a birthday cake. When I found the picture on the school bulletin board a week later, I skipped over the boss with the sheet cake up front and zeroed in on all of us kids in the background. Everyone was beaming. The kid who combed his hair like Chewbacca and shoved everyone around. The kid who got shoved around by everyone. Even the girl who rolled out Ally Sheedy’s personality before it showed up in The Breakfast Club. All smiles. Except me. For some reason, I looked like I’d sucked a horsefly up one nostril.

After the fact, I stood staring at the photo, wondering why I looked so angry. Was this how I always looked? Was I really crankier than every single kid in the fifth grade? I worried over it for a long time, which probably only made me look even surlier in every subsequent photo. I was a pretty content kid, but who would know it from looking at me?

That image flashed back into my mind Thursday night as I watched Allison’s school Christmas program. As a third grader, she was part of the chorus (in both the Greek and Broadway senses) in the fourth-grade play about Twinkle, a star who needs an affirming journey to realize that God already gave her all the strength it takes to light the stable in Bethlehem.

I spent a lot of the play savoring the fact that the kids’ set list provided a blessed break from The First Noel and Joy to the World. But I spent even more of the show watching Allison’s face through a long camera lens, waiting for a moment that would someday wind up in a slide show at her high school graduation or wedding reception. Every second of watching Allison watch Twinkle’s journey made me a prouder dad. And it had nothing to do with her role as part of the Milky Way Trio (the first group to tip off Twinkle about Jesus’ location).

To me, it mattered only that she beamed through the whole show, as if she hadn’t already seen it four times in rehearsal. She cracked up at Chippy the Chipmunk’s laugh lines. She stood with her mouth open as Twinkle revealed in a soliloquy that she was coming to grips with God’s purpose for her life. When the big musical finish arrived, Alli raised both arms and sang “Shine! Shine for Jesus!”

It’s how she takes most of life. She acts, to quote Walt Whitman, as if she views “every hour of the day and night as an unspeakable perfect miracle.” Or, in truth, I hope her attitude derives more directly from the spirit that inspired the Psalmist: “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.”

Best of all, Allison’s joy is one she can’t keep to herself. Her second-grade teacher told me, “It’s obvious she loves her little sister a lot. She talks about her every day.” She told me Allison finds the loneliest kids in class and plays with them. Those two points, I’m sure, are related.

And then there’s the Christmas program, on- and offstage. Before the show, Teri asked a woman from church if she’d entertain Katie during the program so our whole family could watch. On the Sunday before the show, Allison stopped Mrs. Simpson at church and told her, “Thank you for watching Katie so my mom and dad can watch my program together.”

There’s no arguing that you can’t match the cute in watching little kids sing “Away in a Manger” or hold up the “C” in Christmas during the annual program. But Allison’s part in those programs never brought a bigger smile to the sober-looking fifth grader-turned-dad than this year, when she simply looked happy to be there.

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