16. Divinely Staged

16. Divinely Staged

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Merry Christmas!

Divinely Staged

Christmas is not just a time for festivity and merry making. It is more than that. It is a time for the contemplation of eternal things. The Christmas spirit is a spirit of giving and forgiving.

~James Cash Penney

I smiled as I received a compliment from a guest about my high-necked black velvet dress. I stifled a laugh when her look of approval changed once her eyes drifted down to my black hightop sneakers. As the drama director for the church Christmas event, I would don my heels just before the program started, but until then I needed the comfort of sneakers to run from problem to problem.

Crooked angel wings, torn costumes, temperamental cast members, latecomers, sick singers; no matter how well organized the program, there were always last-minute glitches. This particular performance seemed to have an abundance of them.

One of the main characters in the drama approached me. I encouraged her before she even spoke a word. “Ann, you’ll do great. You’re a natural.”

Her mouth quivered as she fought back tears. “That’s not the problem. You’re not going to believe this, but my parents just walked in.”

I grabbed her hands. “That’s wonderful! You’ve been praying so hard for them!”

She gave me a tremulous smile. “I know. But they haven’t spoken to me in months. They haven’t wanted anything to do with me since we had that huge argument.”

I looked at her with a confused expression. “How did they know about tonight’s program?”

She shrugged. “I sent them an invitation. I figured at this point I had nothing to lose.”

Her tears started to spill over and I gave her a quick hug. I pulled back to look into her eyes. “Well, it’s nothing short of a miracle that they came tonight. It’s a step toward reconciliation. Just focus on your part and do your best.”

She took a deep breath, gave me a tiny smile, and walked off to study her lines one more time.

Now my thoughts were in a whirl. There had been a serious split in Ann’s family. Hopefully our performance of a modern-day Christmas drama would make a difference and help to heal the rift. I went back to the business of torn wings, cough-drop handouts and other program problems. The lights flickered as a reminder for people to take their seats. I yanked two little sisters apart before they ripped off their halos, located a Sunday school teacher and handed the kids over to her.

I ran down the hallway to grab my shoes in the coatroom. I teetered on one foot while waving to some last-minute guests. They eyed me with curiosity, shook their heads and walked into the sanctuary.

I flicked a brush through my curls, slipped on a sparkly vest over my velvet dress and stood still for a moment. Before I entered the sanctuary I said a silent prayer: “Here we go, God. Without you this could be a disaster. With you, it will be outstanding. Please bless all our efforts and practice, and use this drama to reach people’s hearts tonight with the true message of Christmas.”

I slid into a seat near the front. After a brief introduction the drama began. The two main characters opened the scene perfectly. The story unfolded with only minor mistakes, nothing obvious to the audience. The musical performances were perfect. The children were adorable and able to bluff their way through anything. The spotlights came on and off on cue. The chaotic scene was wonderful and the audience laughed at the right times. The soloist presented a moving rendition of the theme song. Finally we reached the climax of the story—Ann’s dramatic speech and prayer.

I leaned forward, a bit worried. Ann had not done well in our last rehearsal for this final scene. She didn’t portray enough emotion or raw feeling. Something was missing. Yet I had hesitated to push her as she was already stressed.

I had no idea how this crucial scene would play out. On stage, Ann said an absent-minded goodbye to her co-worker as she looked over her great-grandmother’s journal. At this part of the story she was supposed to read aloud a prayer of her great-grandmother, written many years ago. She began to read and the fictional tale and present-day reality merged.

Ann’s voice choked with tears as she read the written prayer. “God, please bless my family and all those I love and hold dear. Help them to understand and know the reality of Your presence and the true meaning of Christmas. Let them remain close to each other throughout their lives, celebrating all those special moments together.” Her voice quivered with true emotion, she broke down several times and the audience sat in complete silence, captured by the performance. Very few people knew the true story of what was taking place.

During all the rehearsals, Ann had no idea that “those I love and hold dear” would actually be in the audience for her that evening. The most difficult scene of the drama turned out to be a divinely staged masterpiece. Ann stumbled her way through the prayer, no longer acting. After the drama, Ann reunited with her family. They shared tears, laughter and hugs and remained for the fellowship after the program.

Ann and I still joke about that drama. I shared with her my initial concern that she would not show enough emotion in the final scene. She assures me now that if she had been any more emotional, we would have had to pick her up off the floor.

At a time when hearts are softened by the beauty of the Christmas story, that staged Christmas drama brought forth another Christmas miracle.

~Cynthia A. Lovely

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