Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Christmas Story

The choir arrived early so that we could rehearse prior to the start of the Christmas pageant. While we were singing, I noticed a young mother with a little blonde girl at the altar rail. I had never seen them before, and guessed that they must be here visting grandparents for the holidays. The daughter looked to be about about four-years-old, and was wearing a red velvet Christmas dress. The mother was kneeling and they were talking, the little girl's eyes riveted to her mother's face. As we sang, I kept looking over to them, captivated by how intent and focused they were together.

An hour later, the pageant was in full swing, with various parishioners playing the parts of angels, Herod, Mary and Joseph. Suddenly, the little girl I had noticed earlier came walking up the aisle. Her mother never moved to scold or stop her, she just let her come.

The little one pushed through the angels, proceeded past the choir, and laboriously climbed the marble steps up onto the altar, where Fr. Tom was sitting in an ornate, carved chair. She marched straight up to him, and held her arms out to be picked up. He lifted her into his lap as if they had known each other all their lives. The grandfatherly priest spent the rest of the service with her nestled in his arms. Each time the ritual called for prayer, he took her hand and they climbed the steps to the altar to get the book. Then together, holding hands, they turned and faced the congregation to read.

Her little face was full of light – it was clear that she simply needed to be there. It was an emotional, unexpected manisfestation of the true spirit of Christmas. In religious terms, I would say that she was filled with the Holy Spirit, and it felt to me as though we were visited through her.

That (and the unmistakable resemblance to Cindy Lou Who) moved me to tears.

And a child shall lead them (Isaiah 11:6).

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