Sunday, 22 December 2019

Pause In Advent #4- Let The Children Come

I've spent the whole week 'pausing' [in between panicked dashes to the bathroom] but one afternoon, I persuaded Bob to climb into the freezing loft, and fetch down a large plastic box of "School resources - mostly RE". I'm never going to need all those worksheets again, they may as well be recycled. I sorted through them and ended up with one small folder of 'stuff worth keeping' But as I did it, I was remembering different schools, different churches - and the dozens of Nativity Plays I've been involved in down the years.
And I suddenly remembered one year...We were halfway through the Children's Nativity Service in Church. Lots of parents there, everything on the platform ready [manger, baby hidden beneath Mary's chair, props on the front pew ready to be collected] and all the children in their costumes. It was the carol before the main drama. I felt a tugging at my sleeve, and there was 'Joseph', in the obligatory dressing gown and tea-towel. 
The family had only joined our church that autumn - Dad was African-American, Mum was English and he was a bright lad. "Angela" he whispered anxiously - he had the sort of panicked look on his face that made me anxious too. Was it stage fright? Did he need the loo? Where would I find an instant understudy?
I knelt down in the pew so our faces were level. Around the congregation were gaily carolling. "Is there something wrong?" I asked gently
"Well, I just wondered, is it OK for me to be playing Joseph?"
"Of course it is- you'll be brilliant"
"But...but...before they've always made me be a Wise Man, because I'm black!"
I gave him a little hug
"Listen - Joseph, Mary - and Jesus too - had faces that were closer to the colour of your skin than to mine. So don't worry - you are absolutely the right person to play this part"
His eyes sparkled - "Jesus had skin a bit like mine then?"  
"Yep! He sure did!"
He played his part with confidence and joy.
And I was so happy for him.
And I sadly remembered all the children who have been typecast down the years - "He looks foreign, he can be a Wise Man" "She's such a pretty blonde, blue eyed child, Mary or one of the angels?" Short, plain brunette girls ended up being junior shepherds, or pages to the Magi. Unless you had a clear voice and could read well [and then they were almost always Narrators and often denied a costume. Believe me I've been there!]
Immanuel means God with us. There is a place for every child around the crib - and we have no right to put the less pretty ones at the back, or make the minority child the 'stranger'. Let the little ones come to me, for of such is the Kingdom of heaven


  1. Thank you for sharing this, Angela. How wonderful that you were able to reassure that little boy that he was well qualified to play Joseph!

  2. A lovely memory, Angela. I hope the confidence you gave to that small boy continues, and may more people see children in the way that you do.
    Warm wishes for a joyful and peaceful Christmas and 2020.

  3. Well said, Angela! Ours is a small,traditional and elderly church with only a few children. It gave me great pleasure this morning to hijack the offertory and send two very small girls down the aisle with the bread and wine - after all, it's their church too. After the service one of them came to the microphone to explain she'd made a birthday card - for Jesus. (apparantly she was disappointed to learn he wouldn't be there in person to receive it. Yes, I know, but the theology wouldn't fit in the birthday slot.)
    Wishing you all a happy, peaceful and blessed Christmas and new year. x

  4. This brings back a memory from primary school when I was told I couldn’t be an angel in the play because I had almost black hair. I was immediately cast as a witch and knew I would never be good enough to be an angel how ever hard I tried.

  5. Ooh stomach bug here too. Hope you feel better soon

    1. Deepest sympathies - esp with all the hassle of APs move

  6. It IS sad that children are excluded because of what they look like from previous parts! I never wanted to be anything other than a sheep (and HATED being Gabriel the one time was forced to do that at church) but I can imagine lots of disappointment. Luckily at our school, we don't seem to go on appearance- both Mary and the angel had dark hair and dark skin- as it should be!


Always glad to hear from you - thanks for stopping by!
I am blocking anonymous comments now, due to excessive spam!