Saturday, December 15, 2007

Live Nativity

It is tremendously important for me to feel connections in my life; connections with my family, friends, church and community. I remember watching the movie Steel Magnolias and marveling at the relationships between this strong group of women that operated within an intimate community of support and gossip. At the time I was covetous of this small town with its rituals, customs and traditions. I wanted to be part of a larger group of individuals brought together by some common purpose.

I suppose this is why I thrived in the world of theater. Everyone works together towards accomplishing a common goal. Each person contributes their unique skills to make the show a success. I loved it. In this environment I met some lifelong friends (Joy and Mike to name only two) and I like to think that I added something distinctive as well.

There are many small pockets of our lives where we can feel this spirit and one very important area for me is church. I have been a church going, choir singing lad since I can remember. I have a deep belief system that I often question and challenge but the basics are there. As an adult I have succeeded in finding a church that fosters a feeling of family even as my own family lives further away than I'd like.

If it is true that we are all blessed with unique gifts, mine can be found in performance (or witnessing or preaching or whatever term is appropriate when relating to church). I sing with the choir, I often act as liturgist and recently I even filled in for our pastor by delivering a sermon on 'The Good Samaritan' when she was away at a conference.

The church also does some outreach to the larger community that includes the usual food drives and various walks to support local charities. Each year we host a chicken BBQ providing exceptionally tasty dinners at low prices and every so often during the holiday season we create a live nativity.

I love this.

I took part in it for the first time last year. Basically, you sign up to portray a character (I play Joseph - earthly father of Jesus) and stand outside, in the cold, for the enjoyment of onlookers in passing cars. People are encouraged to stop in for some soup, salad, desert and fellowship.

It all sounds so holy and right minded, no? But aside from the fellowship and community building there is a sweetly wicked side that I wouldn't miss. Little details that go unnoticed by most folk.

Like the infant Jesus lying in the manger in swaddling clothing (pictured left). I do not know who chose this particular doll to represent our Lord and savior but I applaud the creativity involved. This looks like a young Carol Channing and if we are all supposed to be created in this image no wonder we have issues.

This baby Jesus also has a pretty ribbon in his hair. This brought about comments related to letting him be who he is and not censoring his true nature. Well, there is a nice lesson in tolerance and acceptance so perhaps we were on to something after all.

We also had two goats on hand last night who added a bit of spontaneity to the proceedings. Keeping a couple of randy goats in line for two and a half hours was entertaining enough, not to mention the occasional gifts they were compelled to leave the newborn king. But being that our three teenage wise men decided to bail after 45 minutes to make like The Rockettes for approaching traffic we were happy someone was making an effort.

Tomorrow morning I am once again playing Joseph. This time in our Christmas pageant which I am sure will be a wonderful fiasco, at least judging from our 'rehearsal' this afternoon. I could not be more satisfied.

18 comments:

Ladron de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Well, Gary, I am sure that you made a very respectable Joseph despite that somewhat questionable (ahem) Jesus. I hope you didn't take offense at my nativity video. Though of Jewish lineage, I am Unitarian and embrace the nativity story along with a long list of other religious traditions. Many blessing for the seasons and the joy of being with those you love and cherish!

kimy said...

thank goodness there are no donkeys in the live nativity .... many years ago I almost lost my thumb to a donkey who must have mistaken it for a carrot!

and I must say, I was a bit shocked as to the choice of baby jesus - but hey what can one say!

Pod said...

har har! i love baby jesu channing. if i were stage manager, i would plant different babies each night just to try and make the players crack. when i was in the nativity once (i was one of the three kings complete with tea towel strapped to forehead), my friend wendy hall, playing mary, was sitting on the edge of the stage, and somehow rolled off down the side between stage and backdrop. of course i guffawed without inhibition, and was punished after the show......
humourless turkey turds!

Joy Keaton said...

Oh.My.GOD! I laughed so hard I was crying - and that's AFTER I'd already seen the Carol Channing/Baby Jesus doll! Your church is so very NOT like the one I was forced to attend as a kid. What a hoot!

BTW break a leg at your gig tomorrow! ;)

lettuce said...

haha, that is very funny. Yes you should def. go with pods suggestion about the substitute babies.

is there no chance of some vid. of your performance?

Steve said...

Oh, Gary, you should really make a video. I am dying to see this. :)

And after all, "Jesus is a Girl's Best Friend"!

Gary said...

Gregg - I LOVED your nativity video! I always feel it is good to mix the tone of things to embrace the serious side and the humorous. One complements the other. Have a happy holiday as well, but I am not through discussing the season.

Kimy - I would have loved to have had a donkey but perhaps, given my adoration of my thumbs, it worked out for the best. The goats gave us enough worry. They had treats that were stored in a coffee can and we joked that it was the official coffee of the holy family. Last year we were much more sedate - but this year was more fun.

Podlet on stage dressed as a king and LYAO is a sight I can envision. I am always intrigued by the choices people make when placing the baby Jesus in the manger. I have a friend whose father spray painted a doll white. It is the most frightenting thing to peek in to find this alabaster baby with dead eyes and crazy hair staring back at you. I took a pic of it last year and sent it around. Crazy stuff!

Joy - You know it is all about the entertainment at my little church. Did I find the perfect place to worship or what? Maybe it is just a Methodist thing? The show went well today. The kids were wonderful...but the adults were the ones who kept making mistakes. I did get a big laugh when I lifted baby Carol out of the manger by her head in order to escape King Herod. "Thank you, I'll be here all week."

Lettuce - The video sounds like a much better idea than it would be in actuality. This was all 'behind the scenes' stuff. Folks driving by or stopping in for soup only saw good little folks singing Christmas carols in three part harmony. Maybe I'll remember to tape it next year - a behind the nativity extras feature.

Steve - Hey, maybe that'll catch on. I have images of this doll springing to life and putting on the eleven o'clock number.

Anonymous said...

The doll really is funny!

lettuce said...

'jesus is a girls best friend' lol

Reya Mellicker said...

This is fabulous! How did it feel to play the part of Joseph? Any insights you can offer? Really, I love it that you're doing this. Any time you deliver a sermon, I want to be with the congregation, listening intently.

You are soooo coool!!!

Yes, I too love communities, which is why I love Capitol Hill where we're friendly and connected with our neighbors - on purpose! It's why I love my small circle of blog kin, too.

Much love to you, out there in the cold, doing a devotional act. I salute you. BRAVO!!

Salty Miss Jill said...

Oh, you MUST post the photos!
I admire you for your committment, invlovement, and ability to keep a straight face in the presence of baby Channing.

WAT said...

What a darling little post Gary. I'm touched, except little Jesus looks way too Aryan for my tastes, but I'll let it pass this time.

I too like church and stuff, but never go due to being damned to hell for my sexual orientation. I suppose I could find a more friendly church that appeals more to me and stuff, but I've never made the time really.

I'm sure u make a fine Joseph, handsome man.

Gledwood said...

Hi!
The doll looks like one my (fictional) hound of hell English Mastiff with sever attitude problem would savage with gusto... if you're wondering what I'm guffling on about go to my main blog http://gledwood2.blogspot.com where all is revealed at the top and you can vote upon her name!
As for nativity plays... the British news is full of the fact that these are increasingly being banned by our ever more Muslimized society of late... I'm not saying anything else though!

Here's wishing you a very Merry One
though
and a
Happier New Year!

All the best 2u from
Gledwood
"Vol 2"...

;->...

Florecita said...

Dear Gary, Wishing you a Merry, merry Christmas... from within, so you can create everything you need in life...

Love and blessings!

Gary said...

Reya,

Thanks honey for the support. I would love to have you there while I preach sometime, if it ever happens again (which I kinda doubt).

It was interesting to think about Joseph but since an angel appeared to him as well to tell him of the virgin birth I think it made things a little easier to swallow. I love to imagine conversation without the angel announcing the plans beforehand. "Uh, what? A virgin birth? C'mon Mary"

Thanks for being my blog community. This (blogging thing)has been a wonderful experience because of the friends I have made.

Salty - I didn't say I kept a straight face, did I? Well, maybe when the cameras were focused in my direction but otherwise...

Wat - Yes, I can see how the whole being damned to Hell thing could put a damper on the church going. I for one do not believe that that is true. What is hell or heaven anyway? So many theories but who really knows?

Gledwood - Thanks for reading and for you comment. I will head over to check out your blog as well. Have a merry one yourself.

Florecita - A blessed holiday to you as well and a fantastic new year.

Arielle said...

Thanks for sharing this in your post. I was in need of some cheering up when I came visiting your blog. I think it's more important that we admit to look for amusing things in the more serious. :) It's also important to remember what Christmas is really all about...and you've written it.

Have a great Christmas, Gary.

Arielle said...

I meant--'more important THAN we admit'...

Kay said...

HI GARY,
I JUST READ YOUR NATIVITY STORY. IT WAS A DELIGHTFUL END TO A LONG DAY AT WORK. I LOVED THE BABY JESUS, STILL LAUGHING. WHO IS TO SAY JESUS MIGHT NOT BE A JESSIE? LOTS OF FEMINISTS WOULD THINK SO.

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