I have no idea what I was thinking…
What possessed me to try to pull off an epic Christmas presentation is beyond me. Maybe I was just a sucker for punishment but the result still haunts me over 30 years later. Here’s what happened…
Inception of a crazy idea
It’s dangerous to ask what if but I asked “What if you connect Christmas with the Cross?” The author of we three kings did it in one his verses after all… but then again he wasn’t working with a youth group he had only known for three months.
Throwing caution to the wind I began to write my magnum opus the youth Christmas presentation to eclipse all previous presentations. And so I wrote a smash up of Christmas and Easter songs, a youth narrator, student musicians and a three channel sound board. I envisioned a spectacular show!
That was until the students told me that every previous presentation had been a complete disaster. Food was served while the students had sung their hearts out on the stage and even their own parents talked over it as they ate.
That’s when I got the brilliant idea to completely black out the windows in the gym where we would present. While we practiced the singing on an upright piano and others tried to pull together costumes for the wise men and the angels at the tomb, I rigged an overhead projector to become a spot light. But hey, we had a full month to pull this off, what could go wrong….
Like a Charlie Brown Christmas
I felt a little like Charlie Brown directing the Christmas play with his “friends.” Our “practices after church started well enough but with only one leader (me) to do everything the bored students waiting for their part began playing in the gym. In the chaos I remember one student’s older sister tearing a strip off of me because he couldn’t be one of the wise men. You know, I always thought that 3 was too small a number of wise men and although there were three types of gifts who’s to say their weren’t 4 of them. And then there was the parent who felt it would be much better if the wise men from Orient Far sang in Korean. Sure… that would make it more authentic. So I learned the lines in Korean and coached them through it with one week left. –And why couldn’t the old rugged cross be outlined in red and green Christmas lights it would really fuse the two ideas…right?
The Great Unraveling
The night before the presentation we had our last practice. The whole crew of 10 to 14 year olds helped me cover all of the windows in the gym with black garbage bags that I borrowed from a closet and held up with masking tape. By the time the practice was over I thought, “Maybe we can actually pull this off!” Maybe the parents will pay attention this year and the message will connect with visitors. Oh how young and foolish I was..
Things began to unravel when the adults were setting up the church for the big meal. Some of the deacons saw garbage bags stuck all over the room and decided to remove the ugly eyesore… I entered the gym as the last bag came down… Noooooo…. With two hours before the presentation I grabbed anyone I could to get new bags and put them up…
As the service ended and the people began to enter the gym the bags were up and the students were on the sides of the stage. The mics were in place on stands at the edge of the stage and the short mic cords were connected to the sound board on a table just in front of the stage. Song by song student by student the presentation went forward as I worked the makeshift spot light from the back.
The students were nervous and were afraid of the mics so the kept an unhealthy distance from them. There was a lot of feed back as the deacons pushed Peter a teen off the sound board and started increasing the volume. Other helpful elders got a hold of the mic stands and with each song pushed them further into the student’s faces.
It was the grand Finale to our Christmas pageant so naturally we ended with “The Old Rugged Cross” With shaky voices the junior high girls sang along with the upright piano. We could bearly hear them. Two of the deacons leapt up to the endge of the stage and pushed the mic stands into the girls faces. That’s when it happened! The mic cords pulled the sound board right off the table. Their was an amplified crash as the board smashed into the floor.
A quiet moment to reflect
I’m not proud of what I did next but I will tell you any way. Silently I backed away from the spot light and slipped out the side door of the gym. I took about twenty steps to the off limits Edgar and Muriel Clark Memorial Room, jimmied the lock with my penknife, shut the door behind me and sat in the Edith McGill memorial chair… in the dark. From a distance I heard the “The Old Rugged Cross” pounded out on the piano over and over again. I imagined the girls looking hopelessly for me from the stage as the deacons pulled on mic and speaker cords…. And I smiled …. Chuckled … and kept sitting there….
I was surprised to hear the gym erupt in strong sustained applause –the deacons had fixed the sound board! The pastor came to the mic. There was some more applause then a ten minute prayer for the food.
I made my way into the food line after most of their church had their food right behind Rick, one of the senior Highs. He looked at me smiled and said, “What are you going to do next year… It will be hard to be that….”