Charles Dickens once said, “It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas.”
Last Sunday evening I felt as though I had returned to my childhood. Even the anticipation was as I remember it.
In the porch of the home on the farm of Dwight and Sara Ollman, southwest of Thompson, N.D., Carla Krueger helped me slip a brilliantly white robe over my winter coat. Next she tied a rope sash around my waist and then handed me a ring of golden garland that would be my halo. Thankfully my halo slipped only once as I portrayed an angel in the live Nativity the people of Holmes United Methodist Church presented. There were no words for me to recite – just songs to sing as part of an angel choir.
Every moment was pure, sacred and serene pleasure.
The participants were as enthusiastic as could be even though many of them have done this for 25 years. For all the world, the Ollman’s barn and horse arena became what we picture as the stable where Jesus was born.
There were two curly haired sheep in one pen and a young brown Angus calf in another. The calf was as persistent at proclaiming its message as was the Rev. Mark Ellingson, who served Holmes for 27 years and now is Altru Hospital’s Hospice chaplain. Several times, as Mark was reading the Christmas story from Luke 2, that calf bawled its heart out as if saying, “you tell ‘em brother.”
At one point, Mark paused, turned to the calf and said, “I AM telling them!”
Of all the angels, there was only one with wings and I was told to follow her to know what to do. That was Joan Bahr who has been Gabriel ever since the pageant’s inception. Joan, also a wonderful song leader, had a few takers sing with her as she led, “I Am So Glad,” in Norwegian. My daughter-in-law, Jyl, was a very happy one of those.
The pageant began with Curt Krueger and Joan reading prophecies that tell of the coming of the Messiah from the books of Isaiah and Micah. Joan and Donna Roeder then sang a most beautiful and harmonic song titled, “No Room.”
As Mark began the Christmas story, Mary (Emily Olson) and Joseph (Matt Bahr) appeared before the people atop horses. They dismounted when they reached the stable and placed their doll baby in the manger. It was all so real – from the angels singing from within the stable, to the shepherds coming from afar and the Wisemen bringing their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
When everyone was in place, Kevin Wold, sang a verse of “Mary Did You Know,” And Joan, looking over Mary’s shoulder and into the eyes of the baby sang, “Five Little Fingers.”
The songs everyone joined in on were: What Child Is This, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Angels We Have Heard on High, We Three Kings, Silent Night.
It was wonderful to meet the Rev. Sheri Fadley, pastor at Holmes. She played an angel, too, and I’m thinking that role comes pretty naturally to her.
Others taking part, some of whom I met, were: Tasha Beine, Alicia Fadley, Shelly Wold, Patty Beine, Jason Hayes, Kevin Wold, Wayne Roeder, Betty Ellingson, Makenzie Schwartz, Carla Krueger, Danine Lenz, Jim Yates, Blaine Melfald, Zac Crawford, Seth Russell, David Russell, Jacob Russell, Sara Ollman and Paul Lenz.
Paul is the one who brought the idea of a Live Nativity to his fellow church members a quarter of a century ago.
I witnessed deep conviction and dedication among these people. I do believe their celebration of Christmas would not be complete without this gift to their visitors.
Incidentally, they’re thinking nearly 1,000 people came to see the Live Nativity when it was presented twice last Saturday evening and twice last Sunday evening. I noticed Sunday that some people who saw it at 6 p.m. stayed for the second presentation at 7 p.m.
It was a very cold night and I thank Danine for graciously sharing her hand warmers with me. They were like pieces of warm toast in my gloves.
Usually it’s grandparents who go to their grandchildren’s Christmas programs. This time the tables were turned and it was especially heartwarming to hear, “Hi Grandma,” and to turn to see, amongst the hay and straw, my granddaughters, Amelia and Grace, who had come from the Twin Cities. It was when we three hugged that my halo slipped.
As I mentioned, it was a pretty chilly night. A couple days later, Grace, 14, wrote on her Facebook page: Never go to a live nativity when it’s 1 degree . . . unless your grandma is an angel. Who knew I was of angel descent?
People of Holmes United Methodist – thank you so much for inviting me to be an angel in your Live Nativity. How refreshing it was to feel like a child again!