Rye Congregational Church
Celebrating God’s Love
In the Heart of Rye since 1726
Biblical • Traditional • Independent
Sunday Services at 10 a.m.
Welcome to Rye Congregational Church
“Let us go now even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord has made known unto us.”
Those were my lines. I was a shepherd. I had a kitchen towel and my sister’s knitted headband on my head, and I wore my winter parka turned inside out revealing the imitation sheep’s wool lining. I had a hockey stick for a shepherd’s crook and Indian moccasins completed my Christmas play costume which I believed was worthy of TV – the pinnacle of theatrical art.
There was some trouble with the hockey stick. It got taken away from me by the teacher. There was some other trouble also. As we practiced for our upcoming matinee showing on a Friday before Christmas, I was having a hard time focusing on the flow of the play. I only guessed when it was time to say my lines. The teacher had taken to whispering my name and then gently poking me with the hockey stick when it came my turn.
In retrospect, I realize now that my world was too small for this, and my awareness of what was going on beyond my immediate reach was quite limited. Sitting me in the back of the classroom because I was the second tallest in the class was also a mistake. Even then I could sense that I would pay better attention if I was closer to the action. From the back of the classroom, whatever was going on up front seemed like worlds away. That was my problem with the Christmas play; I couldn’t keep track of what was going on. And I had not yet considered the meaning of the words I was supposed to say. If I had, I would have understood that my lines came after, not before the angels appeared.
When the day finally came, I got the hockey stick back and I said my lines at the right place, good and loud, but only after a little nudge and an awkward delay of a second or two, enough to make my face turn red. By Christmas morning, however, all attention had shifted to the real joy of Christmas, courtesy of Linus Van Pelt. This was the first year of the Charlie Brown Christmas television broadcast: December 9, 1965. As Linus explained it for Charlie Brown, the real meaning of Christmas shed its light upon me as well. I perked up and said my lines at just the right time following his recitation from the gospel of Luke. I now knew what my lines meant and where they belonged.
My world grew a little larger that day, especially in regard to Christmas. There was now more to it than the things with a name on them under the tree. That Christmas I enjoyed watching others opening their presents. I decided to give my parents a present next Christmas. I made a table decoration out of a birch log and a candle which I found in the basement, and some greenery I trimmed off the shrubs out front with my Mom’s good sewing scissors. It was really nice and they liked it. But Christmas is complicated. The neighbor spoiled things a bit when he called asking my Dad if he knew anything about the birch tree that had been cut down in the little woodlot behind his back yard. So new lessons followed about “taking in the bigger picture.” I guess my world grew some more that Christmas and now included our neighbors.
In all the years since the world has continued to grow, bit by bit, Christmas by Christmas, to include new people and places and many far beyond my reach whom I’ve come to care about and to pray for. But some things never seem to change. I’m still reciting my lines, practicing for weekend matinees. And I still love Christmas and have some awkward moments. But what matters most now is the love I feel and joy of Christ at Christmas. It casts a glow across all of life as far as I can see.
With God’s help, I hope to see more and more of it each year, further and further beyond my reach to include the whole human family whom God loves. I long for the day when we will all feel a part of one loving family. In the truest sense, we are one family. As our world grows a little bigger, I know we’ll have more to be thankful for, more to love, more of everything that is good.
Merry Christmas to all!
And may God bless us, every one!
In Christ our Lord and Savior,
The Preacher in the Rye