There is something about Christmas programs that makes me feel as if I have been under the ministrations of a slow but thorough torturer: one that provides not only a view of the tools to be used so that I may better understand and anticipate the horrors to come, but gives me a program of the evening’s agonies so I know in which order they are to be used and thus I may, should I so desire, scream along.
Except in the unshakable traditions of church committees everywhere, where is it written that every youth in the church must participate whether they want to or not? The ones performing under duress are easy to pick out: they’re the ones usually handed the microphone for the Big Solo.
There is always a standout, the one boy or, in our case, girl who can sing like a Broadway star, who has the vocal control and maturity of tone reserved for singers twice her age. She is invariably paired with a singer or, worse, ensemble of singers who not only cannot carry a tune but when given one search for the nearest hole into which to drop it. It diminishes her and shames them, and you can see it in their eyes when she opens the pipes. They know it, she knows it. The director, apparently, does not.
The little kids, however, are always fun, poured and stuffed and folded into costumes, they invariably play the stable animals; the donkeys, the goats, the sheep (though, conspicuously, no camels.) Their songs are exactly what you would expect: comedic and cute, and they steal the show like no trio of high-school age boys badly dressed as Roman soldiers can, no matter how much the soldiers mug for the girls in the third row.
I know, I know, my cynicism has no place here. You’re right, you’re absolute right. The point of the whole is lost on me, because by the end of it I have to deal with a pair of kids who have been onstage for hours too long, who are tired and hungry and itchy and hot from their costumes. The grandmas and grandpas of the world sit in the congregation and chuckle and enjoy the spectacle and maybe come away with a bit more Christmas spirit, and why shouldn’t they? They don’t have to put the kids to bed tonight.
I’m happy for them. Merry Christmas, ho ho ho, have a cookie.
As for me: I like riding around in the car, looking at the decorated houses, singing “Rudolph” and “Angels We Have Heard on High” with my kids. They can’t outsing me, yet. That day will come, and I’m in no hurry. One Christmas at a time, if you please.