This weekend, thousands of smiling angels and worried lambs and not a few crabby shepherds will take part in their church’s annual Christmas pageant. Little Mary will hold a Cabbage Patch Jesus that appears to be smothering, and a handful of Wise Men will take private pride in being one of the three chosen ones while outwardly mumbling in nothing short of lackluster tones, “We’ve seen His star in the East and havecometoworshipHim.”
Parents, I am asking you not to wreck this year’s Christmas pageant by letting your children into church with chewing gum.
There. I said it. It’s out there. There’s no going back.
Just say no to Wrigley’s.
All of them. Don’t let your children go up in front of church with gum. That’s all there is to it.
When I was a little girl on Christmas Eve–wearing an itchy, homemade dress that matched my older sisters’ dresses–and climbing out of our blue Dodge minivan to head up the stairs to our country church in small town Iowa, my dad always had one reminder: “Spit out your gum.”
One Christmas he even said, as I walked toward the door, “If I see gum in your mouth up there . . .”
Lest my dad sound like the Grinch, he really just had expectations of us.
Like, that we wouldn’t be gnawing on rubbery gum in the middle of what should be at least a somewhat pious event: the retelling of our SAVIOR’S BIRTH.
That people wouldn’t be so in shock over how loudly we could pop our jaws chewing gum that they’d forget the Bible truths they were hearing.
That the focus wouldn’t be on us looking like my Great Pyrenees when she’s chowing down on a hunk of fat jammed in her jowls, but that we would instead be reverent in God’s house.
His words stuck. No pun intended.
It happened the year that I was Head Angel Number 1. I had a long recitation. I even got to make it while standing on a step ladder (as I weren’t tall enough already). And to make matters even cooler, a gold star with twinkling lights zipped in on an invisible wire in the middle of my dramatic recounting and perched behind my noggin.
I felt like a pretty big deal.
There I was, sitting in the pew, singing along, waiting for my teacher to give our row the signal to go up front. She motioned. I stood. I froze. I HAD GUM IN MY MOUTH. If I took one more step, I was certain my dad would see me, walk to the front of the church and physically remove me–and my wad of gum–from the premises. (And I actually semi believe he would have. Hi, Dad. Also, I love you.)
I had two options: I had to swallow that stick of gum or find a way to tuck it under my tongue for the duration of my Broadway-esque moment.
So I did neither. And if anybody wants to go look under the third or fourth pew on the north side of the church, you’ll probably find a wad of chewing gum still safely lodged there.
It’s totally mine.
Here’s the bigger picture: Christmas pageants can very easily turn into the equivalents of ballet recitals and FFA shows, which is to say that the focus can quickly change from Christ incarnating Himself to little Adriane spouting off memorized lines with white lights flashing behind her frizzy hair.
We don’t need, on top of that, the focus to be on our children chomping on gum like they are cows chewing their cud.
And I have seen a fair amount of cud-chewing in my day, people, let me tell you.
Remember that line from Miss Congeniality, when she’s eating a steak, and her coach says to her, “I’m sorry, what was the question? I was distracted by the half–masticated cow rolling around in your wide-open trap.”
Our children cannot be Miss Congeniality.
This Christmas Eve, let’s agree to opt for mints. Leave the bubblegum at home . . . for your kiddos and for you.
And instead, let’s let the focus be–not on son’s shepherd’s staff and the way he’s poking his sheep in the kneecaps . . . even if it the sheep IS his little brother–but on Jesus.
The Trident can wait.