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  • Dec23Mon

    Christmas Joy and Imperfection

    Drawing inspiration from two-legged cows and a technicolour bumblebee. December 23, 2013 by Major Wade Budgell
    Filed Under:
    Opinion & Critical Thought
    “Remember, if Christmas isn't found in your heart, you won't find it under a tree.”—Charlotte Carpenter

    The primary class at our church had just presented their Christmas pageant—the Nativity play—and it was just what you would expect. Two-legged cows, sheep and donkeys were on display in glittering disarray. Angels, shepherds and wisemen ignored the director completely to wave to mom and dad in the audience. There was even a bumblebee buzzing around, though I'm not sure of the bumblebee's role in the nativity scene, but nevertheless she was there in full technicolour.

    The piano was in one key and the soloist in another. A few of the characters who started out on stage finished up in the audience on mom's knee. I saw a little girl with a sad face leave the platform and run to her mother in the audience. Seconds later another little girl made the same trek and the fellow sitting next to me, with a puzzled look, said, “Didn't she come down just a few seconds ago?” Turns out it was her twin sister.

    If that wasn't enough, the baby Jesus was stolen from the manger twice, right there in church with 400 witnesses looking on, first by the bumblebee and later by a disgruntled shepherd who was not about to be upstaged by a bee.

    It was, in technical terms, anything but a perfect performance, but that was fine with all of us. It was one of those rare occasions when chaos and confusion is not only tolerated, but welcomed. No one complains that the same script has been used for the past 20 years (or is that 2,000 years?) The church was packed, even on a miserable day, and one could not have been more delighted if he or she had just been dazzled by watching a Broadway musical. It was sheer delight to sit for an hour to witness little children being children, bringing delight to the heart and a smile to the face.

    As I watched the children perform, my thoughts strayed elsewhere. I thought about the hundreds of children in our city whose parents and guardians had asked The Salvation Army to help them provide a meaningful Christmas for their families. I was reminded of the privilege the Army has in reaching out to hundreds of children who otherwise may not have very much to look forward to on Christmas morning. I thought also of the fact that, like the children's performance, life itself is not perfect. Like the baby Jesus being snatched from the manger in the Nativity play, the thief of poverty has intruded to snatch opportunity away from many families; the opportunity to enjoy a Christmas with even the very basics, a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings and gifts to bring lighten a child's heart.

    The compassion and generosity of an “army” of donors and volunteers makes it possible for The Salvation Army to “place the baby Jesus back in the manger”—to give back the opportunities that have been snatched from many families and children. Comedian Bernard Manning once quipped, “I once bought my kids a set of batteries for Christmas with a note on it saying, toys not included.”

    Thank you to the thousands of people in our communities who care enough for children to provide them with a Christmas with “toys included and, if necessary, batteries.”

    Major Wade Budgell is the assistant chief secretary at the territorial headquarters office in Toronto.

    (Photo: ©

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