A Children’s Christmas Pageant Lights My Way

By Khouria Mary Honoré

On December 15 children and families of our St. Vladimir’s community presented a small concert and Nativity pageant, including a special procession in honor of Saint Lucia, the 3rd-century martyr who had brought light and nourishment to her fellow Christians held within a darkened prison. What glorious, sacred, adorable, holy chaos! Watching my two young sons and their friends wander about the seminary chapel in their attempts to tell the story of Christ’s birth was (let’s just be honest) slightly hilarious.

But perhaps—I thought as I watched their earnest attempts—God feels the same way watching me at times, since I am one of His “little children.” Perhaps He chuckles to Himself as I wander about the chapel of my soul, trying to figure out and work out my life’s story. And I further contemplated: just as all my snapshots from that evening’s Nativity presentation turned out blurry due to dealing with tiny humans in the dark, so might God view my attempts to do, to share, and to be as less than clearly focused!

But this moment of the Incarnation—when the God-man was born on Earth as a tiny human who shook the very universe and shocked all of creation—this moment is emblazoned in eternity with perfect clarity. And at this moment every year the Christ Child begins to turn the chaos of my soul into newness, wholeness, and perfection.

I remember my first Christmas as a mother. My firstborn son was then two-and-a-half-months old. Though raised in the Orthodox Church, I felt as though I were hearing the beautiful Nativity hymns for the first time: “I behold a strange and wonderful mystery: heaven, the cave, the cherubic throne, the Virgin, the manger—the noble place where Christ lay—the uncontainable God whom we magnify in song.” Looking up at the icon of the Nativity and seeing the Theotokos and her motherly love for Christ, God’s Only-begotten Son, was so moving.

But nobody told me how hard parenting would actually be! It felt like “learning by doing.” (I hesitate to say “trial and error,” because we are talking here about raising tiny human beings!) Who can describe such a wonderful, brutal, beautiful, heartbreaking, challenging task?

Yet, when I remember that I am God’s child, I have so much more grace with my own children. I recall another incident in our seminary chapel that continues to teach me that lesson.

It had been a particularly rambunctious morning liturgy. About one and half hours into the service, most of us parents were looking around with eye-rolling exasperation. Our kids were just done. It was loud and it was crazy.

Then a middle-aged woman in our chapel community, observing the children, whispered to me, “They express how my soul feels sometimes in church!” Her perplexed smile suggested, “Am I crazy? Or do you understand what I’m trying to say?” I actually felt tears coming to my eyes. With relief and an understanding chuckle I whispered back, “They express how my soul feels, too!” Smiling in agreement we stood together, waiting to kiss the cross at liturgy’s end.

Any parent who has ever brought their small children to church can relate to what I am saying. We do our very best, but every parent has “one of those days” (or lots of “those days”) from time-to-time. And, our children’s behavior can, at times, solicit comments from fellow parishioners—some like the sweet words I had heard, and others, not!

Yet, as we celebrate the feast of Christ’s Incarnation, I reflect on that sweet comment again. Jesus told us, “Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them, for such is the kingdom of heaven.” So many times I had neglected His command because of self-conscious worry: “What will people think of me? What will they think of my children? How will I ever learn to be a ‘Khouria’? It’s hard enough just learning to be a wife and mother. It’s hard enough to try and be myself!” Thankfully I encountered many warm and loving people within Christ’s body who were  gracious to me, and taught me to be gracious with myself—because our God is gracious and loving!

When I recall that I am a child of God, parenting suddenly becomes a sacred vocation. That God loves me unconditionally, so much so that “He sent His Only-Begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life,” gives me pause.

During this festive season of Jesus Christ’s Nativity I pray to not be distracted by the chaos around me. I pray rather to receive the grace to glory in the One who “for our sakes was born as a new Babe: He who from eternity is God.”