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This is the time of the year when churches give way to the Great White Way. I am referring, of course, to the annual Sunday school Christmas program. No church year is complete without this extravaganza. I want to know who started this and why.

Have you ever noticed that many questions have no answers?

At least nobody bothers offering any real answers to some questions. Then there are those questions that come out of left field. They have no logic attached to them and often catch us off guard at the moment of inquisition.

This is the time of the year when churches give way to the Great White Way. I am referring, of course, to the annual Sunday school Christmas program. No church year is complete without this extravaganza. I want to know who started this and why.

Have you ever noticed that many questions have no answers?

At least nobody bothers offering any real answers to some questions. Then there are those questions that come out of left field. They have no logic attached to them and often catch us off guard at the moment of inquisition.

I well remember one of my first Christmas programs as a minister. It is strange, but the older one gets the more one remembers the past. I am hoping to keep up this reminiscing routine no matter how many boring memories it stirs.

The Christmas program in question stands out in my mind because of a little 5-year-old tyke by the name of Andy.

(That reminds me, the next time I see Andy, a grown man now, I want to remind him of that Christmas.)

The Sunday school Christmas program that year was under the direction of Eloise Espenshade. Whatever Eloise did, she always put everything she had into it, which is saying something, for Eloise weighed at least 300 pounds and knew how to pour every pound into whatever she happened to be doing at the time.

The Christmas program, an elaborate affair for our small church, had lots of speaking parts ? the kind Eloise relished and she produced it like a Broadway production. For months, she talked of nothing else.

By the middle of November, everything began to take shape and the closer it came to December the more nervous Eloise became. The Sunday school Christmas program always played the second Sunday evening in December. Every department in the church worked its schedule around this date. Nothing ? and I mean nothing ? was permitted to interfere with this yearly church presentation.

Not only that ? nobody wanted to cross swords with Eloise.

Especially me.

With great pride, Eloise introduced the theme of the Christmas program: The Reason for the Season. You would have thought she invented the title. The entire program revolved around explaining the reason for Jesus coming to earth.

Eloise gave me a small segment with the children at the close of the program.

The program was magnificent and everything went on cue.

Everything except the third camel played by Lenny Blankenship.

Somehow, Lenny managed to fall off the stage right in the middle of an important recitation.

Eloise never forgave Lenny for this one blemish in her program, but everything else went perfectly.

Well, almost everything.

Then my part in the program came. My part seemed to go quite well. The children, sitting around me, listened with rapt attention as I carefully and simply explained the Christmas story.

Eloise did not know this, but I bribed the children with candy and it worked. It is amazing what a little bit of Snickers and Nestl?'s can do.

While speaking to the children, I happened to notice 5-year-old Andy paying particular attention, which was not his usual disposition. I had a fleeting moment of believing that I had a special way with children.

Andy had the look of someone deep in a theological quandary.

As a minister, I am specially trained to notice these things. I actually have seen it twice before, but both times I was mistaken.

I reasoned that nobody could be wrong three times in a row.

It is a statistical impossibility, right? Or so I thought.

(Why do I bother with thinking?)

Everyone is familiar with the rule of three. For example: there are three bases in baseball and three strikes to an out. Everything about our world falls into three categories: past, present and future. Even God expresses Himself to us in Trinitarian form.

I could give many more examples, but you get the point. I could not be wrong three times in a row.

I'm the kind of person who likes to go with the moment.

There is nothing like an impromptu moment to really give a person, especially a minister, a real rush. Andy looked so cute sitting there and I have always believed that I could trust cute. Art Linkletter proved this with his television program.

I felt this would be a moment to cherish in our church for many Christmases to follow. At least I got one part of it right.

I held out as long as I could. As a firm believer in timing, I wanted this to be a great moment. Finally, when the right moment came, I made my move.

Actually, I should have moved to Alaska. It would have been warmer for me.

I expectantly turned to Andy and asked him a question. This, as innocent as it looked, turned out to be a mistake.

Up to this point, everything progressed fine and someone saw Eloise flirt with a smile. Eloise was not the kind of person who smiled a lot. She did not believe in anything so frivolous. To her, Christianity was a serious matter.

Very serious. Everybody knew it and made allowances for her firmly held conviction.

We were at the last moments of the Christmas program. The last moments of any program are the most memorable. No matter how well the rest of the program goes, the last moment can make or break the entire performance.

Why Eloise entrusted me with such a responsibility, I will never know. She never repeated that mistake as long as I pastored her church.

The sanctuary was filled and the program captivated the congregation. Eloise, as many agreed later, did an outstanding job on the program.

My moment arrived and the congregation sat in hushed anticipation. I turned to Andy and asked, ?Andy, what do you think about the Christmas story??

Without batting his sky-blue eyes, Andy shot back in a clear voice everyone could hear, ?Preacher, why did God give Rudolph a red nose??

No matter how hard we try, at times, things do not always go as planned and some people are not really listening.

One thing that has gone right is the real Christmas story.

The Bible says, ?But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.? (Galatians 4:4 KJV)

God's timing is always perfect. This year, remember the real reason for the season.

Copyright, Rev. James L. Snyder
Used With Permission
For reprint permission, contact the auther through his site at:
http://www.realezsites.com/bus/godspenman

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