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The best Christmas pageant ever

Every fall certain parents' hearts fear and tremble.

Church music directors cringe just a little. They all know it's that time again time to begin practice on the annual church Christmas pageant.

Youngsters must be rounded up, not unlike a flock of rather errant lambs, and molded into shepherds and wise men, angels and

sheep.

Costumes must be created, scenery painted, songs rehearsed, lines learned, movements staged as the clock ticks ever closer to the final hour, and voila

show time.

Some children are born hams' who adore the spotlight while others despair at even appearing before a crowd, much less performing.

Others are too small to have any idea what on earth is going on.

Volunteer adults and teens struggle to keep the littlest ones happy and the older ones from going wild during the long hours of rehearsal.

Hands are wrung, tears are shed (the elders hide theirs until they get home) and copious amounts of aspirin and other headache remedies are consumed by those in charge.

Whoever said show business was glamorous obviously never worked behind the scenes.

On the evening of the performance a flurry of activity takes place in back amidst the sea of gossamer angel wings and tinsel halos, the tin foil crowns and paste-box gifts of "gold".

The older children pace about nervously practicing their lines while the littlest ones whine a little and wonder when they get their treats'.

The adults ponder all the potential disasters.

What if the CD player decides to give up the ghost mid-performance?

What if the sheep scatter to the four winds and forget to "baa" on cue?

What if-horror of horrors

Mary and Joseph get into a fight and spill the baby Jesus right out of the manger?

Another aspirin, please and a strong cup of coffee.

Then it happens.

The music begins to play softly and the little angels take their place in the heavenly choir.

They are uniformly beautiful and sweet-faced and, well-angelic.

Mary and Joseph make a remarkably handsome and well-bred young couple-you just know their kid is going to turn out fine.

The innkeeper is perfect, just a little grumpy and hard-hearted, yet a decent fellow in the end.

The songs are sung with gusto.

The kings glow with royal radiance, the shepherds hurry with excitement to the stable and the sheep-ah, yes, the sheep. They behave beautifully, "baa"-ing precisely on cue.

Parents, grandparents and other family members and friends smile with pride.

The volunteers heave deep sighs of relief and high-five' one another with joy.

It is another miracle of the season, one that takes place annually in churches large and small across the land.

And each and every one is THE best Christmas pageant ever.