We have a ton of Christmas books at our house, filled with stories about grumpy camels, a mouse in search of a home, Christmas trees and my personal favorite: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. I first read it when I was in grade school and now every Christmas the kids and I pile into bed, snuggle in deep and I read the entire book in one sitting. The little ones used to wander in and out but as the years passed they stayed and listened a little longer and now they silently listen to each word. I read the entire thing straight through to get to the best part — the last five pages. And every year as I reach page 104 my tears start falling at the same time as Imogene Herdman’s.
Page 104 is where Christmas starts for me. Page 104 is where Christmas starts for everyone. The place where children who are considered by an entire town to be unloveable realize that they are loved beyond measure.
“She [Imogene] had walked into the corner of the choir-robe cabinet, in kind of a daze—as if she has just caught onto the idea of God, and the wonder of Christmas….Christmas just came over her all at once, like a case of chills or fever. And so she was crying and walking into furniture.” – The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Christmas has always been a struggle for me, even as a child. I didn’t understand why it made me sad and angry. I usually ended up sulking on the couch by 9am and wishing the day would end. A few years ago I realized I put too many expectations on a day. I pulled all my hurts and sadness together and expected the most wonderful time of the year to heal it and it failed to do so every year.
While most people would argue I was the exact opposite of Imogene Herdman as a child I felt like her on the inside. Dirty, angry, full of shame, and unlovable. We all feel unlovable at times. Times where we are sure that no one could possibly love us if they knew about everything on the inside. But Christmas, Christmas is the ultimate story of love. A love so great it can heal all your hurts and wash away all the shame. That is Christmas. It has nothing to do with naughty elves, Santa Clause, Christmas lights, Lifetime movies, or every other festive thing that we pile on top of the season trying to make it a bit more special, a bit more magical. To me all of that falls short. You can’t dress up a diamond with glitter or make a star brighter by adorning it with lights.
Christmas failed to heal all my hurts because I was focusing on what it wasn’t and in the process I was forgetting what it was. And once I remembered what it was, it didn’t need anymore magic or decorations. It simply needed me to allow the greatness of that day to wash over me, fill in my cracks and make me whole again.