True Stories from the High Contact Sport of Ministry
(Names, places and dates have been changed to protect the culpable)
The downtown gothic Lutheran church was enamored with its annual “authentic” live nativity presented every Christmas Eve. Not only did they have real people portraying Mary and Joseph, shepherds, etc… but they had live animals, too!
My friend and mentor, James was the associate pastor while he was finishing seminary. As the associate pastor, he was assigned the role of Joseph.
There’s Something About Mary
Tara was to be Mary. Tara was the youngest daughter of a wealthy couple who were very impressed with their wealth and expected everyone else to be just as impressed. They spoke with an affectation like Thurston Howell III and his wife, Lovey on Gilligan’s Island. While they had several children, you wouldn’t know it as the only one they ever talked about was Tara (draw out the “a” when you say Tara.) They gave lots of money, not out of generosity but in order to dictate their wishes and bend others to their will.
This is how Tara became Mary. Their wish that year was for Tara to play the role. At the age of 19, Tara didn’t want to have anything to do with the role. But, mom and dad said, “You will be Mary or we will no longer pay for your college education.” Tara said, “Fine but on one condition. I get to do a modern interpretive dance as we walk up the aisle.’” Tara had been taking dance for some time and her parents readily agreed. As the church was obsessed with the authenticity of its live nativity, you have to wonder why no one questioned the “authenticity” of a dancing, 9 months pregnant Mary.
The Iron Hand of Authenticity
The night of the grand production, as James is standing in line waiting for the majestic walk down the aisle, the director walked up to him and said, “You have to take off your shoes.”
“What are you talking about?” said James.
The director said, “They are not authentic. Shoes didn’t have buckles in Jesus’ day.”
“But it’s freezing and this is a flagstone floor!!!”
“The shoes have to go,” said the director. “And your glasses, too.”
“But I can’t see without glasses!”
Away went the shoes and the glasses. Casualties of authenticity.
The Happy Mary Dance
As they started off down the aisle, James felt more than saw the big kick that was the beginning of the “Happy Mary dance.” Immediately, there was a collective gasp and the sound of hundreds of people whispering which grew as she danced down the aisle. Mary spun and kicked and leaped which James only saw as a great blur of blue which he obediently followed down the aisle. Yet, he knew something was amiss.
After the show, James’ fiancée greeted him choking back tears of laughter. “What’s so funny?’ he asked.
“Didn’t you see?”
“NO! They took my glasses!”
“Mary didn’t have on any underwear.”