(Posted December 12th 2018 @ 10:35 AM by: Melody Reever)
It was finally time for the annual Christmas program at West Point United Pentecostal Church. All the arduous brainstorming and the countless months spent practicing had at last come to fruition. “Once Upon a Christmas” was our simple way of telling the birth of our Savior though the eyes of timeless characters—Mary, Joseph, the wise men, and more. It was simple, it was beautiful, it was, in my opinion, brilliant.
When the “brilliant” idea was cultivated to have a live nativity in our program, our entire creative team was immediately on board. Sheep, a goat, a donkey, and the star of the show, an alpaca modified with a hump to appear as a camel, all filed into our church building and took their rightful places in the amazing nativity that had been built on our platform. It was decided that we would put one of the hired handlers in a shepherd’s costume and make him a part of the festive scene—just to make sure nothing would go amiss. What could possibly go wrong?
When the program finally began, everything went seamlessly. Every song was sung in beautiful harmony, every narration shedding light on this amazing story, and most importantly, every animal still in its stall. We had planned and worked for this moment, and nothing could go wrong—we simply wouldn’t allow it. All was calm, all was bright—picturesque and festive—and then …
I’ll never forget the beautiful atmosphere of worship that filled the sanctuary. We had just finished singing “Joy to the World” and “O Come Let Us Adore Him” and had moved on to “Here I Am to Worship.” A sweet presence of the Lord swept over the congregation as we humbled ourselves in worship at the manger, a place where Jesus humbled Himself for us.
As I relished the moment, basking in the presence of our wonderful Savior, my heart and mind transfixed by His glory, suddenly the tranquility was shattered. The atmosphere changed to mass chaos, by what sounded like an organized and coordinated escape attempt by all the lively guests that we thought were securely contained within the stalls of our stable. Our silent night went from calm to chaos, from bright to terrifying!
Trying to maintain an atmosphere of worship, I turned ever so slightly while still attempting to sing in perfect harmony, and from the corner of my eye saw the shepherds (who were most definitely sore afraid) fearing their flocks were about to be scattered throughout the entire building. The handler was rushing to help restrain a restless alpaca—that blessed alpaca. Do I stay here and worship? Do I turn around? Do I run for my life? These were just a few of the questions colliding in my mind as the sound of scuffling continued behind me.
Later I watched our church’s video broadcast (oh, yes, this was all live-streamed and recorded) to see what had happened. The star of our Christmas program, the “blessed alpaca,” had jumped to make a dramatic exit in the middle of our beautifully planned worship service. It had cleared the stall and had to be wrestled by Joseph and a wise man, as they tried to protect Mary and baby Jesus from its large, flailing hoofs. All the other animals, triggered by the commotion, had temporarily gone insane. How no one sustained a concussion is miraculous! Thankfully Joseph, the wise man, Mary, and baby Jesus were only shook up; all came out unscathed and the service proceeded as planned.
In the days that followed, our “brilliant” little Christmas program became the source of much joy and laughter when video footage was shared multiple times on social media. While I attempt to convey annoyance, I can’t help but let laughter escape my mouth every single time I watch the “alpaca fiasco” and members of our church family scurrying to extinguish the situation.
Our Christmas program did not go according to plan—yet it was still brilliant, and it was still beautiful. It sounds a lot like an event that happened over two thousand years ago, when a King was about to be born. There was no room in the inn so they resorted to a stable. There was no throne, a manger had to do. His adoring subjects were not people of high esteem, but rather ignoble shepherds and lowing cattle. Despite the chaos that most certainly happened on that glorious night, it too was still brilliant, and it too was still beautiful.
May you always avoid having a live nativity in your annual church Christmas program, and amid this amazing season with its beautiful chaos, may all your days still be calm and bright, brilliant and beautiful.
Reagan Carr attends West Point United Pentecostal Church in Doniphan, Missouri, where her father, Chuck Carr, pastors. She is involved in various ministries and is currently pursuing a career in the medical field in hopes of making her dream of participating in medical missions a reality.