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Alicia Gossman-Steeves: Christmas is for misfits

Alicia Gossman-Steeves

One of my favorite children’s books is “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” In this fast-paced, humorous story written by Barbara Robinson, five notorious children, the Herdmans, take over the church Christmas pageant with hilarious results.

In this story, the Herdman children are misfits. No one in town likes them; the “church children” who attend school with the bunch are terrified by them. The choir director, who is caught in the middle of gossiping church members and her own shock over the Herdmans' behavior, nonetheless welcomes the children and allows them to participate.

Just more than 2,000 years ago, a young man and woman arrived in a town called Bethlehem. At that time there was a census taking place and everyone had to travel to his home city to be counted. Because of the great influx of people in the town, there was no room in any establishment for this young couple. On top of that, the young woman, Mary, was pregnant and close to her due date.

The situation for them was desperate. Would Mary have to deliver her baby on the streets? Would Joseph be able to properly care for her and a baby that wasn’t even his? Finally, someone, probably an innkeeper, had mercy on the couple and offered them a stable. Mary gave birth in that stable and baby Jesus slept in a livestock feeding trough.

Jesus, too, was a misfit. Born an illegitimate child, he grew up in Nazareth, the “wrong side of the tracks” in that culture. Because of this, people questioned and doubted his ministry. The Son of God went through life looking for people who had room for him in their hearts, just like the Herdmans were doing in the Christmas pageant story.

In this world, there are plenty of people who are looking for acceptance. Many are like the Herdmans, who “act out” in order to get attention because they know no other way. Yet, as the Herdman children portrayed the Holy Family, the Angel of the Lord, and other roles, it was apparent they were deeply affected by the story. There was not a dry eye in the audience as the pageant played out. The "misfits" gave one of the best performances of all.

At Christmas time and throughout the year, Jesus asks us to make room for misfits in our hearts, including himself. Will you do that this year?

Alicia Gossman-Steeves writes for the La Junta Tribune-Democrat in La Junta, Colo.