The Christmas pageant in the Episcopal church was a carbon copy of similar pageants around the country. Only in this one, in this year, at a critical moment, a little nine-year-old girl said something that people never forgot.
The manger was in front, as always. Young Mary wrapped in her blue mantle. Joseph sported a beard glued together from cotton balls. The wise men were there, too, as were the shepherds. And in the middle of them all, was baby Jesus, lying in the manger.
The nativity story was read, carols were sung, everything went off without a hitch.
Various children were the angelic host. They were robed in white and sitting beside their moms and dads throughout the church. At the designated moment, they were to walk up front, circle the manger, and sing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will among men.”
And so they did. But there was a problem.
As the little angelic children gathered round the manger to sing, one little girl couldn’t see. She was nine years old, smaller than the rest of them, and ended up being so far back that even on tiptoe she couldn’t see what was going on.
In the momentary pause after the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest…,” the little girl, “electrified the entire church by crying out in a voice shrill with irritation and frustration and enormous sadness at having her view blocked.”*
She said, “Let Jesus show!”
A Worldwide Tour of Churches
Let. Jesus. Show. Oh, how I’d like to take that little girl on a worldwide tour of churches.
I’d love for her to stand in her white angelic garb inside cathedrals and clapboard chapels, before the Pope and Bishops, before congregations and clerics, before synodical officials and ecclesiastical bureaucrats, and have her preach those three words again and again.
When the manger is barricaded behind a mountain of congregational committees, accountability groups, budget meetings, and denominational bigwigs, all wagging their tongues about how their pet project is the greatest thing since prefabricated communion wafers—get out of the way. Let Jesus show.
When the conservative parish wagons are circled tight to guaran-damn-tee no gays, left-wingers, or libs get within fifty feet of the manger; when voting for Trump is a celestial sign that you're among the elect of God; in churches where red, white, and blue are the year-round liturgical colors—get out of the way. Let Jesus show.
When around the manger there's a string of rainbow flags unfurled and flapping, along with banners celebrating Earth Day, Abortion Rights, and Coexistence; when there's a mass of advocates blocking the manger, each one competing to be more anti-conservative, more accommodating, more progressive than the other—get out of the way. Let Jesus show.
When there's a pile of “spiritual” songs heaped up around the manger sticky with lyrical sugar but void of the bloody cross; when worship’s a bastardized offspring of circus and rock concert; when the whole area is choking from the fog machine; when the sermon sounds like Osteen and Oprah are dancing inside the preacher's mouth—get the hell out of the way. Let Jesus show.
Is that really too much to ask of the church?
If you're blocking Jesus, then for the love of God, get out of the way.
O Come, Ye Unfaithful
Let Jesus show. That’s who we came to church to see, whether we even realized it or not.
There is within us a hunger so deep, so ravenous, that the very bowels of our soul growl with anticipation of being fed. We yearn for it to be satisfied. We are born searching for the feast. Show us the table. Show us where, once and for all, we can find the food that satisfies.
It won’t be on the booth of moralisms and virtues. It won’t rest on the plate of your chosen politics, your social programs, your precious projects to make the world a better place or usher in utopia.
For God we are ravenous. And God alone will satiate us. So, get out of the way. We’re coming. Move aside and let us through to the manger. There in the feed trough. There he is. The Bread of heaven, born in Bethlehem—the House of Bread—come so our bodies and souls can partake of the very life of God.
Get out of the way. Or, even better, come with us.
O come ye unfaithful, broken and polluted.
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold him, born the Friend of Sinners.
Preach it, little girl. Never stop.
May your voice resound till kingdom come.
Let Jesus show.
*Frederick Buechner tells the story of this girl in his sermon "Let Jesus Show" in his book, Secrets in the Dark.