Sermon Text: Luke 2:1-14
What a time for an angel to forget his lines!
It was the Christmas Pageant at Gravesend, New Hampshire. The Episcopal Church was packed with worshipers, well-wishers, and relatives of the cast. Attendance was up, thanks to a positive review in the local newspaper. The drama critic had reported, “The quintessential Christmas tale, the luster of which has been dulled by its annual repetition, has been given a new sparkle.”
One reason for the excitement was the presence of a small boy named Owen Meany. For years his diminutive size had made him a natural for the role of the Announcing Angel. The pastor’s wife would hoist him on a rope, where he could swing out over the stage and announce the good news. This year, a much larger boy named Harold Crosby has been assigned the angelic role, and Owen, who was the smallest kid anybody had ever seen, had assumed the role of Baby Jesus.
The moment came when it was time for Harold Crosby-Angel to descend from the darkness. “Be not afraid!” he said in a quaking voice. Then he repeated it again. “Be not afraid!” When he said those words a third time, it was obvious he had forgotten the rest of his lines. He spun around and faced the back of the stage and said, “Be not afraid” in an indistinct mumble.
Suddenly another voice spoke up. It came from down below, in the hay. The child in the manger knew the forgotten lines, and in a cracked falsetto, his voice rang out. “FOR BEHOLD, I BRING YOU GOOD NEWS OF A GREAT JOY WHICH WILL COME TO ALL THE PEOPLE.” Prompted by the Christ Child, the angel repeated the announcement. And when the spotlight fell on the créche, “the congregation was also prepared to adore him — whatever special Christ this was who not only knew his role but also knew all the other, vital parts of the story.”
(John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany (New York: Ballantine Books, 1989), pp. 216-217.)...Read full sermon here (PDF)