December Letter: Clergy Excellence

Morris Matthis


Earlier this month the results of a study were published done by a British company. The study involved interviewing 2,000 people who, when they were children, participated in nativity scenes. They were asked which parts they played and then they were asked questions about their lives. Out of those interviews they began to perceive patterns with regard to how people’s lives came out based on who they had played. You will notice that I did not tell you the name of the company. The name of the company that did the study, and I am not making this up, is Virgin Media. So, how many of us weren’t in nativity scenes when we were kids?! Here’s a few examples of what they said about each role:

Mary: Adults who played Mary as a child were found to most likely work in retail earning $42k a year. As adults, Marys were found to be extroverted with a strong social circle. They know the best brunch spots and enjoy yoga in their free time. Sounds like this lead role sets adults up for success as over 90% of Marys reported that they were happy with their lives.
Joseph: Josephs know about the good things in life. They usually have a good sense of humor and shop ‘till they drop. Josephs support this lifestyle by working in finance with an average income of $70k. They seem to have it all with 91% of adults reporting contentedness with their lives.
Angel Gabriel: Marketing is where you can find adults who played Angel Gabriel as a child. As adults, they like to exercise and are avid readers. Their income and happiness come in right below Mary and Joseph, finding the angel Gabriel makes $65k, but only 83% report happiness with their lives.
Both of these articles give you descriptions of more characters. If you’d like to read about the study Here’s the article I got the summaries from:
I share this because I thought it was fun and interesting. From my perspective though I don’t think it asks the right question. Our Christmas celebration every year is not as much about looking back to events 2,000 years. It’s way more about bringing the events of 2,000 years ago into our lives today. The hope of Christmas is to make real the birth of the Savior in the hearts and minds of people today. The hope of Christmas is for the story to be told in such a way that men and women, boys and girls would understand either for the first time or anew the meaning of His birth both for the world and for their lives.

In light of that, the right question to ask is not: What role in the nativity story did you play as a child? The right question is: What role does the nativity story play in your life today? The nativity story, which is so easily pushed to the edges and made irrelevant. The nativity story, which his so easily made into mush and turned into meaningless sentimentality. My most memorable part in a nativity play came when I was in the sixth grade at Red Elementary School. Except I didn’t have any part in the nativity. Not Joseph. Not a shepherd. Not a wise man. Not even an animal. I portrayed the little choir boy who couldn’t sing. A part that I played to some acclaim may I say. In the play I found myself walking among the characters of the nativity in a dream. Then I woke up and I prayed that I would be able to sing so I could join with all the other kids singing the Christmas carols. An angel suddenly appeared played by a beautiful blonde-haired girl that I loved with all the passion of my sixth-grade heart. She gave me the power to be able to sing and then I had a solo which included in it a line that went: “I thank you God for granting my desire. I’ll soon be singing carols in the choir.” One day in rehearsal I sang that line. The teacher who was directing the thing stopped me and there was this discussion among her and some other adults. When that was over, she told me to change the line from “I thank you God for granting my desire” to “I thank you all for granting my desire.” Which I did  I was a compliant kid. I didn’t really know a whole lot about the separation of church and state, but I recall thinking that the song no longer made any sense. I didn’t really know who “all” was in the first place but for crying out loud it was God who granted my desire so I could soon be singing carols with the choir. I didn’t pray to “all”. It wasn’t “all” who sent the angel. It was God who did it. But somehow in a play that included a nativity scene, Christmas carols, and an angel, scrubbing the song of the word God seemed to make it okay.

That’s what we so easily do with the nativity story. We push it to the side and make it somehow more about us than about God.

What role does that story play in your life?

So this Christmas, be Mary in the nativity story who allowed the Spirit to make possible the birth of the child.

So this Christmas, be Joseph who dared to believe that God could do the impossible.

So this Christmas, be the angel who found the people least likely for anyone to care about with whom to share the good news.

So this Christmas, be the shepherds who saw the child for themselves and went and told anyone who would listen.

So this Christmas, be the wise men who went to the child and then went home in a way that was different.

So this Christmas, let the story of the birth of Jesus be the most important part of your whole life whether as a child you were Mary or Joseph or the angel or the little choir boy who couldn’t sing.