This morning I sat in a church and watched a kids' Christmas pageant. The angels were marked with tinsel halos, the shepherds wore bathrobes (the green one with polka dots was my favorite), and the sheep had faces made of paper plates and cotton balls. A couple of babies were crying and lots of mammas and daddys were taking pictures all around. The singers' voices were tinny, the speakers mumbled, and more than a few of the kids looked scared or bored. It was perfect.
This wasn't the Christmas of Santa and Walmart. There was no Hollywood-quality production, no money spent on costumes or set, and the only presents were the ones being offered to the Christ Child. This was a Christmas of kids working in community, and parents proud of their beautiful children, and a whole bunch of people reminding each other with their very presence that God has come among us.
I felt God there in the voices of the children, in the faces of the parents and grandparents, in the Advent candles glowing on the altar, in the tinsel of the angels' halos, in the pillars around the church. This is it, this is what Christmas is about: people gathering, sharing in word and song, and remembering that the holy is among us every moment of every day, whether we are celebrating Christmas and wishing each other joy or caught up in our daily cares and not heeding the holiness in which we live. This is Christmas unadorned, astonishing and ordinary, pure and perfect, and no Santa can bring more magic to the world than this.