Christmas Hygiene

“What do you want for Christmas, Dad? Maybe some floss or something?”

“Some what?!?” I asked, hoping that I had misheard him. Surely I’ve shown him higher hopes and deeper desires than dental floss during his six years of life. On the other hand, I am the son of a man who has received Aqua Velva for a record 38 consecutive Christmases.

Turns out I had heard my firstborn right. He actually asked me if I wanted floss for Christmas. Woe is me. My progeny either thinks I am a mind-numbing bore or that I have really bad teeth. Or worse: both.

Later that day, I took him and his brother to a heartwarming holiday classic in the league of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. A story of hygiene-less rugrats who commandeer a timeless Christmas tradition: Barbara Robinson’s The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. We saw the play at Magik Theater in downtown San Antonio.

For review, the Herdmans are a ragtag, uncouth, welfare-receiving bunch of bullying boys and girls. While their parents are nearly non-existent, their social worker is virtually ever-present, trying to bring order to chaos.

When Leroy Herdman is tipped off that Twinkies are served at Sunday School, the straggly siblings find their religion, of sorts. At least enough to show up for the annual church Christmas pageant auditions.

After intimidating past stars into relinquishing their roles, the Herdmans secure lead parts. Ralph is Joseph. Imogene plays Mary. Gladys gets her wings as first angel.

The church is appalled. How could such riffraff be let into God’s house to perform God’s sacred nativity? Mary and Joseph will look like refugees. No one will come to the pageant.

Everyone came to the pageant – to see what the Herdmans would do.

While clearly comical, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever resembles Christ’s redemption of a messy world. Some of us think we are star performers who deserve the prestigious perennial parts we play. In reality we are Herdmans of sheep without a shepherd, simply searching for a meaningful place in a confusing world.

Then, in the midst of our self-serving, our wandering, our posing, we are swept up into the unlikely story of Christmas. Like Imogene (a.k.a. Mary) Herdman, we find ourselves crying and clinging to the blanketed savior of the world. His humility overpowers our arrogance. His future overshadows our past.

And we give all we have to give. In “wise man” Leroy Herdman’s case, a canned ham out of the family’s welfare food box. Next to God’s treasures, our gifts are equally useless. Nevertheless, a miracle of Christmas: God still wants them – and us – bad teeth and all.

Neither Imogene’s hygiene nor Leroy’s clean corduroys made either acceptable to a flawless Creator. The Herdmans merely opened their hearts to the everlasting Bread of Life, the best Christmas gift ever, stumbled upon while seeking a temporal Twinkie.

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