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A Simple Life, a Childlike Faith

A Simple Life, a Childlike Faith

Telling the story of Christmas

live pageantHow do you tell the Christmas story to a group of people who are intellectually disabled?  Of course, this is a dilemma no matter where your ministry lies.  If you are a parent, can you make the story fresh to your growing brood?  If you preach to a congregation of 10,000, what is the method you will use to keep the message relevant while remain true to the gospel message? Each year I try to find a different way to share the story of God’s love incarnated into a man to the programs I shepherd at The Special Gathering which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community.

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This year, I told the story using members who are least  physically able to respond as the characters.  I joked and laughed with them, sharing as humorously as possible the in’s and out’s of the Biblical account.  Because I work with three different programs at Special Gathering, each reenactment had different characters and each one was vastly different because of the diverse personalities that made up the “casts.”

angelIn each program, there was one person whose personality shined through when selected.  I chose the people at random asking them to participate as their character was introduced.  Mary was a young woman who is extremely low functioning in one of our enactments.  Everyone attending applauded when I selected her. Her smile told the story of her delight and her smile carried the action through until the end.

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The first time we had our presentation, there was a small group of 17 people.  Therefore, we had one angel who came to Mary, Joseph and the shepherds.  This person was animated and funny.  His flair for the dramatic was obvious.  After he had spoken to Mary, I said, “Then the angel disappeared.”  He looked at me quizzically and shrugged his shoulders, acting as though I expected him to disappear.  ”Can’t you even disappear?”  I asked.   He pretended to try to disappear.  ”What kind of angel are you?”  I asked.  Again, he mischievously responded with a great deal of humor and delight.

Each time he “appeared” the audience laughed with pleasure at his antics and showmanship.  We played off each other and I took my cues from his facial expressions and movements.  We all laughed all through the actions because of his good humor.

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At our largest program, there were more than 50 people from which to draw.  Mary was a higher functioning young woman She does not walk or speak.  We call her the “queen” because everyone loves her so much that we fight over who will serve her and push her wheelchair.

Charlie BrownThe surprise, however, was the man I chose to be Joseph.  This Joseph is an amazing actor.  He, too, is physically disabled.  He navigates with a walker.  Extreme palsy plagues the movements of his body, making them exaggerated with spasms and violent jerks.  Yet, in front of an audience, this Joseph came alive with expression and animation.  He was the attentive lover.  His visage stormed with disappointment and anger, when he heard about Mary’s pregnancy.  His face showed shock at the angel visitation; then his movements turned to extreme tenderness toward Mary.

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I keep the story simple but embellishing it with the emotions that each character must have felt.  Laughter and silliness are the mark of the day.  Of course, I don’t make fun of the details of the story but, like this year, there is always someone who wants to play the clown and I play off of their ability to laugh at an awkward situation or a unique situation.

After we laugh and play, I turn the story to the seriousness of Jesus’ sacrifice.  The good news of God’s love for us is amplified by the birth and life of this humble god-man who was born in order that he might die for us.

Previous Posts

Explaining Grace
In the past weeks, I’ve been going over some of the key words in our covenant relationship with God with the members of my community who are intellectually disabled.  Perhaps one of the most important words we use is grace. Most of us have ...

posted 5:55:58am Jan. 06, 2015 | read full post »

Holidays and grief
Today, I heard again the Christmas song about the little boy whose mother is dying on Christmas eve and he wants to buy her shoes to wear as she goes into heaven. He doesn’t have enough money to buy the shoes and a person in line gives him the ...

posted 8:29:32am Jan. 01, 2015 | read full post »

Can You Come?
Maddie is one of those people within the mentally challenged community whom everyone loves.  She is friendly and happy.  Maddie makes everyone feel as though they are her "extra-special friend."  Several years ago Mattie and her husband ...

posted 12:20:34am Dec. 29, 2014 | read full post »

The Choice that Changed Everything--a sermon for the mentally challenged community
The choice that changed everything Nehemiah 9:17 Central Theme: Man choices to sin and God chooses to be gracious. A ream of paper has 500 sheets--not more and not less. A foot is 12 inches--not more and not less. There are many absolutes in ...

posted 10:48:30pm Aug. 17, 2014 | read full post »

Friendship Evangelism
For many years, I taught a seminar called "Friendship Evangelism."  The basis of this teaching was that people are much more susceptible to hear the promises of the Gospel, if they know and respect you.  We all have a knowledge of the ...

posted 9:12:04am Aug. 16, 2014 | read full post »

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