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Heart Smiles

by Candy Tolbert, National Girls Ministries Director

"Christmas is when God came down from heaven with a baby in His arms."

I love the story the late humorist Barbara Johnson shares about one Christmas pageant where the children - none of whom can read - held up brightly colored three-foot high placards that spelled out Christmas words. The highlight came when one foursome walked on stage in reverse order and proudly spelled

R A T S

It never fails that in most annual church pre-school Christmas programs, one child (usually the youngest) steals the show. Such was the case of my oldest brother Ken who couldn't have been more than four or five when he was given the "premiere" recitation for our church's children's Christmas program. I was just a baby but growing up I can still hear my mom's laughter as she recalled the incident. And it still makes me smile.

A super smart, precocious kid, my brother worked tirelessly to get every line of his part perfect, every gesture timed with precision and every note of voice inflection perfectly pitched. My mom (who had a little type A personality in her) took real pride as his "coach." As she and Dad, my second oldest brother Dan, and I took our places close to the front of the sanctuary, she knew this stirring part in the Christmas program would be one of my brother's finest hours.

Hair combed to perfection, pressed trousers, crisp white shirt, and tie, Ken looked the part of any adorable 1950s Disney wannabe child actor. At the appointed nod from his teacher he walked to the microphone with confidence to begin his Christmas recitation. But the sound of his own voice reverberating through the mic in the crowd of people was too much for him. Never mind the dress rehearsal. Never mind my mom's excellent tutelage. The more times Ken tried to speak, the funnier the sound of his own voice was to him. It not only fascinated him, it caused a slight giggle ... and then another and another until Ken - in front of the entire packed congregation - bent over, slapped his legs, and laughed uncontrollably for the duration of his "recitation." As the adage says: "stick a fork in him ... he's done." He never finished his piece and - as I recall - he had to be led off the platform, still laughing hysterically!

Romans 11:29 NCV says "God never changes his mind about the people he calls and the things he gives them." How true! My brother's intellect, confidence, and most of all, his sense of humor have served him well through the years. He's a great husband and dad, a good pastor, gifted writer, and a pretty awesome big brother!

You and I can rest in the knowledge that God knows the beginning and the end of our lives and all things in between! Who knows what adventures lie ahead for the little Jeremy's and Jenny's (and Ken's) who star in this year's preschool Christmas program? We can't know completely; only God does - but we will certainly enjoy the program.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Authors: Candy Tolbert