This year’s Christmas Pageant
St. Paul’s Traditional Christmas Pageant is on the move – Outdoors!!
Arabella Pope found some old tapes of a previous Christmas Pageant and has kindly made them available to us as an early Christmas gift. We will be showing them online to cheer us on our way to Bethlehem this year. Sadly, the pageant cannot be held indoors because of our COVID-19 protective protocols, but we are going to have the closet possible Christmas experience one can muster – THIS SATURDAY at 4.30 p.m. as we join the Walk of the Holy Family.
The church will be decorated, luminaria lighting the path of socially distanced and masked pilgrims from six local churches. We begin at Christ Ascension, Lutheran Church and the St Paul’s contingent will be the first to begin the half mile pilgrimage up Germantown Avenue. Small groups will be led by a shepherd and a star and each small group will practice social distancing before they arrive at St. Paul’s Bethlehem Pike entrance. A small and masked volunteer choir, led by Karen Richer, will greet the pilgrims outdoors as they follow a path of luminaria down through the columbarium to the transept door. As they enter the church, Andy will be giving everyone examples of seasonal music on our beloved organ and the church is looking spectacular, thanks to the ever-faithful Flower Guild and Mrs. Edith Dixon’s generous support of our floral and greens decorations. The sounds and smells of Christmas will waft over the moving procession as it makes its way down the center aisle to exit on East Chestnut Hill Avenue, flanked by Christmas trees and more lights.
Now back outside, just in front of the Rectory, you will see a makeshift stable built for the Holy Family where pilgrims can light candles, offer prayers and listen to familiar hymns like “A stable lamp is lighted” and “Silent Night.” We will read the Christmas Gospel and acknowledge the “Empty Chair Memorial” where we remember everyone who has been exiled this year from the Christmases we once knew or came to expect. Others have lost loved ones.
If you have not signed up for this event that will benefit one of our favorite partner organizations, the Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network, you will sadly miss the closest thing we have to Christmas this year, including our beloved pageant. If you want to just drop by the church, see the decorations and stay warm in the rectory or Dixon, we can arrange that too for our senior members, we would love to see you! There will be outdoor heaters near the Christmas stable and we will use this creative venue to distribute Holy Communion to our congregation on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, following the online services. Everything we are planning has to have an outdoor dimension this year so we can remain safe as we celebrate the birth of our savior.
Not everyone at St. Paul’s will want or need this unusual outdoor eucharistic ministry on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day but making a little manger with our hands and receiving the WORD MADE FLESH (knowing many of our flock have not been able to take the eucharist for most of this year) is a special moment to give us strength for the journey ahead. We don’t expect a lot of people to show up, but your clergy are here to minister to you and with you. After all, church and Christmas has never been about numbers. A few shepherds and a couple of lost magi simply showed up “to see this thing which has come to pass.” This is what we do as Episcopalians and our sacramental life is the engine that drives who we are and what we do at St. Paul’s… from music to outreach. We are honored to being the host community to our fellow Christians and even the Chestnut Hill Local sees this street liturgy as the beginning of a new tradition -not the replace our beloved pageant but to enhance our ecumenical Christmas celebration for generations to come.
So, come and worship! This will be as close as it gets to what we all miss so much! A highlights video will be made available next week for those who cannot be with us.
A Prayer with the Empty Chair Memorial
Holy Jesus, son of Mary, God made flesh, born in the seclusion and exclusion of a lowly stable:
Hear our prayers for all who will spend this holiday season alone or without loved ones present.
As we contemplate the empty chairs around the world this Christmas
Be with all in our human family who mourn the loss of loved ones, intimacy and their sense of security.
May the Light of the Bethlehem stable give us courage, wisdom and hope to travel with you and one another to a resurrected humanity.
Let this difficult journey to Bethlehem, be for us and all of humanity a message of peace, hope and love.
O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and free us from all that holds us captive, now and always. AMEN
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Chestnut Hill. Christmas 2020