After more than a week of this routine, I began to get tired of being home alone. I was missing my family. And not to mention, I was missing the Easter Pageant itself. The Easter Pageant has been a large part of the way my family celebrates the Easter season - it has affected every Spring Season & Easter holiday for more than half of my life. I have personally been a cast member 11 different times in the pageant. To me, it just doesn't feel like Easter without the Easter Pageant. So when I returned to the cast this week with my newborn baby, a lot of people called me crazy. But I felt at home in the Easter Pageant cast, and I felt like the 517 other cast members understood me. I didn't return to be in the pageant for attention. I didn't do it to be crazy. I didn't do it to make anyone look bad, or to make myself look good. I returned on Thursday, because all I wanted to do was be a "follower of Christ" in the crowd. Truthfully, it's something I needed to do, too. I was watching the scripture stories I love come to life, and I was bearing testimony on stage with my family. It felt so good.
Not to mention, I found some newborn sandals that matched the baby's costume. It would have been a shame to let those go to waste, so I simply had to return to the cast.
On Good Friday, I had the routine with my scenes and the baby figured out enough that I got to sneak a few peaks of my husband portraying Peter. It was so beautiful. I love watching all of his scenes, but my favorite that night was getting to watch him run to the tomb. When he exited the tomb, holding the burial cloths in his hand, I saw him say to the apostle John, "It's true! It's true!" I loved watching them run back to the other apostles to share the news.
On Saturday night, we were given the opportunity to have Baby Ace play the part of Baby Jesus. We dressed him in a white onesie with white pants. My husband and I met behind stage with Mary and Joseph, who wrapped him up in a white blanket from Bethlehem. We prayed together that the Spirit would be able to work through us to reach out to the audience. They took took my baby boy to the manger scene, and a kind Stage Crew man told us where we should stand to get a good view. We had the best seat in the house. From the first flicker of the lantern light I could hardly hold back the tears. I felt like I was in Bethlehem that night. I saw the shepherds on stage - I didn't know I could take a picture, so I didn't have my camera. But honestly, I don't think I could have captured what I saw and felt watching the shepherds greet the Baby Jesus. I wish I could explain the looks on their faces. One shepherd in particular was standing, and as Joseph took my baby to him, he really looked like he was meeting Baby Jesus for the first time - his face was glowing and sincere. And then there was a darling little boy, named Devlin who has been in my Easter Pageant family group before, and he was so cute meeting the Baby Jesus. Another little boy was holding a lamb, and as he looked at the Baby Jesus, my baby's face was about an inch away from the lamb. I was a little surprised and thought - "Well, that's the first time he's met a lamb!" I, of course, was concerned about temporal things - how animals are cute, but also dirty. I thought about how Mary may have felt while sharing her brand new baby from the get-go with strangers and shepherds, and even sheep. I wondered at that, but my husband had a better mind-set. He looked to spiritual things. Lambs without blemish were used for sacrifices, and at the manger scene was the sacrificial lamb for all mankind. He marveled at how symbolic it was to have lambs there to meet the Lamb of God.
Mary and Joseph held my baby so tenderly, and Joseph calmed him tenderly when he cried. My Baby Ace's face was so darling in the lights as he furrowed his brow, and had wide eyes in the lights. His feet were so cute kicking around in the manger. Then Joseph scooped him up and shared the baby with the shepherds with such fatherly love, excitement, and kindness. It was so beautiful. When we met Mary and Joseph after the scene they told me how neat it was to have a baby so fresh from Heaven to do the scene that night. And the kind stage crew lady who guided us from the beginning, kept my baby baby bundled in the beautiful blanket they used on stage. She told me to keep it - that it was from Bethlehem. And then I just cried more. I could hardly compose myself for about half of the pageant last night. It was such a beautiful experience. I didn't think my baby would be able to be Baby Jesus at all, and we were okay with that. But then for it to work out for him to be Baby Jesus, on the closing night, no less, to close out the entire Easter Pageant Season, and to feel the Spirit so powerfully, was more than I could have hoped for or asked for, it was actually far more beautiful than I could have imagined.
While the stage crew lady who guided us told us part way through the scene that we could and should take a picture - this picture doesn't do it justice. For one thing, you can see the stage flooring in this picture. But you should know this. Last night, there was no stage and there were no floor markings. Last night, standing in the wings, the only thing I could see was Bethlehem. And still even now, just thinking about it, I can feel Bethlehem from that sacred moment in time. It was so moving.
I love Easter. It means so much to me, and I am grateful, honored, and humbled at all the ways we've been able to have the message of Jesus Christ's love, life, and sacrifice sink so much more deeply into our hearts this year. I know He lives.