There’s not much in this world better than telling the Christmas story to a group of preschoolers. They are so eager and excited by the mysteries and the simple strangeness of the Nativity. Hearing it as they do always refreshes my own love for the story, and I always hear it in a new way.
They are always appalled that there wasn’t any place for Mary and Joseph to stay, and someone often asks why they didn’t just go to the hops-pistal, and you have to explain about Bethlehem being so crowded and that there weren’t really any hops-pistals, anyway, so they just had to try the best they could, and they understand about that.
Then there’s the part about putting the newborn baby Jesus in a manger, and then you’ve got to explain to the kids that it was a box that animals ate out of, and then you reassure them that no, the animals did not eat the baby, but they were probably close by, wondering what was going on.
And when you get to the part about the angels appearing like magic in the shepherds’ field, you can see in their faces the way they are imagining it, because their eyes kind of twinkle and they get a small, vague smile on their lips, and you are suddenly sure that the choir of angels must have looked very much like the group right in front of you right at this moment.
And then the shepherds go and visit the barn and if you forget to include the sheep they will always ask about them, so you have got to be ready with a satisfactory answer or the next several minutes will be spent debating the question, since for some it is an issue of basic sanitation for the baby and for others it is a matter of justice for the sheep, who after all, would want to go visit baby Jesus, too.
When the magi arrive they get to say the word “magi” out loud which is always giggly, but then when you get to “frankincense” and “myrrh” it escalates a bit until someone raises their hand and very sincerely challenges, “But I tought dey were de tree kings,” and so you assure her that they were very, very important people, whether they are kings or magi or wise men, and they came to worship Jesus.
And this year, when we got to that part in the story, one of my little angels raised her hand to say, “Even if they were kings, Jesus was the boss of them, too,” which is a very significant statement for a preschooler who spends a great deal of time worrying about who is and isn’t the boss of them, and at that moment I knew that the story was over because that was pretty much the point, wasn’t it. Because there it is, in the most eloquent 4-year-old-ese, “Jesus was the boss of them, too.”
And so, this time, the story ends that way. Mary, Joseph - angels, children - shepherds, sheep - magi, kings - you, and me - Jesus is the boss of us, too.