The afternoon of Christmas Eve our family was getting ready to head downtown for the 5:30 Christmas Pageant at First United Methodist. While some of the children in the pageant work hard to memorize lines, and the adult leaders have the young people amazingly well prepared, the whole thing is a rather chaotic, wild, rich, swirling, beautiful mess. (Which happens to draw hundreds of people...so that the sanctuary is, year after year, nearly full.)
As we were getting ready we asked four year old Ella and two year old Olivia if they wanted to be angels in the pageant. Olivia, who is a cute little brown-eyed thing, said, "No, I want to be a dragon."
Many of us have been reading stories for years about children wanting to play their own roles in Christmas pageants. Someone told me that a girl in the last year or two here at First wanted to be a dog at the manger! They had advertised roles as sheep, donkeys, cattle, wisemen, etc. but this young woman wanted to be a dog.
Livy said, "I want to be a dragon." It is hard to see this little girl as a dragon. She sure looks more like an angel to Grandpa but there must be a dragon in there wanting to get out!
The cool thing is that when we got to the church, where adults were helping children into costumes, Nicole heard that Olivia wanted to be a dragon and she smiled. She said, "Sure, she can be a dragon. Let's see what we can find..."
I like the idea that God welcomes not only donkeys, cattle, and sheep at the manger...but also dragons. Luke would have understood, I think. Luke makes a point of telling us that the first visitors to the manger were shepherds. And shepherds were considered dirty, ritually unclean, impulsive, and untrustworthy. There were, I once said in a sermon, the first century's version of traveling carnival workers.
We have a God who is big enough to make a place at the manger for dragons. Wild things. Untamed creatures. Who set fields and trees on fire when they sneeze. Whose appearance is unsettling...and whose scales are rough. But who, in their eyes, have the light of God's kingdom.