Tamera Schlueter Pageant lights up bare-bones Christmas

The first column in December is usually the toughest one to write. My body is still recovering from vats of food inhaled during a decadent Thanksgiving.

The house is eerily quiet after a raucous visit from family members we see far too rarely. We have yet to hunt down a Christmas tree, and commercials on every channel scream “BUY ME!” with the ring-ding-a-ding subtlety of a bomb blast.

It can be challenging to keep your bearings in the synthetic tsunami of a shrink-wrapped Christmas; to focus on the reason for the season in a secular world that tries to swallow you whole. Early December often finds me wrestling a case of pre-Christmas blues.

Last month, I declared this holiday would be a bare-bones affair in Schlueterville, with far more snort-laughs shared with family and friends, and a lot less shopping madness and budget-busting stress. It sounded great at the time, but as December approached I wondered what bare-bones might actually entail.

In the midst of my pity party, God delivered a much needed kick in the pants. It came in the form of a whim to catch the “Light of the World” Christmas pageant in Minden last Saturday night. We hadn’t been there since the years when I still had to convince young Schlueterville sons that dorky snow boots were valuable tools in toefreezing cold.

This year, the experience was both eerily similar and vastly different. Hunka Burnin’ Hubby and I shared a town square curb with sons who were now adults, a brand new daughter-in-law, and very good friends. The stately courthouse, city streets, and business fronts in the heart of Minden were completely dark, and we marveled at being able to see stars winking in a jet-black sky.

“Our family has changed a lot since the last time we were here,” said Hunka. “It’s pretty great, isn’t it?”

Yes indeed, I replied. Time has made its mark, and we have been richly blessed.

Spotlights flashed and winter coats shushed as we watched the pageant unfold. The story and sound track were exactly as I’d remembered, with booming music and a grandiose script, angels and shepherds, centurions and wise men, Joseph, Mary, and a rubber doll Jesus.

The performance was quintessential smalltown Americana, brought to life by skinnylegged teenagers and community volunteers wearing fake beards and flowing robes. It was 30 minutes of messianic magic.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever!” boomed the scratchy recorded voice. Christmas carols rang out as someone flipped a switch, and an electric buzz set the whole town ablaze with over 12,000 fat bulb Christmas lights. The crowd responded mitten-muffled applause, and smiles glowed red and green in the fresh wash of color. Cameras flashed, lawn chairs clanked, and car engines barked to life as the crowd headed for home.

We drank it all in for a moment or two, and circled the courthouse for the full, light-dazzling display. It occurred to me that I’d just discovered the heart of my bare-bones Christmas; a holiday I’m determined to simplify while honoring the grandeur of a savior born into abject poverty, announced by angels, and spotlighted by a star. It’s a celebration that truly is the same yesterday and today and forever.

If you could use a dose of holiday magic this year, don’t miss the final “Light of the World” Christmas pageant, which takes place Saturday at 7 p.m. on Minden’s courthouse lawn.

It’s the perfect cure for the pre-Christmas blues.

Copyright © 2015