We had the season's first Christmas program practice at church last night. As usual, it was more-or-less controlled chaos. Squirming little children not listening to directions, teens trying to act cool and not always listening to directions, costumes being tried on while trying to learn to hit the marks on stage--tough to do when your angel costume is stuck on your head. But, by the end of the night the program was beginning to be recognizable. We still have a problem with the bashful Joseph not wanting to look too husbandly toward Mary.

But, by Sunday night we'll be ready--more or less.

Children just naturally disrupt our ordered lives simply by being children.

On Sunday mornings a little before 11am I holler into the sanctuary (it's Oklahoma)--"Time to ring the bell!" The children there on time walk/rush/run to the bell tower to take turns ringing the bell to start the service. Not an orderely start to the worship of the Most High God. But, better now than when I began this practice. Then I'd have to separate pushing, squabbling children wanting to be first in line to pull the bell rope. Did I mention that we open the outside door of the bell tower so we can hear the bell, and so that the kids who want can go outside to see the bell ring? Yes, of course I sometimes must yell at some of the small boys to stay away from the road and get back into the church.

Next the children take turns by Sunday lighting the candles at the front of the church. I follow them in, not always in an orderly procession because a kid who is new automatically gets to light it on his first Sunday. (sotto voice) try to walk side-by-side, OK your candle is now lit, you can put the candle lighter out, now follow her to the back of the church and put the lighter into the holder. (I have one little boy who seems so fascinated by fire that he forgets his moves.)

Somehow, I don't think God minds.

On Sunday night we'll have the Christmas program. Even after three rehearsals there will be some confusion, a bit of chaos. But that's OK. After all, we are celebrating the birth of a child, who brought his own chaos into ordered lives.

You're pregnant? Who's the father? What, I have to ride all the way to Bethlehem on a donkey in my condition? Eleazer, wake up! How could you sleep through the music. Come on, we're all going into Bethlehem! The sheep? They'll be fine for a while, come with us to see the Messiah! You've seen whose star? Quick Mary, we must go to Egypt. Kill all the children you find. Joseph, where's Jesus? I thought he was with you. Help me look for him, he's only 12 you know. . . . Come, follow me, and I'll make you fishers of men.

And we think we can both order our own lives and welcome into them the Holy Child.