For years now whenever Christmas pageants are talked about in a certain little town in the Midwest, someone is sure to mention the name of Wallace Purling. Wally’s performance in one annual production of the Nativity play has slipped into the realm of legend. But the old timers who were in the audience that night never tire of recalling exactly what happened.
Wally was nine that year and in the second grade, though he should have been in the fourth. Most people in town knew that he had difficulty in keeping up. He was big and clumsy, slow in movement and mind. Still, Wally was well liked by the other children in his class, all of whom were smaller than he, though the boys had trouble hiding their irritation if the uncoordinated Wally asked to play ball with them.
Most often they’d find a way to keep him off the field, but Wally would hang around anyway—not sulking, just hoping. He was always a helpful boy, a willing and smiling one, and the natural protector, paradoxically, of the underdog. Sometimes if the older boys chased the younger ones away, it would always be Wally who’d say, “Can’t they stay? They’re no bother.”
Wally fancied the idea of being a shepherd with a flute in the Christmas pageant that year, but the play’s director, Miss Lumbard, assigned him to a more important role. After all, she reasoned, the Innkeeper did not have too many lines, and Wally’s size would make his refusal of lodging to Joseph more forceful.
And so it happened that the usual large, partisan audience gathered for the town’s Yuletide extravaganza of the staffs and crèches, of beards, crowns, halos and a whole shameful of squeaky voices. No one on stage or off was more caught up in the magic of the night than Wallace Purling. They said later that he stood in the wings and watched the performance with such fascination that from time to time Miss Lumbard had to make sure he didn’t wander onstage before his cue.
Then the time came when Joseph appeared, slowly, tenderly guiding Mary to the door of the inn. Joseph knocked hard on the wooden door set into the painted backdrop.
Wally the Innkeeper was there, waiting. “What do you want?” Wally said, swinging the door open with a brusque gesture.
“We seek lodging.”
“Seek it elsewhere.” Wally looked straight ahead but spoke vigorously. “The inn is filled.”
“Sir, we have asked everywhere in vain. We have traveled far and are very weary.”
“There is no room in this inn for you.” Wally looked properly stern.
“Please, good innkeeper, this is my wife, Mary. She is heavy with child and needs a place to rest. Surely you must have some small corner for her. She is so tired.”
Now, for the first time, the Innkeeper relaxed his stiff stance and looked down at Mary. With that, there was a long pause, long enough to make the audience a bit tense with embarrassment.
“No! Begone!” the prompter whispered from the wings.
“No!” Wally repeated automatically. “Begone!”
Joseph sadly placed his arm around Mary, and Mary laid her head upon his shoulder, and the two of them started to move away. The Innkeeper did not return inside his inn, however. Wally stood there in the doorway, watching the forlorn couple. His mouth was open, his brow creased with concern, his eyes filling unmistakably with tears.
“Don’t go, Joseph,” Wally called out. “Bring Mary back.” And Wallace Purling’s face grew into a bright smile. “You can have my room.”
Some people in town thought that the pageant had been ruined. Yet there were others—many others—who considered it the most Christmas of all Christmas pageants they had ever seen.
(I received this from Dixie Franklin a couple years ago. Originally published in “Guideposts” in 1966)
ESCANABA NEWS & EVENTS
Holiday Schedule for Family Night December 24 No Family Night Christmas Eve December 31 No Family Night New Year’s Eve
January Family Night The new volunteer sheet is posted on the bulletin board. Our theme for January will be from Judges 13, “The Birth of Samson.” Jason will be our Storyteller the first week. Activities and/or games about Samson will be each week of January. Sign-up today!
January Guest Speakers Marc Sundquist will be presenting our lesson during the worship on Sunday, January 4th. Jesse Huff will present our lesson on Sunday, January 11th. Dave and Bonnie are traveling to Arkansas for the birth of Sarah and Patrick’s new baby boy. He should be born on January 2nd!
Christian Closet Update Our next Closet day will be Wednesday, January 7th from 10-1. If you would like to volunteer to help, please see Cindy. We can always use your gifts of non-perishable foods, winter clothing/boots, household goods and paper products. Bring them in and leave them on the table by the main entrance.
Community Lunch in February We plan to host the Community Lunch held at the Salvation Army kitchen on Saturday, February 21, 2015. As we get closer, there will be a sign-up sheet for food and volunteers to help prepare and serve. See Jesse or Dave for questions.
ESCANABA PRAYER REQUESTS
Jewel requests prayer for her sister, Jeanette, who is having problems recovering from major surgery. She’s 80 years old. Also, Lorraine has been having shoulder and leg pain. She’s 83.
Sharon requests prayer for the family of Rovena Murphy who passed away this week.
Gladys requests prayer for the family of Collette Finch who passed away this week.