I Bring You Franken-thine
Miss Swickey knew she was in deep trouble when six-year-old
Homer first uttered his one and only line in the Sunday School
Christmas pageant. Facing a facsimile of the Christ child, lying in a
manger, Homer, as one of the three Wise Men, held out his gift and
said, "I bring you Franken-thine." Immediately the entire stage was
"That's frankincense," Miss Swickey said soothingly over the hooting
of the other children. "The word is frankincense, Homer. Not
"Yeth'm," Homer said, a sheepish grin on his face.
Miss Swickey shook her head. The rehearsal had not been going at
all well today. First one of angels got into a fight with a shepherd.
Then Joseph upstaged Mary by picking his nose. Shortly thereafter,
one of the sheep -- donated by local farmer Isaiah Doolittle -- had an
accident onstage, much to the merriment of the young thespians. Now
this. If Homer said his line like that tomorrow night, he would surely
bring down the house.
For a moment, Miss Swickey questioned her own sanity in accepting
the assignment to direct this year's Sunday School Christmas pageant.
But Pastor Spicknal had a silver tongue and could talk the devil out of
his pitchfork. So it was a small matter for him to persuade Miss
Swickey to direct. She closed her eyes for a moment and uttered a
silent prayer for strength. Then, once again, she leaped into the fray.
"Now children, we only have another hour or so to get this right," she
said, clapping her hands for attention. "All your parents will out there
tomorrow night watching you. You wouldn't want to embarrass me...
THEM, would you?"
"No, Miss Swickey," everyone said, almost in unison.
"All right then, children. Let's take it from the top. Wise Men, go
back stage. The only ones out here should be Joseph and Mary and
that stupid sheep."
"Churchill's a nice sheep," the little girl playing Mary said. "He just
had to go to the bathroom, that's all."
Miss Swickey smiled benevolently at Mary and her lamb. "Yes,
you're right. Churchill is one of God's creatures. So he is very nice."
Then she frowned. "Joseph, stop that," she growled. "We've talked
about that kind of behavior before. It's disgusting."
"Yes'm," Joseph said as he put the offending hand in the pocket of the
bathrobe he was wearing.
"I gotta go potty!" cried one of the shepherds from backstage.
"Me, too," Mary said.
Miss Swickey sighed the sigh of the exasperated. "Very well,
children. We'll take a ten minute potty break. But at the end of the ten
minutes, I want all of you back here and ready to go to work. And
stay out of the nursery," she yelled after them. "Those toys are for the
When everyone had clamored offstage, Miss Swickey sat down in a
nearby chair and put her head in her hands. She wanted to cry, but
she was too exhausted. A moment later, Pastor Spicknal walked into
the hall. "Where are all the children?" he asked.
"Bathroom break," she replied curtly.
Miss Swickey looked up at the preacher standing over her. Her eyes
were rimmed with red. "I'll tell you what's wrong. EVERYTHING is
wrong, from that infernal misnamed sheep over there, to fist-fights in
the stable, to a kid who can't say a simple word like frankincense,
to.... Well, you name it. There is no way this pageant is going to be
ready by tomorrow night."
Pastor Spicknal put a fatherly hand on Miss Swickey's heaving
shoulders. "There now. Everything will be fine. Just have a little faith.
Remember what Jesus said about the mustard seed and moving the
"What I really need is the mountain to fall on me, Pastor."
Pastor Spicknal patted the woman lightly on the shoulder and smiled.
"Take my advice, Miss Swickey. Believe that the pageant will go on
with the minimum of trouble, and it will." Then he was gone.
"A lot you know about it," Miss Swickey grumbled under her breath
as the pastor disappeared through the door. "You don't have to deal
with these little heathens."
Surprisingly, the rest of the rehearsal went off with little trouble,
except for young Homer. He still couldn't say frankincense. No
matter how hard she tried to coach him, he always said, "I bring you
The next night, the hall filled rapidly with expectant parents, all
anxious to see their child trod the boards. Miss Swickey looked out
into the audience and instantly got a sinking feeling. Pastor Spicknal
sat on the front row, chatting with some of his parishioners. He saw
Miss Swickey peeking out from behind the curtains and winked at
her. He looked the very essence of confidence. Maybe he was right
about the mustard seed after all.
So in spite of the chaos swirling around her backstage, she said a
silent prayer. "Lord, please make this pageant come off as planned. I
have faith that You will, Lord. I ask this in the name of our Lord
The prayer was still on her lips when the hands of the clock reached
seven o'clock. She took a deep breath and signaled the young man at
the ropes to open the curtain.
The tableau was beautiful. There was Mary and Joseph and the
manger. Even Churchill was behaving. He was lying on a pile of
straw, looking at the manger with appropriate adoration. Then it was
time for the angels and the shepherds. Everything went off without a
hitch. Miss Swickey was pleased so far and it looked like her prayer
was being answered. But young Homer had not appeared yet and he
could still not say that word. Miss Swickey cringed.
Then came the Wise Men. Homer would be the first to speak. Miss
Swickey looked heavenward, pleading for mercy. Young Homer,
looking suitably solemn opened his mouth and held out his gift. Miss
Swickey took a deep breath. "I bring you FRANKIN-THENSE,"
he said in the loud, clear voice. Miss Swickey almost yelled
"Hallelujah," but, restrained herself.
After the performance, the pastor came up and congratulated Miss
Swickey on a job well done. "That was the best Christmas pageant
this church ever had," he said. "Congratulations. I take it that you did
what I told you to do."
"Yes, Pastor. I did. It worked real well. And thanks for helping me by
"It wasn't me," the pastor said. "Your help came from an entirely
"What do you mean?"
"Young Homer, there. He was so worried about not being able to say
frankincense in the play and making you angry, that he did quite a bit
of praying himself in the past 24 hours. We adults could learn a lot
from those kids, Miss Swickey. 'Their middle name is 'faith'."
"I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard
seed, you can say to this mountain, `Move from here to there'
and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."
(Matthew 17:20 NIV)
[ By Ed Price -- from 'Themestream' ]
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