Our church's Sunday school held its Christmas program last weekend, and it was so precious it almost brought a tear to the eye.

The kiddos were as adorable as could be, dressed up in their Mary and Joseph and shepherd and animal costumes. And, unlike last year, this year’s Christmas program, a beloved, time-honored tradition in our church, was held in our beautiful sanctuary, which is all decked out in its Christmas best.

To be expected, and maybe even desired with a Sunday school program, not all went as planned.

At one point, our youngest Sunday schoolers missed a cue and exited the stage early for a costume change. One of our Sunday school leaders quickly scurried backstage to get them to return to the program, which resulted in our sheep-turned-wise men actors ending up on stage with sheep ears on their heads and their royal wiseman gowns on as well.

It was a magical touch of the unexpected. And I’m quite certain God enjoyed the moment of mirth just as much as our congregation.

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And that was the moment from our program that I'll take with me into this Christmas, one we celebrate with a continued cloud of anxiety and unknown hanging over our heads once again this year.

Too often we celebrate the “grandest” of the Christmas season: the biggest decorations, the most expensive presents, the largest family get-togethers, the most dazzling light displays, and the most lavish food spreads. We exhaust ourselves with the effort to create the “perfect” Christmas.

When really, the first Christmas wasn’t anything grand at all: An unwed couple with a questionable pregnancy and the baby on the way find shelter in a barn among common livestock, far from home and alone. And then, this young family soon finds itself on the run, fearing for Jesus’ life and fleeing to Egypt for safety.

That hardly seems anything like the perfect Christmases we plan for and expect these days.

And that is why our little sheep-turned-wise men were so precious to me this year.

My prayer for you this Christmas is that you simply get an opportunity to be with your loved ones. If you can manage a grand affair as your tradition calls for, wonderful. But even if you find yourself celebrating with just a few of your closest loved ones, or celebrating on a Zoom call to protect your most vulnerable family members, or gathering by the hospital bedside of a loved one, or visiting through the glass during a visit to a jail, or even commemorating Christmas by yourself, I pray that you feel the Holy Spirit’s peace and love.

Because, frankly, that’s really what God intended for that first Christmas anyway.

Devlyn Brooks, who works for Modulist, a Forum Communications Co.-owned company, is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Church of America. He serves as pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Wolverton, Minnesota. He can be reached at for comments and story ideas.