The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

by | Dec 16, 2015

Best Christmas PageantIt’s easy to forget…

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of Christmas, it’s easy to forget the One we celebrate.

Allowing Jesus to become part of  the periphery of our lives, rather than making Him the center.

When I get distracted like that, I love to read the story of Wally Purling.

Written by Dina Donohue and published in 1966 by Guidepost Magazine, this classic tale never fails to brings me back to the manger and the true reason for the season…

Trouble at the Inn

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 keeping up. He was big and awkward, 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 when Wally would ask to play ball with them or any game, for that matter, in which winning was important.

They’d find a way to keep him out, but Wally would hang around anyway—not sulking, just hoping. He was a helpful boy, always willing and smiling, and the protector, paradoxically, of the underdog. If the older boys chased the younger ones away, it would be Wally who’d say, “Can’t they stay? They’re no bother.”

Wally fancied the idea of being a shepherd in the Christmas pageant…



But the play’s director, Miss Lumbard, assigned him 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 yearly extravaganza of crooks and creches, of beards, crowns, halos and a whole stageful of squeaky voices.

Angel and Wisemen

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 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.

Mary and Joseph window

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 spoke vigorously. “The inn is filled.”

“Sir, we have asked every-where 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.

Wally Looking

“No! Begone!” the prompter whispered.

“No!” Wally repeated automatically. “Begone!”

Joseph sadly placed his arm around Mary and Mary laid her head upon her husband’s 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.

And suddenly this Christmas pageant became different from all others.

Wally in Snow

“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, many others—who considered it the most Christmas of all Christmas pageants they had ever seen.

IMG_471917999Is there room in your heart for Jesus?

Making room for Jesus requires effort on our part. We have to rearrange our priorities and discard anything that would get in the way of His coming. It may even require that we are inconvenienced in order to make room for Him.

But  if we, like Wally, will go off-script and respond whole-heartedly to God’s knock at the door of our hearts, He will respond whole-heartedly to us.

For “unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child,” Jesus said in Mark 10:15 (MSG), “you’ll never get in.”

If you’ve never accepted all that Jesus has done for you, may I encourage you to do it today? I can’t think of a better time to receive Jesus than at Christmas.

In fact, why don’t we all welcome Jesus afresh and anew? With arms wide open, let’s echo Wally’s words…

“You can have my room, Jesus. All of you in all of me.”

What a wonderful Christmas gift that would be for the One who’s given His all for you and me!


IMG_471915928{P.S. – In case you’re interested, this precious Lifesighs Children’s Christmas Pageant Nativity Set is available during the holidays at this affiliate link.}

I’d love to hear from you…What is your favorite Christmas story or movie, and why?

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