A couple of months ago I did a post about my friend Joanna Siebert, and her daughter, Joanna Campbell. This delightful mother-daughter team had published a book, Taste and See: Experiences of God’s Goodness Through Stories, Poems, and Food. I had the pleasure of attending their book signing in Little Rock in October and meeting Joanna, the daughter. (I already knew Joanna the mother.)
Yesterday I asked Joanna S. for permission to reprint one of the stories from their book. I hope you enjoy “Christmas Eve Chocolate Communion” as much as I did. Joanna S. will be reading it on the local (Little Rock) NPR station at 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve. I’d love to hear it in her voice, but I’ll be in Denver. ENJOY, everyone!
Christmas Eve Chocolate Communion
By Joanna Seibert
The bare-footed tiny angels with their silver tinseled halos and shiny white gowns have all fluttered and twirled up and down St. Luke’s Episcopal Church aisles as “This is My Dancing Day” is played on the harp. As the Christmas Eve pageant progresses, theyoungest angels add in an extra two step dance back and forth between the steps to the altar where baby Jesus is resting and their parents’ pews. Next appear brown robed little shepherd boys processing down the center aisle to see the baby Jesus. The clank, clank of their shepherds’ staffs that look more like adult walking canes are almost in rhythm with the violinist playing “What Child Is This?” No live baby Jesus this year, just a doll, actually as our administrator named her, “Scary Doll.” Her mouth is wide open like a bird, and she is obviously a blue eyed girl doll well wrapped and lying in the traditional manger that has been used in so many other Christmas pageants before, by history, fifty-seven counting this year. Teenaged Mary and Joseph try to comfort and quiet the shepherds and angels as the story of Jesus’ nativity is read by older youth dressed in white choir robes. I-phones, flash photography, videos are in abundance as proud parents and grandparents search for their special shepherds and angels.
Max sweetly sings unaccompanied the last verse of “Once in Royal David’s City” as the pageant ends, and our rector goes and sits with the children on the chancel steps. He pulls out a tray of chocolate pieces. He passes the tray around and asks each child, “What does the chocolate candy look like?”
“Square, dark brown, “ words are heard.
“Does anyone know where chocolate comes from?”
“The candy store,” is the best answer.
Carey then tells them that the rough leathery rinds of the tropically grown cocoa beans are removed, and the beans are then fermented, roasted and ground until they liquefy into what is called cocoa butter and cocoa solid. He then reads the long list of ingredients in the Christmas candy written in small print on the bottom of the chocolate bar’s gold tin container, “sugar, milk cocoa butter, chocolate, soy lecithin, vanillin, and artificial flavor.” He asks, “Do any of you know what chocolate is like by learning about its ingredients, what stuff is in it, where it came from, or where it was made?” Heads nod “No”. “Yes, only by experiencing chocolate, by eating it, do we know what chocolate really is. ”All of the children eagerly agree with him, and each then receives a generous piece of dark imported chocolate. I hear several “Yumms” and “more”. Carey then asks the children, “Is eating rich chocolate similar to the story of Jesus’ being born into the world? We can learn about God in books, in pictures, in writings, even hear about God from other people, but only when we experience God ourselves, do we really know God.”
I look into the children’s faces and see that the children truly do understand what he is saying, because God is there with them, in them. He’s in their eyes, and he’s in their smiles. And as I look around at the rest of the congregation I see that, indeed, he is there in all of us.
Christmas is God’s offer to each of us to experience in the flesh and taste and see that God is good.