Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts

People, Look East! 2018 Christmas Pageant Casting Call

People of all ages, you are invited to participate in the 2018 UniLu Christmas pageant, “People Look East,” on Sunday, December 16, at the 10:30 am service. Come ready to play the part of your choice! Costumes are encouraged but not necessary.

“People Look East,” hymn number 248 in the Evangelical Lutheran Worship hymnal, first appeared in the 1928 Oxford Book of Carols. Penned by Eleanor Farjeon, it was notably “a modern text to a traditional tune.” What apparently made the carol modern was its lack of explicit mention of some traditional characters, like Mary, Joseph, sheep, shepherds…and God. Omissions? Or, counting on the presence of the usual suspects, did Farjeon want to expand the modern Christmas-imagination to include more actors? In her carol, humans are called to action, but so are furrows in fields and entire galaxies of stars. Angels with words of mirth are tasked with getting mountains and valleys humming with the news that “Love—the Guest, the Rose, the Star, the Lord—is on the way.”

Eleanor Farjeon would feel right at home at a UniLu Christmas pageant. This year, we will take musical cues from her hymn, and all are invited to claim an identity to bring to the stable. Of course, Marys, Josephs, shepherds, sheep, and angels are welcome! But who can say what other creatures or phenomena might also make appearances? It’s up to you!

To prepare for your part in the Christmas pageant, consider reflecting with an “I am” poem (PDF). This is offered for deepening your Christmas imagination. We will make time in the pageant for sharing “I am” poems, but no pressure! As always: Silently or aloud, God hears!

1918-2018 centennial note: In the immediate aftermath of the First World War, Eleanor Farjeon wrote “Peace,” a poem to give Peace a voice with which to ask the ask the question: Can peace ever be more than the absence of war? The opening lines are not optimistic:

I am as awful as my brother War,
I am the sudden silence after clamor.
I am the face that shows the seamy scar
When blood and frenzy has lost its glamour…

But as the poem concludes, hope is offered:

…Be blunt, and say the peace is but a state
Wherein the active soul is free to move,
And nations only show as mean or great
According to the spirit then they prove.
Of which of ye whose battle-cry is Hate
Will first in peace dare shout the name of Love?

Who will dare cry, “Love”? In “People, Look East,” written 10 years after World War I, Farjeon stages a Christmas rehearsal for daring to herald the coming of Love with voices raised against the battle-cries of every age.