They often say that art imitates life and our church’s recent Christmas Pageant was no exception. Liam, at six years old is the oldest of our five “Lyons Cubs”; he played the part of a shepherd and, much like any other day, he was faithfully followed by our four other kids – kids who on this day were dressed as extremely furry little lambs.

Needless to say, the sight of my small shepherd leading his flock was priceless. Liam was as earnest as could be as he stood on the altar and mumbled along to the music. Ciara, my four year old lamb, had practiced her hymns at home and proudly belted out the first verse to “Away in A Manger”; the highlights for her were the high notes… as in “the litTLE Lord JeSUS lay down his sweet HEAD!”

While Liam and Ciara seemed to at least partially understand the sanctity of the Pageant, the same can not be said of our trio of two-year olds. Dressed as lambs, they acted a bit more like monkeys -- curious little monkeys -- the kind that like to pick things out of each other’s fur or, in this case, fuzzy lamb’s wool. They were also the kind that like to frolic in the aisle, climb over the pews and make a run for the border.

With headband ears, socks for paws and a cotton-ball adorned t-shirts for “fur”, the triplet lambs might have stolen the show. Except for that, of course, they were part of a larger flock – each more precious than the next and most attached to a big brother/shepherd in one way or another. The shepherds did a great job of tending to their herd… especially since my little lambs have been known to steal more than the show.

Just a few weeks ago, Cormac sauntered up the altar and came back with a $20 from the collection basket; thankfully, our priest (and our parish!) has a sense of humor and while I admit that I was momentarily tempted (all those diapers are expensive!), I did make him return it. Even so, the pattern of lifting things from the altar has been established and the Toys for Tots collection was just too good for my little guys to resist!

All in, I think our five little “Cubs” – now also known as a shepherd and his lambs – learned something from our Christmas pageant. They now know the words to some Christmas carols beyond Jingle Bells and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (which our aforementioned priest is quick to remind us are not actually Christmas carols since there’s no mention of Christ!). They know that however tempting the gifts on the altar may be -- whether they are gold, frankincense and myhrr , a crisp twenty dollar bill, or Toys for Tots -- they are not meant for them.

I’d like to think they learned that there really is a “reason for the season” and it’s not Legos or Crayons or Dolls or Choo Choos. It’s something far more important and far more sacred. As Ciara so eloquently put it as we left a Christmas party a few weeks ago, “ so Mom, Jesus gives the presents to Santa and Santa gives them to the children.” Well, little one, it’s something like that.