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A new Christmas pageant shows off the fierce side of Mary

A traditional depiction of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus in a pageant manger scene. “Deleted Scenes Christmas Pageant” skips most traditional depictions of the holy family. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jared Marquis/U.S. Air Force/Creative Commons

SPOKANE, Wash. (RNS) — If you ask the Rev. Katy Fitz Shedlock, there is something wrong with the way Mary is portrayed in most church Christmas pageants.

She’s boring.

Mary is often played as the “most perfect, most boring girl,” said Fitz Shedlock.

“She’s just a silent prop up there, holding a baby and looking sweet,” she said. “But she’s way fiercer and more powerful than that.”

This Christmas the pastor is revamping the Nativity drama at Creator’s Table, a congregation she co-pastors in Spokane, to show off Mary’s fierce side.

Dubbed the “Deleted Scenes Christmas Pageant,” the play skips most of the traditional elements of the Christmas story. There are no wise men, no shepherds, no camels or sheep and no star in the sky.

Joseph is mentioned in the pageant but he’s offstage. And most of the events take place before the birth of Jesus.

Instead, the pageant, which portrays Mary as a modern, strong teenage woman, emphasizes a portion of the Christmas narrative called the Magnificat.

Also known as the Song of Mary, the Magnificat is found in the Gospel of Luke, when Mary visits her relative Elizabeth, who is pregnant as well.

In the first part of the Magnificat, Mary gives praise for being chosen to mother Jesus. In the second half, though, her message changes, said Robert Tannehill, emeritus professor at Methodist Theological School in Ohio.

“She talks about God overthrowing human rulers and overturning society and showing strength against the proud and the rich,” he said. “Mary is important for her role as the mother of the Messiah, but is also a representative of the people of low status, the oppressed.”

The Rev. Jonathan Myers, co-pastor of Creator’s Table, agrees.

“Her tone is often meek and mild, but she’s talking about overthrowing the system,”  Myers said.

In the Deleted Scenes Christmas Pageant, Mary will be played by a teenage girl from a nearby Methodist church, who wears a baggy hoodie, gets kicked out of her house, texts Joseph and talks back to the angel Gabriel.

Instead of a meek, sinless girl, Fitz Shedlock, a competitive slam poet, said she wants the audience to see Mary as a troublemaker, someone who isn’t afraid of upsetting the status quo.

The pageant idea stemmed from a poem she wrote last year about Mary and the Magnificat, called “Hail Mary.”

The Rev. Katy Fitz Shedlock performs a poem. Photo courtesy of Patrick Scriven/Pacific Northwest UMC

In it Fitz Shedlock writes:

“We skip the moment

where she walks up to the mic,

a teenager starting to show,

she makes us nervous

she might say anything —

she speaks.

in magnificent poetry,

the verses fly by,

more of them than any other woman in the New Testament.”

Christmas pageants at churches have a long history. St. Francis of Assisi is credited with staging the first Nativity scene, according to his biographer, St. Bonaventure.

And pageants remain an effective way of engaging worshippers, said Fitz Shedlock, a Methodist minister who co-pastors the Creators Table with Myers, an Episcopal priest. The congregation uses spoken word, stand-up comedy, live art and other alternative worship experiences in its services.

“That’s the power of the tradition of pageants, whether they be Christmas pageants or Passion plays; there’s a lot of power in asking people to incarnate a story,” Fitz Shedlock said.

Ultimately, the pastors hope those who see the pageant on Dec. 23 will rethink the Christmas story — and view Mary as anything but boring.

“I think the No. 1 hope is that Mary would be uncovered and become more of a three-dimensional human being,” Fitz Shedlock said. “Maybe it will leave some questions in folks’ minds about what we choose to show or not show and why.”

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Tracy Simmons

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  • “…she’s talking about overthrowing the system…” What’s that? This is Mary’s prayer:
    46 And Mary said:
    “My soul glorifies the Lord
    47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
    48 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
    From now on all generations will call me blessed,
    49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
    50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
    51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
    52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
    53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
    54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
    55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”
    Leave it to a female pastor – which ‘Christ said was not to be – to come up with that type of trash.
    btw – what is an “alternative worship experience”? More trash.

  • I wish both Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Mary Magdalene, the friend and helper of Jesus, had gotten more coverage by the Bible. I wish we had long first-person explanations and expositions from both of them, actually in the permanent print. But, alas, we didn’t get them.

  • The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) fails rigorous historic testing and therefore is historically nil as is 90% of the NT. e.g. Professor Gerd Ludemann, Jesus After 2000 Years, pp. 264-266,

  • I don’t necessarily agree with the tone of this pageant that Mary was some sort of radical, but there’s no mistaking that the tone of the Magnificat does upset the status quo.

    “He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.”

    That was counter to the conventional wisdom of the Sanhedrin, counter to the ethic of the Roman Empire and it’s still counter-cultural today. Luke’s Gospel fairly bursts with social justice teaching. One has to be blind not to see it.

  • I would think by the part of the quote that you chose that she is referring to what Jesus is going to do – not what she will do.

  • Yes, certainly, it is a foreshadowing of the work of Jesus, but the Magnificat shows that Mary was a knowing and willing participant in that work. Again, I don’t agree with the tone of the pageant, but I do respect Mary for her courage and her faith. Don’t forget, in her culture she could have been stoned to death for being pregnant before marriage.

    As for social justice references in Luke, here are a few: Luke 3:11, 4:18-19, 6:20-31, 10:30-37, 14:12-14, 16:19-31, 18:1-8. There are many more. Remember, too, that Acts was written by the same author and continues the theme of social justice.

  • Yes, really. What specifically do you see in that article that references blasphemy?

    I don’t agree with the tone of the pageant and I doubt I’d ever go see it. But I take seriously accusing others of blasphemy and I think such a charge, in justice, requires proof.

  • Oh yes. Can you imagine what she went through? And Joseph wanted to put her away quietly until the Lord intervened. I’m sure it was something.
    There is a quote somewhere from Jewish literature where Christ is referred to as the “bastard son of Mary.”
    Still, the focus of it all, is Jesus, not Mary. The woman did wrong in her attempts to feministize (!) Mary. Mary wasn’t a feminist – and that is what the woman presenting this is trying to accomplish. Mary was a faithful servant of God – and that’s what matters.
    I’ll get back to you on the “social justice” as I’m preparing dinner and just stuck my nose in quickly.

  • Pastress ShedLocked doesn’t know her bible. Unlock & purview the key verse that sandinwindsor has posted “6 hours ago”. What does it say plainly & uncomplicatedly (i.e. free of theological & atheistic nonsense)? “Mary as a troublemaker”? NO. But rather the “TroubleMaker” is none other than “the Mighty One … [who] has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts … brought down rulers from their thrones … [and] has sent the rich away empty.”

    HIP HIP HURRAH I mean praise God & Jesus!

  • Luke 3:11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics[b] is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” That isn’t “social justice” because no one is holding these people back.
    Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
    19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
    That isn’t “social justice”. That is God freeing people from their bondage to satan
    Luke 6:20-31 “Blessed are you ” is repeated over and over…..not social justice
    Luke 10:30-37 – Is the good Samaritan. He wasn’t fighting for someone’s perceived rights
    Luke 14:12-14 – 12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers[b] or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” That isn’t fighting for someone’s perceived rights.
    That is generosity
    Luke 16:19 – how on earth did you come up with social justice on that one? lol……That is Christ giving a tour of Hell! lol
    Luke 18:1-8 – She pestered a leader who didn’t want to help her! Did you actually read any of these?

  • Lewdman published that trash in 2001. So like 2 millennia after the fact, he time-machined his way back then to un-verify & render void The Magnificat? You call that a reliable eyewitness account?! Luke, however, had gathered reliable & contemporary, eyewitnessed evidence-based written & oral affidavits. He was very adamant & transparent about his sources.

    So like in the court of law today, you’d needed counter-testimonies from such time & place. YOU AIN’T GOT NONE – “therefore … historically nil”! Like the Zero-Worth of Ashiesm espoused by you.

  • A key theme of Luke’s Gospel is that the reign of God includes justice on earth. It’s woven throughout. That’s not a political statement. It’s recognition that love of God and love of neighbor are inextricable. Any serious commentary on Luke acknowledges as much.

    Okay, moving on.

  • No. God doesn’t promise us “justice on Earth”

    James 1:12 English Standard Version (ESV) 12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

    John 16:33 English Standard Version (ESV) 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

    James 1:2 ESV Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,

    Romans 5:3 English Standard Version (ESV) 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,

    1 Peter 4:12 ESV Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.

    Are you seeing a thread here?

  • Awfully charitable of you to characterize me that way.

    In other words, you’ve got nothing so you’re changing the subject. I understand.

  • Whenever someone starts a sentence with “in other words” it is followed by a straw man 100% of the time.

  • I get the feeling you don’t know what a straw man is. Okay, this will be my last post on the subject. In all seriousness, there is nothing blasphemous in the pageant as described in the article. It may offer a spurious representation of Mary and certainly not one that I would agree with, but it isn’t a negative or insulting one. Quite the opposite, in fact.

    I don’t take charges of blasphemy and heresy lightly. Anonymous people throw them around too easily on this board and it’s uncharitable. That’s why I challenged you to support your claim and I’m disappointed that you didn’t. Please give more consideration to what you accuse someone of in the future.

    Moving on. Have a nice evening.

  • Mary is not a goddess, and calling her one is blasphemy against the Holy Trinity.

    How’s that for irony?

  • I’m Mormon. Hey, I thought you weren’t going to reply to me anymore? Yeesh, this clown takes more farewell tours than The Who?.

  • Rat Con treats Lewdman as his infallible Bible. Disagreeing with the Lewdman he considers akin to blasphemy.

  • Rat Con, Rat Con, who’s that? – you made me wonder. Is there a Viet Cong in our midst? Rat Con sounded like Viet Cong. But oh it’s short for this promoter of The Lewdman. Got it.

    Anyway I tried this eyewitness argument with Givethedogabone once. Interesting how atheists like him always consider lab products as evidence, but hardly testimonials from people. Glad our God & Jesus are big on the words of witnesses. Court systems the world over are, too. But there’s increasing resistance to treating testimonials as admissable.

    Anyway point is, You & I best continue to witness for the Alpha & Omega and the Lamb!

    Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year.

    Please forgive my bad words to you in the past.

  • Obviously, you have not perused Professor Ludemann’s studies. Or Professor Crossan’s. Or Professor Ehrman’s . Or Professor Brown’s . Or Professor Meier ‘s.

    And please show Luke’s “evidence” supporting any of his gospel.

  • No one here has ever said that Mary said that it was something that she would do. That’s poor reading of the article on your part.

    If the girl who said those words was the mother of God incarnate, it is obvious her influence on that son as he grew in her home as his message echoed her words often and in all 4 Gospels.

  • You are from a minority Christian sect that interprets that the mission of God in Christ was only pie in the sky by & by. The majority of Christian denominations in the world also see the Realm of God as happening here on God’s creation, the earth.

    You also appear to have a very limited idea about social justice and what it entails.

  • You constantly demonstrate a lot of internalized self-hatred, first about women and second humanity in general.

  • Uppity women who don’t know their biblical place trying to transfer those qualities to Mary. Tell ’em Sandi.

  • I hear Mary has an entire chapter in the Quran. Same god so she gets some credit for being the mother of a prophet.

  • Glad you ask for “Luke’s ‘evidence” supporting any of his gospel” – two Statements of Evidence, actually. They’re based on, from his decisive point of view, Reliable Eyewitness Testimonies, which, like in a court of law today as it was done at the time, you’re now to contradict based upon your own team of Reliable Counter-Witnesses. GO. You have 48 hours. COURT’S ADJOURNED UNTIL THEN.

    (1) Acts 1:2-3 – “To the apostles whom He had chosen … Jesus presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing PROOFS [τεκμηρίοις = tekmeeriois = fixed and sure sign-post supplying indisputable, unmistakable, irrefutable information], appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.”

    (2) Acts 17:30-31 – “God … has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished PROOF [πίστιν = pistin = guarantee, certainty, assurance] to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

  • If you ask the Rev. Katy Fitz Shedlock about Mary, there is something wrong with YOU.

    Here she is at FemFest2018:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L4-XWfVEWYE

    and here is Creators’ Table:

    https://www.facebook.com/creatorstable.westcentral/

    and here is a description of Creators’ Table:

    http://audubonparkumc.org/creators-table

    It is certainly no shock that she operates under the auspices of the post-Christian Spokane Diocese of the Episcopal Church, which itself has adopted “an ethic of relentless re-interpretation”.

  • The majority of Christian denominations in the world see the Realm of God foreshadowed here in God’s creation, the earth, but accomplished at the Second Coming when a new earth and new heavens are created.

  • Luke’s Gospel fairly bursts with the message that Christians ought to be both just and charitable, which are really two sides of the same coin.

    “Social justice teaching” is another matter.

    There is a fairly large minority in the USA who think “social justice teaching” and the platform of the Democratic Party, or the resolutions of the United Church of Christ, are identical.

  • “Scholars do not always agree which of the New Testament people named Mary is the central character of the Gospel of Mary. Some have suggested that she may be Mary the mother of Jesus.”

    MAY.

  • I’m not one of those. The Gospel transcends wordly politics. I use the language of social justice because the Church does.

  • The Church uses it in a very clear specific way, CCC:

    “1928
    Society ensures social justice when it provides the conditions that
    allow associations or individuals to obtain what is their due, according
    to their nature and their vocation. Social justice is linked to the
    common good and the exercise of authority”.

    That does not appear to be consistent with what you seem to think is found in Luke.

    Luke focuses on what individuals do vis a vis one another.

    Obviously if every individual in a society is Christian and conducts herself or himself consistent with the Gospels social justice is achieved.

    What is NOT in the Gospels, Luke or otherwise, is a political prescription of any kind which could be described as “social justice”.

  • I have never suggested a political prescription. If you get hung up on my use of the term “social justice” or choose to read a political agenda into it, that’s your problem. I’m an independent, not a Democrat and, politically, I’m more of a moderate than a liberal.

    For the record, I’m not a fan of state-sponsored charity. I accept the reality that there are situations in which the state is better equipped to deliver relief than non-governmental organizations (the Marshall Plan, times of natural disaster, etc.), but it should never be the norm. My reasoning is simple. In the Gospel, charity (caritas) is linked to metanoia, and states are not capable of metanoia. Only individuals are. Take away the relationship between giver and recipient, which is intended to be an opportunity for both to grow, and charity becomes less than God intended it to be.

    Also, state-sponsored charity fosters an environment of dependency, which is my primary beef with the Democratic party (well, one of them anyway.)

    As for Luke, one of the predominant themes in his Gospel is that charity is not an option but a mandate of the Gospel. Again, love of God and love of neighbor are inextricable. We never achieve justice in this realm but we are to continue to strive for it. If you want to call that something other than social justice teaching, be my guest.

  • “As for Luke, one of the predominant themes in his Gospel is that charity is not an option but a mandate of the Gospel.” for individuals, which only remotely has to do with “social justice”.

    The phrase “social justice” never appears in the Gospels because the Good News it to individuals, not to society.

    As to society, all we read is “render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God that which is God’s.

    So “If you want to call that something other than social justice teaching, be my guest.” is a dodge.

  • First, the author of Luke’s Acts : “Acts and the Gospel of Luke make up a two-part work, Luke–Acts, by the same anonymous author, usually dated to around 80–90 AD.”

    Evidence from a anonymous person will not be acceptable in any court.

    Acts 1: 2-3, (See also Luke 24: 44-49) fails rigorous historic testing i.e. it is a single attestation found no where else in scripture or related scripture. e.g. http://www.faithfutures.org/JDB/jdb479.html , and from Professor Crossan’s inventory of NT passages published in his book, the HIstorical Jesus. See also Professor Ludemann’s conclusions about Luke 24: 44-49 in his book Jesus After 2000 Years, pp. 413-415, ” The historic value is nil. ”

    Acts 17: 30-31: Any court would demand that God be a witness to add credibility to this passage. Also, it is a single attestation found no where else is scripture therefore it fails rigorous historic testing.

    Also, see Professor Raymond Brown’s studies published in his book, “An Introduction to the New Testament” on what little is known about Luke. Also, Professor Brown reviews Acts in great detail pp. 279-332 to include many of its problems.

    See also the review of the Acts of the Apostles to include many references to analyses of said book and a discussion as to its author and date of publication at http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/acts.html /

  • Here is a link to that 19th chapter in the Quran (Maryam) where you can read it rather quickly.
    https://quran.com/19
    Please do and let me know what you think. I understand there is a supposed claim of “same God” from the Old Testament root—–but—–personally I don’t buy it with respect to Islam in practice.

  • you stalking me today, David? I suggest you reread the article and then judge your own reading capabilities.

  • No, her collective comments about both women and humanity.

    It’s funny how you often ride to her banner. She is as anti-Catholic as they come. You throw tantrums and threaten to block folks you deem anti-Catholic often.

  • Let’s pause for a moment while you substantiate:

    “throw tantrums”

    and

    “threaten to block folks”.

    I usually inquire as to whether the correspondent minds if I block her or him:

    https://disqus.com/home/discussion/religionnews/how_can_christians_support_donald_trump/#comment-4246345669

    to give them an opportunity to either get back on topic or knock off the trolling.

    That is no threat.

    Btw, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” – Kautilya, 4th century BC India in the “Arthashastra”.

  • RULING: NOT ADMISSIBLE IN THE COURT OF LAW

    NONE of the following were Reliable Counter-Witnesses at the time & place settings of Acts 1:2-3 and Acts 17:30-31:

    (1) Croissant
    (2) LewdMan
    (3) BrownNoser
    (4) RatCon

  • Obviously, you did not read any of the referenced studies from NT expert witnesses. I am sure the judge and his clerks would before the trial. Then there is that god witness!!

  • What Mary was vocalizing was simply the universal Jewish expectation of a Messiah who would deliver Israel from her Roman oppressors. She no doubt expected a political leader just like everyone else did, was excited to be His mother.

  • Jesus,Mary and Joseph they can’t leave anything well enough alone.They’ve got to put their own personal interpretation and spin on it!

  • We got what we got in the assembled Bible, written by people in many ages, some preserved, some not. Some of it is helpful. Some isn’t. Many insights which could or should have been there—–aren’t. Some of those which are there—-shouldn’t be. I blame people and the ravages of time for this, not God, because I understand what you call “His Word” actually is. We need to be honest about the Bible. Otherwise the bad parts invite people to skate out of paying serious attention to the good parts.

  • U-betcha! Scroll down to where sandinwindsor had posted “2 days ago” this punchline to “the script for this play available for distribution”: The “TroubleMaker” is not Mary, but “the Mighty One … [who] has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts … brought down rulers from their thrones … [and] has sent the rich away empty.”

    ENJOY THE SHOW.

  • Agree, can be called “Eisegete an Agenda” – and the SJWs strain in Christendom does it often. Seem to conflate “justice” and “mercy”.

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