Christmas is a celebration the world-over enjoys. First stemming from a church-made holiday to counteract the pagan ones of the day, Dec. 25 holds significance, as most know, as the marking of the birth of Christ. Traditions changed as the holiday moved across countries and continents, but formed traditions of benevolence and generosity have been ingrained into the fabric of the holiday season, as kindness and good cheer give people hope as the days, in the northern hemisphere, get a little darker and a little colder.
Today, there’s a little more commercial fanfare to what was once a sacred holiday, and its impact of remembrance is a shell of what it used to be. There are still those of us though, who at least try to take the time of remembrance church fathers initially intended, and in that regard, especially here in the south, and outside of the south in more religious communities, an honored tradition is some form of a Nativity program performed to commemorate that blessed day at churches and schools across the country.
Hamilton is no stranger to a Christmas program, and one such program to remind the public about the “true reason for the season” is performed, now annually, at The Ramp called, Searching for Christmas. The whole idea stemmed from the community of The Ramp, especially a few key people on the leadership team, wanting to strengthen a theater program, give something back to the community and remind people, in a fresh way, there is more to Christmas than just holiday songs and tinsel. For the majority of the play, a mysterious character named Joshua leads a young girl named Lydia on a journey to find “the real Christmas.” Lydia, along with three of her toys brought to life, gain something and learn something about the true nature of Jesus through song, dance and tears as the questions of meaning and value proposed by the characters find answers in Joshua, who I portray. If you are unaware, Joshua is Jesus since the anglicized version of the Hebrew name for Jesus is Joshua.
This role is one I will play for two years now, and my name being Joshua as well was just coincidental as the part was written a decade before I would move to Hamilton to become a part of this town. Still, having the same name is comical and also, slightly constricting. It’s harder for people to differentiate between the character I play and myself. For starters, once you play Jesus, there is an expectation that everyone wants you to be the best behaved, most cordial, most caring person in the room. It can be unspoken for some and very overtly said for others, but my mistakes and imperfections are not just looked at as my own.
Some of these imperfections are things like I’m constantly having to work on time management as I am chronically late by nature. Anyone who knows me frustratingly has had to work with me on this one. I’m loud about my opinions and inner thoughts, which really shouldn’t always be expressed. What’s the lyric? “I was born in the south, sometimes I have a big mouth when I see something I don’t like, and I’ve gotta say it.” Holding my tongue is a beneficial habit I need to form better. I’m a little more deadpan with my humor, and people rarely know what is a joke and what isn’t when I joke. Most of the time, it is. I’m not what you would call a “warm person,” and while I try my best, I am terrible at consolation–a fact of which my sister often reminds me. I can make someone feel important one minute and unintentionally make them feel like they're invisible to me the next, which keeps my friendships slightly rocky if I’m not careful. My emotional and mental health issues and how they intertwine with my constant need for escape is another can of worms. Suffice it to say, I’m not Jesus. Yet, that doesn’t mean expectations are nonexistent for who I am to be every time I walk into a room. I don’t get an “off day,” and if I am having one, I will probably shut myself in my house with my Bible or a few very close friends or a good movie as every facet of my behavior has eyes on it in my community.
My own insecurities dealing with people’s expectations of me seemed to have been put under a magnifying glass with incredible magnification power through this. Questions of my own worth, meaning and value I unintentionally, and wrongly, try to find answers to in people’s perceptions and opinions of me. It just means I am always performing, even when I am off the stage, which is exhausting. I have to face myself and my own issues as the spotlights on the stage expose more than just the shadows on the stage itself. I can do two things with this: run from everything or embrace it. I wrestle with these options daily. I remind myself that the Lord isn’t looking for perfect people to be used by Him and how He extends grace and mercy where we never would. What He thinks of me is what I should be focused on more. My behavior, my issues, my problems, He can sort out as long as I keep saying yes to every sacrifice in obedience–even if the sacrifices are as small as the ones I make. I also remind myself of the privilege I have to minister the way I get to every December.
While my ministry may not look like preaching a sermon on Sundays, I am ministering by telling the gospel with this production. That simple desire to share the good news is there in my heart like a flame being fed with my love and devotion to my Savior. The Lord reminds me of the 19-year-old kid who moved to Hamilton with this fire in his heart and wonder in his eyes. Before I felt expectation, before I felt the weight being placed on me, I just wanted to keep following and saying yes. It’s not easy to do, but when I am seated with Him in heavenly places, I can see perspective differently, and while I honor people who have these expectations, I can see it will be impossible for me to please everyone. This is how I can keep moving forward. This is how I can keep saying yes.
I am so honored to be able to carry this role out for The Ramp. I have no regret in saying yes to this, and I would say yes again for as many years as the Lord wanted me to do this. I’ve learned about myself and also learned about the nature of the Lord. For that, I’m very thankful. It’s a high bar they set for me, but the reward of growing closer to Him is so much better. The reward of hearing the testimonies that have come from the production or seeing the faces of those being affected by the story is worth more. The high reward is another reason why I say yes.
To Mrs. Karen, I have so much love and appreciation for you. To the many, many people working around the clock, even this very Wednesday, thank you. I would leave out too many names if I tried to name them all. To the people of Hamilton, this week, our love letter to this city will be performed, and I know we would love for everyone to come and see this on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. You’ll see me there taking the lead cast to find Christmas, and you’ll know some of the behind-the-scenes from this article. You’ll see that I am growing, I am learning, I am overcoming and I am Joshua.
See complete story in the Journal Record.