Obviously Rachel was going to be the Archangel in the school Year 3 nativity. Her fair hair and sweet face pretty well guaranteed that out of all her year group, she would be chosen.
David did not agree and told his mother when he got home. During an RE lesson he had learned something about angels. He had discovered that for a start they were generally male. Blonde hair and good looks did not come in to it, but sometimes frightening and occasionally even terrifying looks did. He had heard the carol "The Angel Gabriel from Heaven came" with its description of Gabriel having wings like drifted snow and eyes like flame. Certainly not a sort of Christmas-tree fairy with gauzy wings.
Anyway, there was no reason why Rachel should be the Archangel, and no reason why he, David, should not.
David's mother Sarah emailed his teacher to put David's case. Miss Siddon emailed back to say that it was a tradition to have a girl, and anyway the decision had already been made.
On the day there were to be two performances. The first, in the morning, would be for the whole school. The second, in the afternoon was for parents. The first went off as well as could be expected. A shepherd wet himself, one of the Kings tripped over his too-long robe, and the inn-keeper refused to face the audience. At lunch-time Rachel over-indulged in sweets and retired with a stomach-ache.
Miss Siddon phoned Sarah. "Rachel has been taken ill. David wanted the part – will he do it?" Sarah said it was fine with her and Miss Siddon should ask David.
And so the nativity got a male Archangel. David put on the costume, which was just a sheet with a hole in middle for his head. There was a sash to tie around the waist. He flatly refused to wear the gauze wings or the tinsel halo.
The performance went well. The shepherd got his bladder under control, the King's robe was hitched up, and even the inn-keeper agreed to let the audience see his face. The angels, led by David, took up their stations behind Mary, Joseph and the doll in the crib.
Gabriel had no lines to say and was supposed to just stand in place. David had other plans. He quietly undid the sash around his waist, took the edges of the sheet in his hands, and raised his out-stretched arms to shoulder height. He looked at the crib scene and the audience with his most piercing stare.
Sarah, four rows from the front, noticed that someone had rigged a light in the crib so that Mary and Joseph's faces were lit from below as they looked at the 'baby'. It was most effective and a hush fell over the whole audience. Sarah noticed the somewhere in the background a radio was playing a carol. She could not quite make out the tune or the words.
Later Sarah found that the photo she took on her phone was spoiled by the bright light from the crib. It must have been very much brighter that she remembered. She asked the school WhatsApp group if someone had a better picture:
"no, mine's sort of foggy"
"mine's all blurred"
"it's all out of focus –sort of misty"
No-one at all had a clear picture. Then another thread started:
"what was that noise in the background?
"I thought it was the ventilation fan"
"it was some sort of music"
"it was lovely, but if it was part of the performance it should have been louder"
And up in Heaven Gabriel settled his wings, smoothed his robe, shook out a few stray sweet wrappers and said
"That's a good job done".
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