As a Person of Faith, I have become more disenchanted with how Christmas is celebrated as I’ve gotten older. The commercialization of the holiday promotes materialism over caring about one another and any “loving humanity” paradigm.
I see the overworked waiting for a break. I see the gap between the “haves” and the “have nots” widening. I see some entitled children ungrateful for gifts because they get whatever they want throughout the year. People are doing charitable acts out of “tradition” rather than from their hearts. Children are being taken to see Frozen II rather than to a play based on the sacredness of this holiday. I wonder whether FAITH is out of fashion.
So, I was interested in what I would glean from this 1961 piece of dramatic literature from Langston Hughes called Black Nativity. The combination of my theological and cultural background along with my work as a poet made me particularly interested in this offering and its relevance 58 years later.
The Black Nativity I witnessed at Anacostia Playhouse helped bring me back to the messages of the nativity as celebrated in Christian churches.
Black Nativity closes January 5, 2020. DCTS details and tickets
Homelessness is a relevant theme in this depiction of Christ’s birth. In the play, Joseph knocked on four different doors asking for shelter for himself and Mary, who was near her time to give birth. All refused. When you see this dramatic interpretation, you’ll be reminded of how many are blessed and prospering, yet don’t engage in helping a neighbor in need. I was impressed how each scene in the reenactment of Hughes’ writing gave Scriptural accuracy.
In the second Act, which deals with redemption, a theft is committed and a family faces eviction. Crime happens everywhere. I learned someone stole a cell phone and iPad from the Anacostia Playhouse box office Sunday afternoon. When we hear of so many instances like this, you might wonder “How does faith help one deal with hate and of how can that s/he stay on a righteous path?”
The resolution for the thief and his family had me think of powerful lessons of forgiveness. In this season of gift-giving, it’s been said “forgiving isn’t for the other person, it’s (a gift) for yourself!” Tyler Perry has talked about this theme in his stage plays and movies. He’s applied this to his life, forgiving his father for wrongdoing. He also has given a testimony of coming from homelessness and is known as one of the most prosperous (and giving) of entertainers.
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The Scripture that applies to the question I pondered from this play and Perry executes so well is he “who is forgiven much, loves much.” Many who operate in unforgiveness harbor hate, making that internal battle difficult to execute righteousness. Believers in the Christian Faith hold on to the doctrine of the Messiah being LOVE and making those who follow Him FREE. The faith that allows one to “forgive” frees him/her to have internal peace, giving them room to love others and show righteousness.
The depiction of Christ’s birth, the Wise Men and shepherds coming to worship the Lord, the Gospel singing, especially the second act’s late 20th century gospel songs from Mahalia Jackson, James Cleveland, the Winans and Kirk Franklin & the Family by the ensemble helped to move the spirits of the congregation of theatregoers, including me. It wasn’t “church” per se, but I saw people from all walks of life engaged in its dramatic, encouraging message. A sense of joy from the positive music helped to cancel negative energy. The cast brought back the feel of choirs that has (almost) been lost in the current Gospel music culture.
I believe the music and acting helped all who had an ear to hear to leave with a positive message. I left the Anacostia Playhouse singing a song I haven’t heard for years.