John G Lake and the Christmas Angel

Christmas season was fast approaching and The Church at Portland busily prepared. Dad Lake, jovial and full of fun, loved the pageantry of the season and enjoyed seeing his parishioners excitedly setting up for a Christmas show. Emma and Albert, my parents, were active in everything, always a part of the church happenings. Albert, a world class tinker and handy man, would be behind the scenes preparing lighting, props and the sets, while Emma, the platinum haired beauty would take to the stage.  

Mom was coaxed into playing the angel Gabriel bringing the good news of Jesus’ birth to the shepherds. “Hmm, we could really make this a great show if I could figure out how to make you fly.” Not thrilled by this prospect she thought there wasn’t any way it would really happen and so agreed. Albert set about making a plan to see her fly like a true angel. With Dad Lake’s permission he designed a rope and pulley system. She would be hooked to the pulley by a hand made rope harness and “fly” from the top of a giant ladder at the back of the room, over the heads of the gathered congregation and to the front of the stage for a grand entrance.  

The room was abuzz with excitement, everyone dressed in their finest clothes, the children all seated up front so they could better see the play. The room lights dimmed as spotlights shone down upon the makeshift stable.  Mary and Joseph made their way down the front aisle to take their place and the shepherds were positioned out to the left of the stage. Emma stood teetering on a tall ladder in the far corner of the room. Dressed in white with huge tulle wings, she nervously waited while Albert attached the harness to the pulley. “We should have practiced this Albert, is this really going to work?” she whispered. “Trust me, this is going to work vreally good!” As Emma was released to “fly” to the manger she began to pick up speed. She hurtled toward the main stage, faster and faster by the foot, “oohs” and “ahhs” could be heard from the congregation below. It was a spectacle of grandeur to see the beautiful angel flying across the room. The crowd became concerned however, when she did not begin slowing down as she approached the wall and Albert realized he had lost control of the pulleys and could not stop his lovely bride. She slammed hard into the far wall and bounced back toward the audience, twirling slowly in circles for long minutes. Everyone held their breath, was she alright? Dazed from the crash and blinking into the spotlights, she finally sputtered out her lines, “Fear not for behold I bring you glad tidings of great joy!” The audience burst into relieved laughter and uproarious applause.  

Dad Lake wiped tears from his face as he tried to control his laughter. Surely this was the grandest pageant in Portland. 50 years later Mom still chafed at the thought of the flying debacle and the fact the her husband and Lake would laugh until they cried every time they remembered it.