"For behold I bring you good tidings of great joy that will come to all people!"
Over a half of a century ago, I was in elementary school in a small town in Oklahoma. This was a time before the separation of church and state mattered to anyone. At least anyone I knew. In school, we said the Pledge of Allegiance each morning along with a reading of a Bible verse and a prayer.
Each Christmas, the music teacher put on a pageant for the whole school. She was a tall, thin red head who was always armed with a ping pong paddle. Very few students challenged her authority. And each Christmas season,under her firm direction, that old story was told again with its Mary and Joseph, its shepherds and wise men, and a choir of angels all around.
I was always an angel in the choir. One year I was one of 4 angels who got to stand on a wood plank laid across two saw horses that raised us above the stable. That was my most memorable role in the pageant - singing while standing on a wood plank. In another year, one of my brothers got to play a shepherd and was able to parade in with all of the other boys who I suspect couldn't sing either. Hence their selection as shepherds.
The angel that told the shepherd of "the good tidings" was always played by the tallest, smartest and prettiest girl in the school. She had long, dark hair and had the only lines in the play. And she could memorize her lines with little problem. She was the star of the pageant - even more important than Mary who never said a word.
And she was Jewish. In fact, she was one of probably 3 Jewish kids in the school. But she played the angel and everyone knew that the reason was because she was the tallest, smartest and prettiest girl in the school. And no one objected. And her parents with all of the other parents came every year to watch her proclaim the tidings of great joy that has come to all people.
And after all of these years, she is still Jewish and we are still Christians. Perhaps there was a time when Rumi's experience was ours too:
"I go into the Muslim mosque and the Jewish synagogue and the Christian church and I see one altar." (The Essential Rumi p.246)