A traditional flavour
Does anyone ever tire of hearing the story of Mary and Joseph, the donkey, the innkeeper, the angels, the shepherds, and the wise men? This story is wonderful and dramatic in itself, and it is important for the children’s minds to be refreshed of it each year. Don’t be afraid to keep to a straight nativity re-telling, everyone will love to hear this precious story again and again. Use the gospels as the base of your script: Luke 2:1-20 (the birth of Jesus, the shepherds), Matthew 1:18-25 (Joseph accepts Jesus as his son), 2:1-23 (the Magi visit the Messiah, the flight to Egypt, the return to Nazareth). Using a children’s Bible can help to keep the language simple for younger children. You can add music through traditional carols and songs.
Lots of churches have creatively branched to bring a modern context to the Christmas message, especially in a multi-age setting. “Jesus Born Today” by St Margaret’s Presbyterian Church, Silverstream asks the question – what would it be like if Jesus was born in modern day New Zealand? “Christmas Star” from Kaikorai Presbyterian Church personifies the Christmas star. The star knows it has a special job to do but can’t remember what it is… it takes a whole cast of Christmas characters to help the star remember that it has the job of pointing the way to Jesus. “Starring Angels and Shepherds”, written by Pat Lerwill of St Margaret’s Presbyterian Church, Silverstream, presents the Christmas story in a fun contemporary way.
Interactive and impromptu
This is a fun idea for a Christmas Eve or day family service idea. “What’s so Special?” is a great example of how to do this from the St John’s in the City Christmas Eve service script from 2003 (which was Adapted from Somervell Presbyterian Church’s Christmas Eve Children’s Service 1999). People in the congregation were given pictures on a stick (such as angels or the Christmas star) with a number on – so when the number came up in the story they had to come up the front and hold up their stick. There are also interactive “WOW!” and “Oh no!” cue cards for everyone else to get involved in telling the story.
The “Instant Christmas” by Diane Ladd, Massachusetts, has been a hit in many of other churches, especially those that don’t have many regular children but suddenly have an influx on Christmas eve or day and need something up their sleeve. The author offers a simple and impromptu play that involves all ages.
You can adapt these interactive and impromptu ideas to fit your own situation. These ideas would suit a community outreach context as well as a church setting.
Pageants based on popular children’s books
Many churches have used Nicholas Allen’s “Jesus Christmas Party” as a basis for their script. All the Innkeeper wants is a good night’s sleep…
Other books you might like to try include:
“The Ox and the Donkey”. This is a beautiful story written by by Gunter Spang works really well as the basis for a nativity pageant. It incorporates Jesus’ flight to Egypt with Mary and Joseph. Lucy Davey (renowned children’s author and member at Upper Clutha Presbyterian) has used this with young children very successfully by narrating most of the story from the book while the children mime. She suggests adding in songs and carols to be sung by the children and congregation. Click here for a list of the songs used and their placement in the text.
The Star, the stable and the Saviour by Cameron Semmens. Cheryl Harray (Kids Friendly Advisor for Otago and Southland) shares how she adapted this book for a school assembly Christmas service. “Each year 300 children from the local state school walked to our church to hear the Christmas story. Many children had never been in a church before and were fascinated by the setting and story. The staff and the children loved finishing the year this way. “ Download Cheryl’s suggested service outline.
Children love animals, and can often relate more easily to the emotions experienced by an animal in a story or play than they can to those of adult characters. Many Christmas plays bring a fresh perspective by viewing the events of the first Christmas through the eyes of animal characters, from the sheep in the fields to the animals in the stable. Here are a couple of home-grown animal plays: “Animal Nativity” written by Shelly and Anne of Kaikorai Presbyterian Church, and “Animal Nativity – Born in the Stable” written by Pat Lerwill of St Margaret’s Presbyterian Church, Silverstream, both have plenty of animals to keep things moo-ving.
This lovely New Zealand Chocolate Christmas Story PowerPoint and Script has just been shared with us from Rev Sue Blomquist of Whangarei. It’s an impromptu sharing of the Christmas story that of course involves lots of chocolate. Enjoy!
Pageants to purchase:
Out of the Ark Music have lovely “ready-to-go” Christmas pageant musicals for purchase. They have easy-to-sing original songs, with an age range of children from preschool through to 10 year olds. All their pageants can be ordered online.
The pageants come with a book containing a character list, script, stage directions, sheet music and lyric sheets, and also a CD that has the songs with children singing and with professional backing tracks. The website has the facility to let you listen to sound bites of the songs and view a sample script.
We have 25-30 children ranging in age from 3-12. We want plays with simple lines for older children and plenty of non-speaking parts that can be performed in a relatively small space with little scenery and only basic props. Our children love to sing, so a Christmas musical is ideal. For around $80 I could purchase a script, CD and license from “Out of the Ark.” The plays are straightforward to produce, the scripts are easy to adapt, the songs are catchy and fun, and there is a part for every child whatever their age or ability. So far we have successfully performed “The Landlord’s Cat” and “Hey Ewe” This year we are working on “Angel Express.” We have found a formula that works for us so we keep going back to “Out of the Ark.” Our children have enjoyed performing these plays and the nativiy play has become a firmly established Christmas tradition in our church. The performance day is our best attended service of the year and is greatly anticipated by our whole congregation. -Christine Harrex
“The Nativity“ by Niki Davies is a beautiful musical re-telling of the Christmas nativity story. It is simple and comes with all the resources you need. We perform it year after year and never tire of it. It’s been well worth the cost of purchase. There are plenty of parts that can be adapted for a large group of children, while the pageant also works with a smaller group. Most of the speaking parts are only one short line – so even younger kids can take one of these roles. -St. Heliers Church
Remember to have fun in your planning and make this a really positive experience for the children. For some it may be their first “on-stage” opportunity! Many blessings for your preparations.