“Whether you only have a few children or you’ve got a small group to present a Christmas play, it is not difficult to hold an impromptu Christmas pageant.”
Christmas Pageants have been occurring in churches for years. They are a great way to teach the Christmas story to children as they take on the roles of Mary, Joseph, the angels and the shepherds each year. Church productions can be massive, with a cast of “thousands” as well as live animals and elaborate scenery and staging. They can be simple also, as simple as what we have from scripture.
Often, the Christmas Pageant is the bane of an Christian educator’s existence . . . scheduling rehearsals, parents vying for their little girl to play Mary . . . out-of-control preschoolers baa-ing and moo-ing as they get into the part.
How many educators are reminded of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (titled “The Worst Kids in the World” in Australia, New Zealand and the UK)? Written by Barbara Robinson in 1972, it tells the story of six delinquent children surnamed Herdman. They go to church for the first time after being told that the church offers snacks. Despite protests from other church members, the Herdmans are given roles in the Sunday school’s Christmas play, in which they tell the Christmas story in a nonconventional fashion.
But the lunacy doesn’t have to happen. However, flexibility and a good sense of humor helps! Whether you only have a few children or you’ve got a small group to present a Christmas play, it is not difficult to hold an impromptu Christmas pageant.
Invite participants (why not the adults, too?) to act out with silent movements the Christmas story, as it is read. Call for volunteers; have some simple costumes of bathrobes, cloth headpieces with rope, old choir robes on hand; and assign parts. Each role listens for their name to be read during the readings in which they enter the Sanctuary, eventually all gathered up front.
A wooden crate can be used for a manger, and a baby doll can be available for ‘Mary’ to hold. The congregation can be the chorus. Find a narrator or two (youth or older children work great) for all the readings. And you’re set to go!
Basic Outline for a Pageant
Reading: Luke 2:1-4
Carol: “O Little Town of Bethlehem”
Reading: Luke 2:5-7
Carol: “Silent Night”
Reading: Luke 2:8-14
Carol: “Go, Tell It On the Mountain”
Reading: Luke 2:15-20
Carol: “O Come, All Ye Faithful”
God With Us
Remember, it’s the story that’s important and allowing participants to create a memory so that the story becomes their own. Emmanuel – God is with us. And at a Pageant, God is within each and every one of us.
Sharon Ely Pearson is an editor and the Christian Formation Specialist for Church Publishing Incorporated (CPI). She is the author/editor of several books, most recently The Episcopal Christian Educator’s Handbook and Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Theologies of Confirmation for the 21st Century. When not traveling for work or pleasure, she enjoys tossing tennis balls to her year old black lab, Chobe.
Photo credit: Shepherd Blaise via FLICKR (CC BY-NC 2.0)
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I agree with your comments completely, and given the absolute nonstop life so many of our families have these days, our parents agree that our two rehearsal, no lines pageant is the way to go. Everything is read by two older youth. We assess/refurbish our costumes during November; try on costumes and assign parts during the first two weeks of December; practice once the 2nd and 3rd weeks on Wednesdays during Children’s choir practices and have a dress rehearsal on the 23rd. Easy, but precious projects that everyone looks forward to without pulling out your hair. It leads to a merry Christmas for all.
We’re going to attempt this at home this year due to COVID… thank you for the outline!