Why do we offer a Nativity Pageant each year?
For many, the first thing they think about are the adorable little angels and sheep. And that is, certainly, a part of why FPLincoln produces an annual Nativity Pageant. We know how lovely it is for our adult members and friends to see and hear from the children and youth of our church family. The children are as much on review as the story they’re telling – and it makes for a sweet addition to folks’ Yuletides. This is important…
…and, as you have likely guessed from the opener, there’s so much more.
Everything we do in Religious Exploration has a developmental purpose for the benefit of the children and families we serve; the Pageant is no exception. We are as delighted as you to have the children perform for the adults, but that is a collateral benefit, not the purpose. The goal is not performative, it is experiential.
There are usually three Sunday mornings before the Pageant. On the first Sunday, we begin on the Donaldson Room rug, sharing what we know of the story: “popcorn style” (children sharing parts of the story as they come to mind), we tell the story together. Then, we read the story from the Bible. We also have board books and picture books about the Nativity available and look at a few of those. We notice there are several ways to tell the story. Then we choose parts and start getting fitted for costumes.
The second Sunday, we gather on the rug again, review the story for those who weren’t present the previous week (and as a reminder for those who were there). We look at several Nativity/Creche sets and compare them. No two look alike. One is made of wood, the other is ceramic, another is cloth. We notice there is no one “right way” to depict the Nativity. We think about the story we’re about to tell and know it is one of many versions and all have value. We head into the Auditorium and go from starting places to ending places… with a quick run through the script in between.
The last Sunday, we gather and get our costumes on. This is a dress rehearsal for the Pageant which will be performed THAT MORNING. Helping the children “put the story in their bodies” deepens their connection to characters and events. For some, having an opportunity to speak and/or perform in public helps develop a life skill. For others, the life skill supported is in waiting and being “part of a team” of angels or shepherds or sheep.
We could do this with any story. We choose the Nativity because it centers the birth of Jesus. As a UCC church, with many members celebrating Christmas, it is important that children understand the story of Jesus as much as they understand the myth of Santa Claus. We help families balance the “packages, boxes and tags” part of the season with the “true meaning of Christmas” (thank you for those words, Dr. Seuss). Other members understand the Nativity to be the beginning of the story of Jesus’ life – the life of a prophet and teacher who preached compassion, love of neighbor, and peace. We honor those ideals as we honor the man and the holiday surrounding his birth.
I hope this “peek under the hood” of RE and the Pageant has enhanced your experience rather than being “too much information”. Though we won’t have a traditional Children’s Pageant this year, we will engage with the story in a whole new way during the 5pm Family Christmas Eve Service on December 24th. We hope you’ll Zoom in to join the worship and the fun… and be prepared to take part!
December blessings to you. May the next few weeks be ones of anticipation, expectation, and delight.