When we first came to our parish 9 years ago the parents in the church used to run the Nativity. After seeing their stress in rehearsing, getting the right kids in the right places and having a microphone anywhere near the actors we asked if they would like to hand it over. If I never accomplish anything else in ministry this was probably enough. They were so grateful. But now I was in charge of the nativity play and needed to find a way of doing it without suffering the same stress. There were key problems:
- Family life is complicated, committing to being at the Nativity is a big deal at Christmas. We often have different children at the rehearsal and the performance. Also, kids who come on the day want to join in.
- Even confident kids get stage fright, and it is pretty dull for the congregation if they can’t hear the story.
- Even if the same kids come they might not want to be the same character any more – cue tantrums.
But when you think about it, the things we want from a Nativity are pretty basic:
To hear afresh the whole Christmas Story
To smile and say ‘Ahhhh’ at the cute kids
To have happy memories of Nativity plays
So I decided we would stick to these commitments:
- Anyone can turn up and join in
- Anyone can be any character, which occasionally means begging for a Joseph, but if it means only one shepherd and 5 kings then so be it. One year we had two Marys, the older one carried the toddler one – it really didn’t matter!
- The Narrator would tell the story into one microphone, the kids would do hammy acting along to the script.
- We would have enough costumes in multi sizes so that families can just turn up and join in. I might do another post at some point about how I made these really simply.
The trouble is that it is very hard to find simple scripts which don’t require learning lines or, more problematically, take such a spin on the story that it is complicated and confuses the basic narrative.
So each year I wrote something. I should have saved them better, but I have at least managed to unearth 3 scripts and a spin on the candy cane illustration which worked as a nativity. I hope they are useful to you.
A few adults are helpful to send the kids up at the right point, but essentially all the stage directions are in the scripts, (eg Mary looked surprised) sometimes I repeat a line meaningfully to remind a child to do something, this always gets a laugh.
- For this one we invited the congregation to come dressed up at either shepherds or angels – they did and it was so much fun. we also had a pile of tea towels and tinsel halos so that people could just pick them up at the door. We gave out the angels and shepherds ‘lines’ with the hymn books. We also primed a member of the congregation who always sits in the same place to be the Innkeeper, this meant one extra microphone. nativity-the-congregation-join-in nativity-the-congregation-angels-part nativity-the-congregation-shepherds-part
- This time everyone in the congregation got a candy cane on the way in, the children came in dressed up and simply answered questions about the candy cane. By the end we had a nativity tableau candy-cane-sermon