Every Christmas at our church the Sunday school and catechism classes (preschool to grade 12) prepare a program for the evening service of the third Sunday of Advent. When some of the high school students objected to a proposed plan, they were challenged to come up with a better idea. Two of the girls wrote the pageant based on the Christmas story from the book of Luke presented here. Along with a narrator, they included songs and dramatic scenarios for the Sunday school classes.
The Sunday school children provided a spirited production of the Christmas story as seen through the eyes of a child and performed it with the typical grace and spontaneity of young children. But what really caught my eye were the roles played by the high school students. Many performed in the orchestra and sang in the praise team. Others helped with setting up, moving things around during the production, and taking the sets down. They helped coach some of the small choir groups and dramatic scenes. Several took roles in the production at the last moment for kids who were sick. Mia and Lauren were directly involved in the planning and production of the story. It was a wonderful way to engage these capable students in the work of the church.
—Lisa Christians, Sunday School superindentent, Covenant Christian Reformed Church, Sioux Center, Iowa
Set and Props
Include area for Elizabeth’s and Mary’s homes, stage right and left, perhaps a backdrop with cityscape and plants. Center stage has a writing desk with stool for Luke. Scene 5 calls for a manger and a doll to represent baby Jesus. The setting for scene 6 includes shepherds around a fire. Scene 8 features the magi and a throne for Herod.
In addition, space is needed for a choir (perhaps in the balcony), small vocal ensemble, praise team, and orchestra. Of course you’ll want to adapt the pageant to your own space and setting.
Simple costumes add to the atmosphere but are not necessary; otherwise ask kids to dress in dark T-shirts and pants.
First and Second Graders
Townspersons 1 & 2
Innkeepers 1, 2, & 3
Horse, Sheep, Donkey
Shepherds 1, 2, & 3
Bird, Cow, Camel
Magi 1, 2, & 3
Opening prayer by a teen
Processional: “Blessed Be the Lord God Almighty” CH 62, SNC 113, WR 19
[High school kids with instruments are in place. Other kids walk up aisle and take places in choir. Luke takes his place at the writing desk. Small group ensemble finds their place.]
Vocal Ensemble: “I Wonder as I Wander” WR 255
Luke: [sitting at desk, mimes writing, then pauses and looks up] Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. [writes a little, looks up again] Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. [goes back to writing]
Opening Hymn: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” CH 245, PH 9, PsH 328, SFL 123, TH 194, WR 154
[While the congregation is singing, Elizabeth and Zechariah take their places, ensemble rejoins the choir; the male soloist finds his place.]
Elizabeth: “Zechariah, please tell me what you saw! Why can’t you just tell me?
Zechariah: [motions to Elizabeth to try to explain]
Elizabeth: What? What?
[Zechariah motions some more, than gives up. Both Elizabeth and Zechariah freeze in position.]
Luke: Those two people were Elizabeth and Zechariah. Zechariah could not speak because an angel of the Lord had visited him to tell of his son’s birth, and when Zechariah did not believe, the angel took away his speech until his son was born.
Solo: “Song of Zechariah” SNC 104
[During the singing, Elizabeth and Zechariah rejoin the choir. Mary takes her place at the back and Gabriel waits offstage.]
Luke: [ad libs writing] At that time, God sent the angel Gabriel to the town of Nazareth, in Galilee, and he appeared to the virgin Mary, who was pledged to be married to Joseph.
Mary: [walks in carrying a basket, greeting people on either side of the aisle, perhaps humming, not looking forward at Gabriel]
Gabriel: [when Mary is close to the stage] Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.
Mary: [drops basket and steps back, alarmed]
Gabriel: Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. He will bless you with a child and you will give birth to a son, whom you are to name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. He will reign over the house of Jacob and . . .
First and second graders: his kingdom will never end!
Mary: [steps onstage] I don’t understand. How can this be, since I am not married?
Gabriel: The Holy Spirit will come upon you. Even Elizabeth, your relative, is going to have a son, in her old age, because . . .
First and second graders: nothing is impossible with God!
Mary: [kneels] I am the Lord’s servant; may it be to me as you have said.
Choir: “Jesus, Name Above All Names” CH 86, SNC 114, WR 177
Solo: “What Child Is This?” CH 281, PH 53, TH 213, WR 184
[During the last verse Gabriel rejoins the choir; Elizabeth and Mary take places at Elizabeth’s home.]
Luke: So Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the country of Judea to see her cousin, Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, she was filled with the Holy Spirit and the baby inside her leaped [bottom row of choir leaps] for joy.
Elizabeth: Blessed are you and your son! But why am I so special that the mother of the Lord should come and see me? Blessed are you for believing all the angel has told you!
[Mary and Elizabeth huddle together and mimic excited conversation while walking down the aisle.]
Orchestra: “Blessed Be the Lord God Almighty”
Choir: “Gloria, Gloria” (in canon) SNC 115
[Elizabeth, Zechariah, and Townspersons take places stage left.]
Luke: Elizabeth’s son, John, would be known as John the Baptist and he would prepare the way for Jesus’ ministry. He lived in the desert, eating locusts and honey and baptizing those who believed in Jesus.
Townsperson 1: [to Elizabeth] You really ought to name your son Zechariah after his father.
Elizabeth: No! His name is John!
Townsperson 2: But there is no one . . .
Townsperson 1: [interrupting] not one person . . .
Townsperson 2: [glaring at Townsperson 1] in your whole family named John.
Townsperson 1: What could possibly make you want to name your son John?
Zechariah: [writes, then rises from chair holding up paper that says “His name is John”]
Townsperson 1: What does that say?
Zechariah: [firmly] His name is John.
Luke: As soon as he wrote this, Zechariah’s mouth was opened, because the message of the angel had come true, and he and Elizabeth went, praising God.
Choir: “On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry” PH 10, PsH 327
[During the offering the scenery is changed to represent the town of Bethlehem; manger is set up.]
Messenger: Hear ye! Hear ye! I am the royal messenger for his honor, Caesar Augustus, and he has issued a decree that there shall be a census of his entire kingdom.
Townspeople (choir): [ad lib conversations about a decree, lots of talk about the census, decree, going to hometown]
Messenger: Under this decree, all citizens are required to return to their home town to register with their families.
[Everyone walks off risers and down different aisles-still talking about a census, going to the hometown-the whole choir ends up in the balcony; Mary, Joseph, and Innkeepers take places on stage.]
Luke: So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he was from the house and line of David. He went there with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
Mary & Joseph: [knock on door]
Innkeeper 1: We’re full up, go away.
Joseph: Excuse me, but . . .
Innkeeper 1: Sir, there is no more room in our house.
Mary & Joseph: [continue and knock on door]
Innkeeper 2: There’s not one empty bed in here; it’s late, leave us in peace.
Mary & Joseph: [stop at another house and knock on the door]
Joseph: Sir, please let us stay here, we’ve been looking for a place all night!
Innkeeper 3: I’m sorry, if I had room you could stay, but I don’t . . . so I’m afraid you can’t.
Joseph: But you don’t understand! Please sir, you couldn’t squeeze us in anywhere?
Innkeeper 3: [leaning out and looking at Mary] I suppose there is room in the barn, but I haven’t got extra of anything and I can’t see why anyone would want to stay in a . . .
Joseph: That will be just fine, thank you so much!
[Joseph walks off with Mary to the manger. Baby Jesus wrapped in shawl is placed in the manger. Children’s worship kids who have been sitting with their parents come onstage.]
Children’s Worship Kids: While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn.
Children’s Worship Kids: “Away in a Manger” CH 261/262, PH 24/25, PsH 348/349, SFL 129, TH 204/205, WR 203/205
Trio: “O Holy Night” CH 285, WR 187
[During the singing, the children’s worship kids go back to sit with their parents.]
Congregation and Orchestra: “Silent Night! Holy Night!” CH 253, PH 60, PsH 344, TH 210, WR 186
[During the last stanza the animals take their places by the manger.]
Horse: What is this thing?
Sheep: What are all these people doing here?
Donkey: What’s so special about this little guy?
Choir and Orchestra: “Joy to the World!” CH 270, PH 40, PsH 337, SFL 137, TH 195, WR 179
[Congregation joins on the last stanza; shepherds and sheep come down from balcony and take places around the “fire.”]
Shepherd 1: Are you sure all of the sheep are in?
Shepherd 2: Yes, of course they are. Are you suggesting I can’t do my job?
Shepherd 1: [grumbling] No, it’s just that last time . . .
Shepherd 2: [stands up] That was NOT my fault—this little shepherd wanna-be you insist upon dragging around everywhere didn’t shut the gate after I told him FIVE times!
Little Shepherd: I’m so sorry, I’ll never do it again.
Shepherd 2: Yeah, you’d sure better not or I’ll . . .
Shepherd 3: Do you always have to pick a fight with everyone here?
Shepherd 2: [grumbles]
Little Shepherd: Well, I think tonight is going to be special, somehow!
Shepherd 2: [mimicking little shepherd] Oh yes, I think tonight is going to be SO special! What’s so special about tonight except that you managed to remember to shut the gate?
Shepherd 3: Would all of you just be quiet like I asked before!
Little Shepherd: . . . well, I was just sayin’ . . .
Shepherd 1: I know what you . . .
[Gabriel appears onstage.]
Gabriel: Greetings! I have glad tidings of great joy.
Little Shepherd: Wh— Wh— [gets pushed forward] Who are you?
Sheep: [soft bleat]
Gabriel: I am the angel Gabriel, and I have been sent by God to bring this message to you: today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you.
First and second graders: He is Christ the Lord!
Gabriel: This will be a sign unto you: you will find the baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.
First and second graders: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests!
[Choir in balcony turns on flashlights while Gabriel is speaking above and sings the next two songs with flashlights lighting their faces from below. While “angel choir” is singing, shepherds and sheep look up at balcony and (perhaps) join in on singing second song.]
Choir: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” CH 277, PH 31, PsH 345, TH 203, WR 185
Choir, orchestra, and congregation: “Angels We Have Heard on High” CH 278, PH 23, PsH 347, TH 214, WR 188
Shepherd 3: Let’s go see the things the angel Gabriel told us about! [Shepherds hurry across the stage to the manger.]
Bird: More things coming into my stable!
Cow: It’s already crowded in here and that something is squirming around in MY hay!
Camel: But just look at it. It’s so cute!
Little Shepherd: [walks up shyly] Please may we see your new baby king?
Sheep: [SUPER loud bleat]
Mary: [laughs] Yes, you may.
Shepherd 2: Sorry kid, you were right, tonight was special.
Little Shepherd: That’s alright. Wow, look at the new baby king!
Sheep: [bleat] And then the shepherds went home and told everyone they met about the new baby king.
[Shepherds and sheep exit all aisles, end up in balcony.]
Congregation and orchestra: “Angels from the Realms of Glory” CH 259, PH 22, PsH 354, TH 218, WR 189
[Magi take places on risers and Herod takes place on throne.]
Magi 1: What is that star? Which one is it? I’ve never seen it before.
Magi 2: I don’t know. I can’t recognize it. Can you?
Magi 3: No, I don’t, but . . . I do recall hearing something about a star leading to a new king.
Magi 1: We should go and see him.
Magi 2: And we can bring him gifts to honor him.
Magi 3: Perhaps we ought to talk to King Herod, to find out where this new king lives.
Magi 1: Well, let’s go then!
[Magi walk across stage to Herod.]
Orchestra: “Blessed Be the Lord God Almighty”
Magi 1: We have come to find where the new king lives so that we can honor him with our gifts.
Herod: What king? I am the king. There is no new king, only ME!
Magi 2: But we saw his star in the sky to the East.
Magi 3: And what about the prophecy from your own scholars?
Magi 1: We will keep following the star and find the king of the Jews, just as it is written.
Herod: [looks around as if hatching a plan, rubs hands together] OK, OK, friends, there’s no reason to be upset. Yes, I agree, you should go and pay him honor, but be sure to come back and tell me all you know about this new king of the Jews so that I may honor him too.
Choir: “We Three Kings” CH 288, PH 66, WR 233
[Magi walk from throne, to the back of the sanctuary, and then return to the stage ending up at the manger. Herod remains on his throne.]
Luke: The Magi followed the star and finally found the baby Jesus and his mother Mary.
Magi 1: We have seen the star and followed it to this place so that we may honor your son . . .
Magi 2: the King of the Jews . . .
Magi 3: that we may honor your son, the King of the Jews, with our gifts—
Magi 1: gold
Magi 2: incense
Magi 3: and myrrh!
Magi 1: May we please see your son?
Mary: [smiles and nods]
Choir: “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly” CH 279, PH 37, PsH 353, TH 216, WR 221
Luke: The magi presented all their fine gifts, praised the King, and returned home. But having been warned in a dream, they returned to their country by another route. Joseph too was warned by a dream and fled with Mary and Jesus to Egypt until word reached them that Herod was dead.
Choir, congregation, and orchestra: “O Come, All Ye Faithful” CH 249, PH 42, PsH 340, TH 208, WR 182
Luke: [writing] And so, Theophilus, Jesus grew up, gaining an understanding for life. He faced troubles and joys like any other child. He fulfilled all of the prophecies of Isaiah, John the Baptist, and others whom God sent to prepare the way for Christ and brought hope into the lives of many. As you know, Theophilus, he ascended later to be rejoined with his heavenly Father, and will be coming back someday. Now you can be certain of what you believe. [Looks at letter, nods, folds it, and walks off.]
Choir and congregation: “Halle, Halle, Hallelujah” (choir first time; congregation joins second time with orchestra and rhythm instruments) SNC 44, WR 5