This article is from Issue 2 of “On The Move,” a publication of new learning possibilities for churches, at one time published by The Joint Board of Christian Education of Australia and New Zealand.
Although some ideas and liturgies may appear somewhat “dated” in style, concept, imagery or language, they may nevertheless offer a spring-board for new ideas among people who find themselves leading worship, perhaps in a new context, and with some trepidation.
Reproduced by permission. May be reprinted for use in local congregations only.
A Christmas tableau for children.
Mary and Jospeh, and a baby doll to represent the baby Jesus.
Nine angels (readers)
Donkey, cow, and sheep (speaking parts)
Chorus of shepherds (all the other children in the Sunday school, who will sing the songs.
Music plays softly “While shepherds watched their flocks by night” as the procession enters the church (or hall), led by the Angel Gabriel, followed by the “chorus” shepherds, two by two, who are in turn followed by the principal shepherds, and then by Angels 1, 2, and 3.
Angel Gabriel stands at the side of the altar; the chorus shepherds group themselves and sit at the chancel steps; the principal shepherds arrange themselves around a mock fire within the sanctuary; and Angels 1, 2, and 3, who are carrying scrolls with their parts written on them, stand either side of the shepherds.
When the music ceases, the shepherds mime the story as it is told by the Angels. The Angels take time to unroll their scrolls and then begin reading. At the words of the second Angel, Gabriel moves forward towards the shepherds, with arms raised in an attitude of blessing.
Angel 1: There were some shepherds in that part of the country, who were spending the night in the fields, taking care of their flocks.
Angel 2: An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone over them.
Angel 3: They were terribly afraid, but the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid. For I am here with good news for you, which will bring great joy to all the people.”
Angel 1: “This very night in David’s town, your Saviour is born —Christ the Lord.”
Angel 2: “This is what will prove it to you; you will find a babywrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Angel 3: Suddenly a great army of heaven’s angels appeared with the angel, singing praises to God.
Three Angels together: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to men of goodwill.”
Angel 1: When the angels went away from them, back into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go to Bethlehem, and see this thing that has happened, that the angels have told us.”
Chorus children sing: “In a stable far away, Jesus Christ was born.”
During the singing, Gabriel and the three angels group themselves behind the altar (if it is free-standing), or as near as they can manage. Gabriel stands in the centre. One of the shepherds removes the “fire”, and puts a low stool in its place.
Music plays softly (“Silent night”) as Mary, carrying the baby doll, followed by Joseph, moves up the aisle to the centre of the sanctuary. She sits on the stool; Joseph stands behind her, slightly to one side.
The Donkey, Cow, and Sheep have followed the Holy Family up the aisle and they group themselves within the sanctuary as well.
Now Angels 4, 5, and 6 move up the aisle, carrying their scrolls. They arrange themselves, open their scrolls unhurriedly and begin reading.
Angel 4: At that time Emperor Augustus sent out an order for all citizens to register themselves for the census.
Angel 5: Joseph went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea to the town named Bethlehem, where King David was born.
Angel 6: joseph went there because he himself was a descendant of David.
Angel 4: He went to register himself with Mary, and while they were in Bethlehem, the time came for her to have her baby.
Angel 5: She gave birth to her firstborn son, wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a manger.
Angel 6: For there was no room for them to stay in the inn.
Chorus children sing: “Come softly, walk gently to see what is there” and “There is no cradIe ready — lullaby” (Songs and Hymns for Primary Children, Nos. 95 and 91).
During the singing, the Angel readers move to join the other Angels.
Chorus children recite:
Jesus our Brother, strong and good,
Was humbly born in a stable rude,
And the friendly beasts around him stood,
Jesus, our Brother, strong and good.
Donkey (moving forward):
“I”, said the donkey, shaggy and brown,
“I carried his mother up hill and down.
I carried her safely to Bethlehem town,
“I ,” said the donkey, shaggy and brown.
Cow (moving forward):
”I,”, said the cow, all white and red,
“I gave him my manger for his bed.
I gave him my hay to pillow his head,
“I”, said the cow, all white and red.
Sheep (moving foward):
“I”, said the sheep, with curly horn,
“I gave him my wool to keep him warm,
He wore my coat on Christmas morn,
I”, said the sheep, with curly horn.
Chorus (or solo): “Rocking”
Only the angels move into the background. The Donkey, Cow and Sheep mingle with the shepherds, while the Holy Family stays in the centre.
This scene is introduced by the music of “We three kings of Orient are”. Angels 7, 8 and 9 move up the aisle and into position. They unroll their scrolls deliberately and then read.
Angel 7: Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem in the land of judea, during the time when Herod was king.
Angel 8: Soon afterwards some men who studied the stars came from the east to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the baby, born to be King of the Jews?”
Angel 9: “We saw his star when it came up in the east, and we have come to worship him.”
Angel 7: The Chief Priests and teachers answered, “In the town of Bethlehem, in Judea.”
Angel 8: With this they left, and on their way they saw the star — the same one they had seen in the east — and it went ahead of them until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
Angel 9: They went into the house and saw the child with his mother Mary. They knelt down and worshipped him; then they opened their bags and offered him presents:
gold, frankincense and myrrh.”
Chorus children sing: “Now the Kings are coming” (H. & S. for P.C. 107)
The three kings approach while the children are singing. It looks effective if the kings approach the sanctuary from different parts of the church, and then slowly and reverently kneel before taking their places in the sanctuary itself. Meanwhile, the readers join the other angels in the tableau.
Chorus children sing: “Long ago and far away” (H. & S. for P.C. 100)
The readings are adapted from The Today’s English Version of the New Testament: Good News for Modern Man.
The songs are from Hymns and Songs for Primary Children, published by the Westminster Press.