The Impact of Christmas Pageants

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Little Rock Connections: The Good News for Today
December 2017

The Impact of Christmas Pageants

The Impact of Christmas Pageants

By Mary Kathleen Glavich, SND

No doubt you, like most people, have seen the television program “A Charlie Brown Christmas” at least once. In it, the characters created by Charles M. Schulz are caught up in the commercialism characteristic of today’s Christmases. They eagerly look forward to gifts and money. Then during their Christmas play, Linus declares he will tell them what Christmas is all about and proceeds to recite the passage in Luke’s Gospel about the birth of Jesus. Suddenly everyone is brought up short and their focus shifts to the real gift of Christmas, the Savior.

The paramount purpose of Christmas pageants is to highlight why we celebrate Christmas in the first place. In the weeks before December 25, stores and homes, radio and television stations are flooded with the many fascinating secular traditions that have developed in conjunction with Christmas. Children are apt to think Santa is the star of the season, not Jesus. They might be more familiar with the workshop at the North Pole than the stable in Bethlehem. A pageant teaches children in a delightful yet powerful way the age old story that is the foundation of our celebration of Christmas. It also reminds teenagers and adults of the reason for the season.

Teachers know that children learn best not by reading or listening but by doing. Arguably, taking part in a play makes the deepest impression. As children in a Christmas pageant portray Joseph, Mary, shepherds, angels, magi, and animals, the nativity story is imprinted on their brains. They remember both the experience and its message years later. I still recall reciting my lines from the Christmas narrative at a microphone before an audience as a second grader in a public school!

Children enjoy participating in Christmas pageants. They love dressing up in costumes. The Christmas story is an opportunity for them to wear sandals, veils, long robes, halos, and wings. Most children like to perform. Some are born hams! As the children bring the words of the Gospel to life, they pretend to be Joseph worried about his wife; shepherds, mouths agape at the sight of angels in the sky; and magi kneeling in adoration. They might sing “Away in the Manger” or “Silent Night,” recite poetry, add gestures to songs, and dance.

The story of the first Christmas when Baby Jesus was laid in a manger surrounded by animals touches children’s hearts indelibly. One child who had the role of innkeeper so identified with the play that when Mary and Joseph knocked at his door seeking shelter, he spontaneously said, “Come in. Come in.”

A Christmas pageant has another benefit. It brings families together in several ways. As the show is prepared, parents can be involved in sewing costumes, painting sets, or baking cookies. Then on the big day, parents, grandparents, and siblings are appreciative fans in the audience, snapping pictures and clapping—unless they are co-stars on stage. Members of the audience may be invited to join in singing familiar Christmas carols related to the play.

Pageants may be simple, humble productions, where lines are read from notecards by actors or narrators instead of being memorized and performers wear large nametags instead of costumes. The more daring directors can plan elaborate pageants that showcase a cast of a hundred, painted backdrops, real animals, and a live baby. Whether simple or elaborate, pageants are hard work and time-consuming. The entire event can be turned into a gift to God, offered up as an act of praise and thanksgiving.

Directors must expect the unexpected. Joseph might come down with the flu the day before the play, the angel might forget his lines, or Mary might succumb to stage fright. No matter what unnerving thing happens, staging a Christmas pageant is worthwhile.

On Christmas night, the angel declared to the shepherds, “I am bringing you good news of great joy.” A Christmas pageant too delivers this good news: Jesus is born!  It helps keep the Christmas holiday the holy day it was meant to be.

Mary Kathleen Glavich, SND, is a writer, speaker, and the author of numerous books, including Praying with Scripture ~The Bible: You’ve Got Mail! and The Fisherman’s Wife: The Gospel According to St. Peter’s Spouse.

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