O Come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him, born the king of angels;
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.
Opening Hymn – #164, Tell Out My Soul
On my way into church this morning I got into a conversation with a guy on the bus. I mentioned that today was our children’s Christmas programme. He said he didn’t believe in Christmas, at least not in the way the story is typically told.
I said I thought that was interesting because our minister said pretty much the same thing every year. He was intrigued by that and said he might visit our church sometime. I said, “Why don’t come today and see for yourself?”
He said he might just drop by sometime.
Worship is like a stage play. In worship we act out the story that we then try to live out there in the real world. Sometimes folks would like worship to be entertaining. I would imagine that God might like that as well. But God is not the one to entertain us; we are the actors and God is the audience. If we want worship to be entertaining, then it is up to us to put on a good show.
Today we re-enact the story of the birth of Jesus. We are all wearing various costumes. Maybe you’ve always wanted a part in the Christmas play. Now’s your chance. Even if you’re not dressed like an angel, you can still come up and play one. Or a shepherd. There’s one scene where we need a big family to fill up the house where Jesus was born. And the wise men certainly had more than three wisdom seekers in their entourage.
So during the play when the angels or the shepherds or the extended family of Joseph or the wisdom seekers following a star come front and centre, feel free to join in the show.
The ‘stranger’ on the bus comes through the door at the side of the sanctuary.
In a Stage Whisper: Look, it’s the guy I met on the bus today. He decided to show up! Let’s show him what we’re all about! Let’s put on a show!
Hymn #194, Love Came Down at Christmas
Narrator: About two thousand years ago the emperor decreed, that all the world must be enrolled: LET NO ONE FAIL TO HEED! The world was quite mixed up you see, and no one seemed to know: How many people were there? And what taxes did they owe? All through the land, the rich, the poor, the young, the very old, all travelled to their towns of birth so they could be enrolled.
Scene One: Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem
STAGE DIRECTION: Mary and Joseph ‘travel’ to Bethlehem by walking up the centre aisle and back, and then up on the top step.
And so, it was to Bethlehem a man named Joseph went to list his name and see how much he owed the government. Beside him Mary travelled, too. Not once did she protest how long and hard the trip had been, or how much she needed rest.
STAGE DIRECTION: Joseph’s ‘extended family’ comes up on the stage.
Mary and Joseph go to the “cousin’s house.” They knock on the door. They talk to the cousin, explaining their situation. He thinks about and decides to let them in where he makes room in the part of the house where the animals sleep. They go in and settle down for the night.
In Bethlehem they found the house where Joseph’s cousin lived.
And when his cousin saw them there he seemed a bit confused.
“We weren’t expecting you,” he said, “All the rooms are filled!
With Granddad, Granny, Uncle Zed and Auntie Sarah, too.
Brother Petie, sister Sue and our six kids as well.”
When Joseph told him quietly of gentle Mary’s plight:
That she would have a baby soon, perhaps that very night,
His cousin stood and rubbed his bushy bearded jaw,
“I’ll have to make some room somehow – you’re family, after all.
The only place where space is left is there upon the straw.”
So the two of them unpacked at once and settled down to rest
Not caring that they couldn’t have the biggest and the best.
They ate their supper slowly as they watched the sun go down,
And yawned as darkness fell at last upon the little town.
Now turn in your hymnals to – hymn #172 – O Little Town of Bethlehem.
Hymn #172, O Little Town of Bethlehem
Scene Two: Shepherds and Angels
STAGE DIRECTION: Shepherds come out and ‘huddle’ while watching their sheep.
The night was silent. Everyone, it seemed, was fast asleep; except for shepherds in the fields who had to watch their sheep. They huddled close and whispered low to keep themselves awake. Then suddenly their eyes grew wide, their knees began to shake!
For there above them in the sky, an angel did appear.
STAGE DIRECTION: The Angel comes forward.
The glory of the Lord shone round
And they were filled with fear.
The angel spoke: Fear not! Behold, I bring you news of joy!
In Bethlehem this very night was born a baby boy.
He is the Saviour, Christ the Lord;
He’ll show us how to live.
Upon a manger bed he lies, inside a humble house.
STAGE DIRECTION: The rest of the angels come out.
And suddenly a great huge crowd of angels filled the sky,
Their voices glorifying God and praising God on high!
“Peace on the earth, good will to all!”
Resounded through the air –
It seemed there must have been at least a million angels there!
Now let us turn in our hymnals to hymn #174, While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks
Hymn #174, While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks
Scene Three: The Shepherds go to Bethlehem
No longer did the shepherds shake with fright and fear and dread. And when the angels went away the shepherds quickly said: “Off we must go to Bethlehem and find the manger bed! And off across the fields they ran – To Bethlehem they sped!
The manger was not hard to find, and there the shepherds’ eyes fell upon a sight that filled their hearts with great surprise: For there was Joseph standing tall and gazing down with care, upon his blessed Mary and the baby lying there.
“A wondrous child!” the shepherds cried in voices of delight.
“See how around him shines a heavenly looking light.
How warm and bright it seems against the coldness of this night.
He surely is the one we seek; the angel’s words were right!”
The shepherds talk amongst themselves and then go to Bethlehem where they find Mary, Joseph and by now, Jesus. They gather around, followed in by the angels.
Let’s sing together – Come and Join the Celebration
Hymn Come and Join the Celebration
Scene Four: Wisdom Seekers
STAGE DIRECTION: Wisdom Seekers come in.
And later-on, some wisdom seekers saw a star up in the sky. It told them of the Saviour’s birth, and so they came to see. They found him there in Bethlehem, with his mother and his dad. In their joy they worshipped him and gave him presents that they had:
Gold and Frankincense and Myrrh, they were so very glad.
We sing about the stars that shine and remind us of our hopes: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.
STAGE DIRECTION: Wisdom Seekers Present Their Gifts
Let’s sing together Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
We will collect our morning offering now. May God bless these gifts for their intended use. We’ll sing the song – Little Donkey
Offering Little Donkey
Scene Five: The Story Continues
Narrator: To Mary and to Joseph and to everyone they saw the shepherds told the story that had filled them with such awe: “This baby is the Promised Prince, the Mighty Lord, the King!
We know because tonight we heard the holy angels sing!” And the wise men told of how the star had led them to this place. “It led us to this blessed child of low and humble birth
He truly is the Christ, the Lord, The Saviour of the earth!”
And so the news went out from there
And spread from town to town.
The whole world must be told till every person,
Has heard about the coming of
The Saviour of us all,
Whom God has sent to earth to show
Is love for one and all.
That’s our story once again for this year and all time. Let’s share the joy of shepherds, sages and everyone as we sing, “Joy to the World.”
STAGE DIRECTION: When the characters in the play are mentioned in the song they can wave to the congregation.
Hymn Joy to the World
Prayer – Dear God, thank you for being with us today. We hope you found our play entertaining. Help us to remember the story and to take it with us when we leave here today. Amen.
(speaking to the stranger who came to worship): So, what did you think of our play? Did we tell the story well? Will you take your coat off and stay and have a cup of tea with us?
The stranger takes his coat off to reveal a set of angel wings.