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Once Upon a Christmas

Sue Lennartson

Use this rehearsal-free family production to celebrate Christmas this year...

With weeks of rehearsals, complex set designs, and elaborate costumes, the traditional Christmas pageant isn't for everyone. So at this busy time of year, try doing something different to involve entire families in a Christmas production that's rehearsed and completed in one night--with an important role for every participant.

Step-by-Step Easy Prep

Nothing's easier than an entire production done in one night, but you'll need to prepare well to pull it off. Follow these steps.

• Starring Roles-Recruit four dramatic people who can play the lead roles: Mary, Joseph, an angel, and a shepherd. Gather simple costumes for these actors.

• Supporting Cast-You'll need helpers in each room, so plan according to the number of people you're expecting. Also recruit volunteers as greeters, guides to take families to rooms, musicians if necessary, tech support, and snack-reception helpers.

• Room by Room-You'll need three rooms with table space for ornament making. Families will meet here to make their ornaments and to learn their cues for the production.

• Tickets, Please-For planning purposes, ask families to pick up free tickets to your one-night production so you can have enough supplies and food on hand.

• Opening Night-Schedule your production at a time that's complementary to younger children's schedules, such as Saturday morning or early evening. When families arrive, have greeters give each family a sticker for the room they'll go to, such as stars for the "It's a Boy!" room, angels for the "A Heavenly Announcement" room, and sheep for the "Follow That Star" room. Simply distribute one-third of the families to each room.

• Scene by Scene-Once families arrive in their designated rooms, give them approximately 30 minutes to learn their songs and story cues and create their ornaments.

• The Show Must Go On!-When families are finished in their designated rooms, have them all gather in your sanctuary or a large meeting area. Play Christmas music as families travel into this area. Then introduce the evening and the three accounts everyone will present of Jesus' birth. Invite each actor on stage and any families who'd like to join the actor to help tell their story. Encourage all families to participate in the story's motions and the accompanying song.

• After the Show-Invite families to your fellowship hall for a reception. Recruit a photographer to take pictures of each participating family and use the photos as a follow-up tool. After your event, upload the photos into a SmileBox template (available November 15th at smilebox.com) and then email or post the photos on your church Web site for families to have a keepsake from the evening.


ROOM 1

It's a Boy!


After a long journey to Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph experienced indescribable joy as they held the newborn Jesus in their arms. Families in this room will create a nativity ornament, practice "Silent Night," and prepare their part of the story about the special night Jesus was born.


Nativity Ornament

What you'll need: Yellow paint, paintbrushes, scissors, glitter, potpourri, glue, and a downloadable nativity scene photocopied onto card stock (available by clicking here). Each person will also need five cinnamon sticks, 6 inches of ribbon, and a small wooden or cardboard star.

What families do: Paint a small wooden star with yellow paint and sprinkle glitter over the wet paint. Glue five cinnamon sticks into the shape of a house. As the glue and paint dry, cut out the nativity scene and glue it to the dried cinnamon-stick stable.

Glue potpourri onto the sides of the stable for a rustic look-and nice smell. Then glue the star to the top of the stable. Insert a 6-inch piece of ribbon through the top of the stable. Tie the ribbon in a knot for hanging the nativity ornament.


A Special Night

Mary and Joseph can practice this interactive story with families. Encourage families to join Mary and Joseph on stage to help lead the audience in the actions in parentheses.

Joseph: Mary and I made a long journey to Bethlehem to be counted for the census (count on their fingers).

Mary: I was so tired and anxious to arrive in Bethlehem (females only say, "Are we there yet?").

Joseph: I knew Mary was tired and the time was nearing for baby Jesus to be born. I needed to find a place for us to stay, so I knocked on the door of a hotel (males motion a knocking gesture). I asked the innkeeper, "Do you have any room?" But the man shook his head (shake their heads, no). So I went to another hotel and knocked (all the males knock). I asked again if we could stay the night and again the answer was (everyone says, "No").

Mary: I told Joseph I'd be happy just to have a place to lie down. One of the innkeepers was kind enough to offer us some room in his stable. So there among the cows (everyone "moos"), sheep (everyone "baas"), and donkeys (everyone "whinnies"), baby Jesus was born (everyone says, "ahhhh").

Joseph: Mary wrapped Jesus in warm clothes and laid him in a manger (all females pantomime wrapping a baby and laying him down). Later that night we had visitors arrive to see the most special baby in the world (everyone says, "ahhhh").

Mary: Joseph and I knew God had given us a special gift that night, and we made a promise to be the best parents to baby Jesus (everyone rocks a baby to sleep).

Joseph: Let's sing "Silent Night" to remember the special night Jesus was born.

(Lead everyone in singing "Silent Night.")

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