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“The Nativity”: A Christmas Carol Pageant for Sunday Schools, 1939

By: Ardis E. Parshall - December 23, 2010

There is scarcely a detail of this script that will be new (how’s that for drumming up interest in reading a post?). It is similar to every other Nativity pageant you have witnessed or participated in, in church or in the community, or seen in a movie, TV program, or commercial.

But in a way, that is its significance. As time passes, details – lining the manger with tin to prevent fire; assuming that all chapels have center rear doors and center aisles – do change. One day the people who make up your everyday life will be gone. The material artifacts around you will have changed. Familiar language will have adapted. Often the most ordinary, typical, routine things of life go unrecorded, because “everybody knows them.”

Well, here’s the pageant that everybody knows, exactly as it was outlined for LDS Sunday Schools in 1939.

“THE NATIVITY”

A Christmas Carol Pageant for Sunday Schools

Characters

Reader: A young man or a young woman.
Mary: Mother of Jesus.
Joseph: Husband of Mary.
Gabriel
Shepherds (Five are sufficient.)
First Wise Man (Young man who can sing.)
Second Wise Man (ditto.)
Third Wise Man (ditto.)
Angels (A chorus.)

Costumes

Reader: In robe of dark colors and of no particular period.

Mary: In white robe with blue veil thrown over the head and shoulders. The veil is a long, wide strip of sheer material such as voile or netting, and sh9ould reach almost to the knees.

Joseph: In a striped robe, such as a light weight wool dressing robe, and a head-dress consisting of a square scarf thrown over his head and shoulders and held in place by a thick braided cloth bandeau, which fits snugly around the head. Ordinary shoes may be worn, if Joseph’s gown is long enough to hide them.

Gabriel: In white robe.

Shepherds: Straight undergarments of burlap, a striped mantle hanging from shoulders, bright-colored turbans, bare arms. A staff for each. If crooks are desired, they may be cut from cardboard and fastened to the end of poles. The place of attachment, if wound with brown crepe paper, will not be noticed.

Three Kings: robed in portieres of different shades (these robes should be as rich and gorgeous looking as possible). Soft sandals or slippers should be worn, and crowns, or headdresses like Joseph’s.

Angels: In white robes. A single twist of silver tinsel about the head, and white cotton anklets or stockings, complete the costume. No shoes are worn.

Properties

King’s Gift to the Christ Child
A gold colored jewel-box, and if one is not attainable any small box covered with modeling clay and painted with gold paint will suffice.

Incense burner for the frankincense
Have it filled and burning. King swings it easily to and fro as he walks.

Jar of Myrrh
Any round can or carton makes a good foundation for the jar. It should be covered with gold paint.

Manger
This may be made from slats nailed together or from a small box supported by wooden legs. Hay should appear at top and between slats. The manger should be lined with tin to hold the high-powered amber colored electric light. All the light for the Nativity scene is radiated from the manger. The tin protects the hay from any possibility of fire.

Camp-Fire
This may be made easily by covering one or two lighted flashlights with red cellophane paper and placing small logs or sticks over it to resemble a camp-fire.

Lighting
Lighting effects may be used according to the place in which the performance is held.

Opening Exercises

1. Organ Prelude.
2. Opening Prayer.
3. Organ Interlude.
4. Sacramental Service.
5. Audience Sing “Joy to the World.:

Music: Strains of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” (Gregorian Melody) played softly during the reading of the following prologue:

(House lights out and spot on Reader.)

Reader (on right side of stage): In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God, unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her and said: Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. and the angel said unto her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favor with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord shall give unto him the throne of his father David. And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also, that holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

(Short pause and music changes to strains of “O Worship the King,” Haydn, before Reader begins to read the next lines. This music should be played softly while the reader recites the following prologue):

Reader: And it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David) to be taxed, with Mary his espoused wife, being with child. And so it was, that while they were there, she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him ins waddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country, shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped ins waddling clothes, and lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to men of good will.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us go now, even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

SCENE I

The Shepherds

(Curtain opens. The Shepherds are grouped around a camp-fire in the center of the stage. One Shepherd is standing with a crook. Three Shepherds are sitting around the camp-fire and a fifth Shepherd is reclining on his elbow. If a curtain is not available, the shepherds should enter form the left making the above scene after entering.)

Angels (singing, backstage): “Glory to God on High,” No. 167, D.S.S. Songs. (Angels may be augmented by the audience.)

(Enter Gabriel from left. Stage lights on full instantly, if no spotlight is available. The Shepherds cover their faces.)

Gabriel: Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people; for unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ, the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped ins waddling clothes, and lying in a manger.

(Enter the Angels, from the left, singing “Angels from the Realms of Glory.” They form a semi-circle back of the Shepherds at the conclusion of the song. Exit Angels, left. Lights off.)

First Shepherd: Let us go now, even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

(Exit Shepherds, right.)

Angels (singing, backstage): “O Holy Night.”

(Curtain)

SCENE II

The Adoration of the Shepherds

Prologue:

Reader: And the shepherds came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning the child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

(Curtain opens. In the center of the stage, a manger. The stage should be very dim except for the amber or white light which shines from the manger. Mary is seated to the left of the manger; Joseph stands at the back. As in the previous scene, if a curtain is not available, the characters should enter from the left and form the scene.)

Angels (singing, backstage): “Far, Far Away on Judea’s Plains.”

(Curtain)

SCENE III

The Adoration of the Magi

Soft organ music, “Silent Night.”

Prologue:

Reader: Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of Herod the king, behold there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born the King of the Jews, for we have seen his star in the East and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him: In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: “And thou, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come a governor, that shall rule my people Israel.”

Then Herod, when he had called the wise men privily, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

And when they had heard the king, they departed: and lo, the star which they saw in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down and worshiped him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

(Curtain opens. Scene same as II. Mary and Joseph as before. The organist plays a prelude to: “We Three Kings of Orient Are.” This prelude should be the verse.)

(The wise men enter the church at the rear center door and slowly come up the center aisle, singing in unison the chorus. They go upon the stage, right, arranging themselves to partly face Mary and Joseph, and partly the audience.

First Wise Man (singing):

We three kings of Orient are,
Bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.

(At the end of the verse he kneels and offers his gift.)

Three Wise Men (singing in unison, chorus):

Star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright.
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to Thy perfect light.

Second Wise Man (singing):

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain,
Gold I bring to crown Him again,
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign.

(He does as the First Wise Man.)

Three Wise Men (singing, chorus as before).

Third Wise Man (singing):

Frankincense to offer have I,
Incense owns a Deity high,
Prayer and praising all men raising,
worship Him, God on High.

(He does as the other Wise Men.)

Three Wise Men (singing in unison, chorus as before.)

(At the conclusion the three Wise Men rise. Enter the Angels, left, while the actors and audience sing, “With Wond’ring Awe,” No. 101, D.S.S. Songs. They arrange themselves in a wide semi-circle across the back of the stage. Organist plays a prelude to “O Come All ye Faithful.”

Angels, Wise Men (on stage) and Shepherds (backstage).

(While singing, the Shepherds enter left and group themselves behind Mary and Joseph. The hymn is sung in its entirety by Angels, Wise Men, Shepherds and audience.)

(Curtain, and if being staged without a curtain, lights off while stage is being cleared.)

(House lights up – and dismissal.)

Note. Additional carols that may be used for pageant:

1. “Oh Hush Thee, My Baby.”
2. “Luther’s Cradle Hymn.”
3. “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear.”
4. “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”
5. “The Sleep of the Child Jesus,” by Gavant.
6. “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.”



2 Comments »

  1. This post provided me with the excuse to do some pleasant morning reading about the Magi. They always fascinated me, I guess because they seemed so exotic (and one was named “Casper!”). I’ve always wondered why the myrrh was so consistently portrayed in some kind of round container. I don’t really have an answer for that, but I did find this representation where Casper appears to be bringing funeral potatoes:

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/55/Magi_%281%29.jpg

    Comment by Mina — December 24, 2010 @ 9:39 am

  2. Late to the party, but…

    “ordinary, typical routines” like assuming every meetinghouse has a stage? Or that the audience would recognize the melody of Hadyn’s “Oh worship the King?”

    And how many bishops, then or now, would be okay with burning incense in the church?

    I enjoyed this post, despite the pessemistic lead-in.

    Comment by Clark — December 27, 2010 @ 4:42 pm

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