And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise? – Matthew 21:16
This morning, I checked my computer files to see how long I’ve been directing Christmas plays with my junior church class.
Turns out, it’s been at least fifteen years – fifteen years of prayerfully considering a theme, writing a script, researching songs old and new, and practicing with the children for months ahead of time.
Fifteen years has been long enough that my oldest son, who was a toddler when I began, now runs the church sound system. In between, he and my daughter participated in about six Christmas plays. My daughter now assists in the class, and she accompanied the children with her guitar and ukulele in this year’s play. My youngest son is still a class member, but he’ll graduate from the class in two years – and then, he’ll probably begin assisting me as well, just when his older brother and sister will be headed off to college.
Right now, I can’t imagine putting together the plays without their help. Thank goodness for my husband, who has worked with the children for as long as I have. He has become an expert child-herder, lunch-server, and order-keeper. He fetches and carries and does anything else I ask. And, he has a gift for presenting the gospel clearly to children.
With all we have learned through years, we will carry on, I’m sure!
One key lesson I’ve learned is to have reasonable expectations. A small country church with a group of less than twenty children cannot put on a big production – but even a small group can still do something charming and touching. They can still point others to Christ.
I have also learned to begin practicing as early as late September, even if the practices are brief. Most of our children are bused in from nearby towns, and many cannot come every week. Practicing early and often during regular class time allows every child to feel comfortable performing on pageant day.
Early on, I decided to keep speaking parts short, and to allow the kids to read their parts as needed. This year, we performed our own little version of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” and the dramatic reading approach worked well. The brevity of the parts also allowed us to substitute at the last minute for our Lucy character, who was sick.
Mixing up the song selection works for us as well. The congregation loves to hear children sing “Silent Night” every year, but they also enjoy songs they may not have heard before. This year, we performed “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly” and “Some Children See Him,” amidst the old favorites.
Most important, I’ve learned that prayer is key to the success of our plays! By success, I don’t necessarily mean a flawless performance, just one that reflects each child’s best efforts. My hope is that every child learns that practice and persistence lead to a job well done.
As well, some learn to overcome stage fright. Others learn to sing as “one voice” in a choir. Every child learns confidence, especially those who may never be chosen to play the lead in a school play.
But, most important, I want every child to recognize the importance of honoring God and sharing the gospel through their performance.
If they learn that, to me, every year’s play can be the best Christmas pageant ever.
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. – John 1:14, 16
Have you ever directed a children’s production? Were you in a Christmas pageant as a child? I welcome your comments and shared memories.