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A Musical Nativity (Christmas 3)

July 2, 2010

If you are lucky, you will not have had your love for Christmas music destroyed by the terrible versions so often preferred by the people who program music for shopping malls. If you are not so lucky, perhaps revisiting some of that music in the context of the story it is actually about will help restore it to its rightful place in your heart. Maybe.

The song suggestions that are made in the script are just suggestions. You may find there are too many songs or too few. You may prefer other songs. Do what you like.

Things to know about this lesson:

  • A musician and his/her instrument would be a wonderful asset – otherwise, you’ll have to muddle along as best you can.
  • It’s only Christmas carols. Everybody can sing Christmas carols. If I can do it, so can you.
  • This lesson could stand alone but it would probably be a little short because you wouldn’t spend so much time on the story itself. You could fill more time with more music, though.
  • A PDF of all four Christmas lessons/pageant:  The Christmas Story (and Pageant).

A Musical Nativity

Before the Lesson

Prepare song sheets with the words to either the carols you will be using or the carols you suspect the students will ask for.

Open with prayer. (see tip sheet)

Introduce the Story

(If this is your first lesson on the Christmas story, you might like to use all or part of the introduction from A Modern Day Nativity.)

What are your favourite Christmas carols? (accept secular Christmas songs but point students back to the sacred)

Why do you like them?

Are there any you don’t like? Why?

Today, we are going to act out (or just read) our story again. While we do that, I want you to think about which songs match up with which parts of the story. For example, While Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night could go with the part of the story where the shepherds are watching their sheep.

If you are going to run through the dramatization of the story, remind/assign roles and sketch out the stage area.

Read/Act the Story

Do not do anything with the suggested songs at this point.

[Mary is sitting centre stage, perhaps pretending to sew. ]

God sent the angel Gabriel to a young woman named Mary who lived in the town of Nazareth.

[Gabriel enters and stands beside Mary. They look at each other as if in conversation]

Mary was frightened when she saw the angel but he said, “Do not be afraid, Mary – God is happy with you! You are going to have a baby and you will call him Jesus. This baby will become a great man and people will call him the Son of God.”

Mary was very surprised and very confused. She asked the angel, “How is this possible? I am a virgin.”

The angel explained, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you for nothing is impossible with God! The baby will be holy. He will be called the Son of God.”

Mary still didn’t really understand but she said, “I am God’s servant. Let it be as you said.”

[Angel turns back to audience. Mary leaves the stage. Joseph enters and lies down at centre stage]

At this time, Mary was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendent of King David. When Joseph found out Mary was pregnant, he was very angry and sad and he decided to break the engagement off.

[Angel turns to face audience, looks down on sleeping Joseph]

But that night, an angel of God appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, do not be afraid to marry Mary and do not be sad or angry about the baby. He comes from the Holy Spirit. You will name him Jesus and he will save his people from their sins.”

[Angel leaves. Joseph wakes up and leaves the stage]

When Joseph woke up, he did as God had told him, even though he didn’t understand it any better than Mary did.

[Mary and Joseph make their way quietly to the back of the church and then return, walking slowly up the centre aisle, while the narrator continues. O Little Town of Bethlehem could be sung]

While Mary was still pregnant, the Emperor Augustus decided he needed to count everyone in the country. Everyone had to go to the town their family came from to be counted so Mary and Joseph had to go to Bethlehem. It was a long way from Nazareth to Bethlehem and it took them a long time to get there. They were both very tired when they finally arrived – and poor Mary was completely exhausted.

[Mary and Joseph meet the innkeeper at the top of the aisle]

To make matters worse, all the hotels and inns were full because of all the people travelling around because of the Emperor’s order. No one had any room for even two more tired travellers. Finally, they found someone who let them sleep in his barn with the animals.

[Mary and Joseph continue to centre stage and take their places in the ‘barn’]

Mary and Joseph didn’t care – they were just glad to be somewhere warm and dry where they could get some rest. But they didn’t get very much rest that night because that was the night that Mary gave birth to a baby – to their son – to the Son of God – to Jesus.

After Jesus was born, Mary wrapped him in cloths and Joseph put clean straw in a manager, an animal feedbox. Jesus fell asleep and Mary laid him in the manger.  Mary and Joseph could hardly believe what had happened. They could hardly take their eyes off their new son.

[What Child is This could be sung. Shepherds enter (perhaps beyond or to the side of the sleeping family – ideally, they would face the choir). While Shepherds Watched their Flocks could be sung]

For the shepherds in Bethlehem, though, that night was just like any other night. They were outside in the fields, watching their sheep to make sure that nothing hurt them in the dark.

[Angel enters and stands in front of shepherds]

Suddenly, a bright light appeared in the sky and they saw an angel standing in front of them. The shepherds were terrified but the angel said, “Do not be afraid. I have joyful news for the whole world. The Lord’s chosen one, the saviour of the world, was born today in Bethlehem. You will find him wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

[the choir of angels (perhaps the actual choir?) joins the angel]

Then a whole choir of angels appeared, praising God and saying

Glory to God in the highest and peace to God’s people on earth.

[Angels We Have Heard on High could be sung. Angels sit/leave]

When the angels had gone, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem to see this baby that the Lord has told us about!”

[shepherds go to family and kneel before them]

They hurried to Bethlehem and found the barn with Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. They knelt down before them and gave thanks to God for the gift of the baby Jesus.

[shepherds leave]

Then the shepherds returned to their sheep, praising God and telling everyone about the amazing things they had seen.

[The star is held up at the front of the church (perhaps by a server) and the wise ones begin walking up the centre aisle. The First Noel could be sung.]

Soon after Jesus was born, some people from the East came to Jerusalem. These were people who knew how to read messages in the stars and they had seen a special star rise – the star of the new King of the Jews, Jesus.

[Herod stands from his place in a pew near the front and pretends to talk to his neighbours]

King Herod was the king in Jerusalem in those days and, when he heard about what these wise people were saying, he got worried about this new king. He asked his advisors where the new king would have been born. His advisors told him that the prophets said that a special ruler who would take care of all the people would be born in Bethlehem.

[wise ones reach Herod’s pew and ‘talk’ to Herod]

Herod called the wise people to a secret meeting and found out when they had first seen the star. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search for the baby and then tell me where he is. I want to go visit him, too.”

[wise ones continue to the holy family and kneel down]

The wise people set off and, there, ahead of them, was the star. It shone down on the place where the baby Jesus was. The wise people were filled with joy and they went in and saw Jesus with Mary and Joseph. They knelt down and gave them expensive gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

[wise ones leave]

When the wise people left, they did not return to Jerusalem and they did not tell Herod where the baby was. They were wise and they knew that old kings do not often like new kings very much.

Mary and Joseph never forgot the wonderful events of that night, the night when their son, Jesus, the Saviour of the World, was born.

[cast returns for photo op/applause. Joy to the World could be sung.]


If the songs that will be used are up for discussion, invite students to make suggestions of what could be sung where. If the decisions have already been made, explain what will be sung where.

Introduce the Activity

Hand out song lyrics. Announce the start of the Christmas sing-a-long!

Christmas Sing-a-long

You can either just sing the songs or you can read the story (probably skipping the acting) and sing them in the rights spots.


How did the songs make you feel? What did they make you think about?

Which song was your favourite? Why?

If you are genuinely open to the possibility of change you can ask if there are any songs that they would like to change.

Closing Prayer

Dear God, thank you for the power of music. May our thoughts be of you and your son, the baby Jesus, every time we hear a Christmas carol – no matter where we are or what we are doing. Amen.

(If this is your first lesson on the Christmas story, you might like to use all or part of the introduction from A Modern Day Nativity.)

What are your favourite Christmas carols? (accept secular Christmas songs but point students back to the sacred)

Why do you li

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