UU Christmas Pageant (Interactive and Social Justice-Themed)
This pageant was written by Rev. Tim Kutzmark and shaped over eighteen years by DREs, staff, and congregants at The Unitarian Universalist Church of Glen Allen, VA; The Unitarian Universalist Church of Reading, MA; and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno, CA.
Worship Worship Leader
Three Narrators (adults or youth)
Non Speaking Roles:
Little Drummer (kid(s))
Shepherds (1 adult, 3-4 kids)
Three wise people
Many animals (All little kids invited to show up in any animal costume. Don’t need to come to rehearsal.)
Announce this Sunday/service as a clothing drive. Everyone in the congregation receives a paper bag that’s stapled and handed out to people as they come in (with the direction to not open the bag until instructed to). Each bag contains one each of the following items:
- cotton ball
- heart sticker
- star sticker
- halo (usually garland from the dollar store cut and twisted into a head-sized circle)
- When done on Christmas Eve, each bag also includes a battery-operated or real candle to be used for the traditional Christmas Eve candle lighting.
Worship Leader: Why do we celebrate Christmas (Eve)? As Unitarian Universalists, most of us believe that Jesus was a human being, that he was an inspired spiritual teacher and compelling social revolutionary. Most of us do not believe Jesus was a Divine Savior sent to redeem us from our sins. If Jesus was the child of God, many of us believe he was so only in the way that each human being is a child of the Holy. So, why do we celebrate Christmas (Eve)?
Some of us do celebrate the story of the only Son of God come to save the world, and that belief is welcome here today. For others of us, the culture in which we live tells this story, over and over, so it has become part of our consciousness — if not our belief — and we gather to experience it once again. But it’s not only the Christian religion that needs to tell this story, over and over. We, as a Unitarian Universalist people of faith, also need to tell this story over and over. Why?
Because, like all great religious myths that have been told through the ages, this night and this story hold essential spiritual truths. As Ernest H. Sommerfeld once wrote:
We believe that some stories deserve to live forever because of what they tell us of ourselves [and our world]. The angels singing an anthem of peace and goodwill deserve to be heard forever because they are the angels in human hearts. The humble shepherds, who had ears to hear and hearts to receive a message of joy, deserve to live to the end of time. [They remind us of our responsibility to make this world into a better place.] The three wise persons, so faithfully seeking the way of a star, deserve to go in search again each year as long as years shall be, for they are the story of our quest for [what is best in] ourselves [in each other], and in our broken and beautiful world.
This is the story we are now going to tell once more. Let us enter this story together, by singing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Let our pageant begin!
While congregation is singing, Narrator 1 comes to pulpit and Caesar stands on chancel looking important.
Narrator 1: We’re going to tell a story that we may have heard before. It’s the story about a baby born a long time ago. But it could be a story about a baby being born this very moment. A long, long, long time ago, in a city far, far away from here, there lived an Emperor named Caesar Augustus. He ruled over almost the entire World!
[Look over at Caesar and point.]
One day, the Emperor called together his advisors and said:
Caesar (reading from scroll): “I need more money to fund my armies. Send out soldiers to all the lands. They must tell the people that no matter where they are now, they must journey back to the town where they were born. And everyone must sign their name in a big book, and then pay me a tax.”
Narrator 1: In one of those places – a place called Galilee — there were two teenagers, named Mary and Joseph.
[Mary and Joseph move down the aisle, walking slowly.]
Mary and Joseph were young; they loved each other. And Mary was about to have a baby. Mary and Joseph had to travel a long, long time, for many, many days – and they were so very, very tired. They wanted to rest and sleep.
When they got to Bethlehem, they tried to find a room to rent for the night but every place had a sign out front that said “no vacancy.”
[Innkeeper begins walking toward Mary and Joseph]
There was no room for them anywhere; everyone turned away from them and said: “You are not welcome here.”
[Innkeeper meets Mary and Joseph at the front of the chancel]
Joseph was scared that they’d have no place to sleep. Finally, one innkeeper said...
Innkeeper: I’ll let you sleep in my old stable out back. But you need to know that the stable is old and not very clean. It is the place my animals stay: the donkey, the cows and the goats. It smells kinda bad. But you will be safe for the night.
[Innkeeper takes Mary and Joseph up to the stable.]
Worship Leader: [Instruct opening of bag to take out hearts.]
In our story, no one had any room; their hearts were closed. Then one person — the Innkeeper — decided to help. They didn’t do it perfectly, but they found a way to make some room. This is a story about opening our hearts, and making room for anyone who needs to be cared for.
Hold the heart in front of your own heart and please repeat these words after me:
May this heart help me remember
That I am like the Innkeeper.
May this heart help me remember
That I can open my heart to others.
And now, give your heart to someone on your left or right, and they’ll give you theirs
to put on your face or clothing.
[Narrator 1 waits a moment for this to happen, then...]
Narrator 1: And so it was, that, while they were there in this stable, Mary gave birth
to her son, she wrapped him in a clean cloth, and laid him in the manger. Let’s all welcome baby Jesus into the world by singing “Happy Birthday”
(ALL SING "Happy Birthday.")
Worship Leader: We sing another song to welcome Jesus: “Away in a Manger.”*
(ALL SING "Away in a Manger.')
Narrator 1: Later that night, both Mary and Joseph felt cold, but there were no warm clothes for anyone in the stable. Joseph didn’t know what to do. Would his family shiver all through that long, cold night?
Worship Leader: When people do not have enough money because they do not get paid enough (even though they work very hard), or there aren’t enough jobs for everyone… when we do not have enough money for the very important basics of life like food, clothing and
shelter, we worry. We are scared.
But sometimes some of us have enough or even a little extra money and food and clothing, and so we decide to share with those who do not. This is how we take care of each other and express our love. Today, some of us brought some warm clothes, socks, or gloves and hats and scarves to share with children who might not have a home or a family of their own to clothe them and warm them.
[THREE DRUMMERS BEGIN WALKING DOWN AISLE.]
As we prepare to share these gifts, our three drummers will come forward to remind us that no matter how young (or old) we may be, we all have gifts to share with each other. Our drummers remind us that “From you I receive, to you I give, together we share, and from this we life.”
And now, drummers, a drum roll please!
[Drummers do a quick drum flourish!]
As we help keep Jesus warm, we know that there are people who will soon receive gifts of our sharing. After the service, some of us will take these clothes and share them with some kids and grownups who are homeless and need them.
Now, please bring your gifts of clothing forward and add them to the manger.
[Drummers go up and stand on either side of the stable.]
[While the clothes are brought forward, Worship Leader invites everyone to sing “The Little Drummer Boy.” During that music, Narrator 1 sits down and Narrator 2 comes to pulpit. Shepherds get ready.]
Narrator 2: Now in this story and in this same country, there were shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Their flock was made of sheep and cows and goats and the Shepherds took care of them. They kept them together so that they didn’t get lost. If one did wander away and get lost, a shepherd would always go and find it.
It was very, very dark out there in the field, and very cold and sometimes very dangerous.
[After this has been said, shepherds walk very slowly and stand on the ground near chancel (do not go up chancel yet), pretending to care for the sheep and keep them safe.]
Shepherds are people who care for other living things. In our story tonight, the Shepherds and their dog care for the sheep in the fields. But each one of us is like a Shepherd. We need to take great care of each other and make sure that the smallest of us are watched over. We help each other and make sure everyone is taken care of and part of loving community. We make sure that no one is ignored and especially that no one is picked on. We help keep each and every one safe.
Worship Leader: [instruct opening of bags, and taking out a cotton ball]
In our story, the Shepherds and their dog stay close to their flock, sometimes with a gentle hand guiding them, feeling the softness of their hair, their wool.
Please hold this cotton ball in front of your heart, and repeat these words after me:
May this softness help me remember
That I am like a shepherd.
May this softness help me remember
That I need to care for others.
Worship Leader: In a moment, but not just yet, I will want us to take our cotton balls and give it to someone who is not part of our family or someone we didn’t arrive with. We do this to symbolize the caring we share with one another in our church community and in the world. We do this to symbolize that we always want to be able to find each other and we always want to be found. So find someone and share.
[Let them do it.]
Feeling this softness and this care, we sing “The First Noel.”
[As song starts; Head Angel processes down aisle and goes up the chancel steps so they can look down on the shepherds]
Narrator 2: Now in this story and in this same country where there were shepherds living out in the fields. Behold! An angel stood before them and the glory of spirit shone all around.
[Shepherds look around, surprised, afraid, they tremble and shake]
The angel said to them [Head Angel uses the hand held mic that Worship Leader provides...]
“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy for all people. For a baby is born in the city of Bethlehem. And this will be the sign to you. You will find an ordinary baby sleeping in a manger. He’s so poor he’s sleeping out with the animals. But there is great love inside this baby, just as there is great love inside each of you. This baby will grow up and try to show us how to live in peace and how to love each other. He will show us how we each can be saviors for this world!”
Narrator 2: And suddenly, the sky was filled with Angels singing beautiful songs and saying; “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among all people!”
Worship Leader: Let us become part of the sky filled with angels. [instruct removing of halos from the bags] With our hearts full and our hearts open, we place our halos on our heads as we say these words:
May this halo help me remember
that I am surrounded by love.
And may this halo help me remember
that I am love.
Worship Leader: We become part of the Angel’s song. We sing: “Angels We Have Heard on High!”
[Narrator 2 leaves pulpit and Narrator 3 comes up. Shepherds go up on Chancel near the Stable on right side (if you are facing the stage), and all the other Angels come forward during the song and stand on chancel.]
[Wise Ones and Star Bearer get ready. At end of song, Star Bearer can drift forward and stop almost front of aisle and turn to face congregation. Wise Ones remain in the back of the church.]
Narrator 3: Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem, wise people from the East came to Jerusalem asking, “Where is he who has been born? For we have seen his star in the East and have come to pay homage.”
These three wise people came from a faraway land, a land that was probably Iran or Iraq. They had seen a bright star in the sky, and had followed it to the stable.
“We’ve followed the star,” they said, “because we knew it would lead to a place where all people would be treated kindly, no matter what land they come from, no matter what they believe, no matter what color their skin might be, no matter what religion they practice, no matter who they love, and no matter how they create a family. That kind of place, those kind of people, are what we have come to find!”
Worship Leader: Now please hold your star in front of your heart.
With your star where your thoughts and feelings meet, we repeat these words:
May this star remind me
Of the brightness and wisdom
That is with me wherever I may go.
Worship Leader: Now let us put this star someplace on our face or on our clothes to remind ourselves of the wisdom and insight that we each can share with each other. Let us sing “We Three Wing.”
SING: "We Three Kings"
[During hymn, Star Bearer goes up on chancel to sit behind Mary & Joseph.]
Worship Leader: The wise ones brought with them gifts — traditional gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. But today we have something more practical, something that would have helped this family, and will help other families. The Wise Ones bring with them gifts to keep Jesus warm.
[Wise Ones come down the aisle and place their gifts before the baby Jesus, and then find a place on the chancel.]
Narrator 3: Once the three Wise Ones had offered their gifts, there was a loud scurrying sound. Animals — all creatures, great and small— drawn by the bright star and all of the visitors who were coming, wanted to see the little baby sleeping in the manger.
All living creatures share our Earth home with us, and are part of our Earth family. As we prepare to sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” I invite our little ones dressed as animals to come forward, sit or stand on the steps, and become part of our pageant. If our animals are feeling shy, we invite their parent or guardian to come with them to the stable.
As they do so, we sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”
[During the song, family candle lighters make their way to the chalice. They initiate candle lighting around the sanctuary while Narrator 3 speaks.]
Narrator 3: We invite you to take out the final item in your bag: your candle. The ____ families will now being walking around the sanctuary to begin lighting candles.
And that is what happened on the first Christmas Eve.
Jesus was born into the world.
A loving family surrounded him.
Friends gathered to celebrate him.
And others came as well, because they believed there was so much goodness inside all people,
and this is the belief we hold right now in this moment:
the blessing of each of our births,
ears to hear music,
eyes to behold light,
hands to build true peace on earth
and to hold each other in love.
A baby named Jesus was in a place where love was the most important gift of all;
we gather in and live in that place, too.
As we are wrapped in that light and that love,
we lift up our hands and hearts and voices in song.
This is the End of one story, and the beginning of another, and another, and another…
Singing: “Silent Night”