When I originally wrote this a few years ago I thought nothing would ever rob us of the joy of seeing Nativity Plays at Christmas. Sadly, I was wrong. We’ve lost so much this year. It is disappointing to add this to the list. Perhaps we will be better able to embrace this season and all that it represents if we are stripped of the “activities.” Whatever the reason, I hope you will be able to remember all the special Christmas Eve services and plays you have seen over the years. I hope you will be able to focus of Jesus and the Best Gift of all.
What exactly is a Nativity Play?
The word “Nativity” is derived from the Latin word ‘natal” which means birth. So, a Nativity Play is a play that recreates the story of the birth of Christ. Usually, this includes the visit of the shepherds and the Wise Men.
This tradition seems to have started in Italy around 1223. The credit seems to go to St Francis of Assisi for creating the very first one. It seems that during this time many people were illiterate and couldn’t read the story of Christmas in the Bible for themselves. So, St Francis decided to show them what it must have been like on the night of Jesus’ birth. He set a manger, added some hay and live animals and got some people from the town to play Mary, Joseph and Shepherds. It must have been a success due to the overwhelming amount of churches that perform a play during this time of year. In fact, it is so popular a play was written about the process. (The Best Christmas Pageant Ever).
Around the country the Nativity play is a treasured moment; we all worship together among cameras, videos and a few tears. Sad, isn’t it? That this tradition can’t be done in many schools and communities any longer and that they have to perform winter shows instead?
There was a time that we were not ashamed of Christ. There was a time we boldly shouted out, “Merry Christmas!” and identified with the fact that Jesus’ birth was Why we celebrate this day.
I hope the tradition of the Nativity play never ends. There is something wonderful about the community that comes together out of the recreation of the story.
- What could be better than teaching children the important aspects of each part of the story? You might say, “What could be important about playing one of the animals?” There is a verse in Isaiah 1:3-4, “The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master’s crib. But Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” What lucky children! They play the part of giving comfort, even the ox and ass understand and give homage to the King.
- Parents and friends who might not usually participate, get involved with a production to help their children.
- People will come to church to watch kids when they won’t come for anything else.
- The simplicity of a production done by children should focus us on the true meaning of the season.
- Don’t forget the reading of the Christmas story, but for this visual learning society we have now–seeing is so powerful.
Amazing isn’t it? “the hopes and fears of all the years (wow that’s a lot) are met in Christ–the birth of Jesus–in a far away town–on a cold winter’s night.”
Let’s keep telling the story.
Do you have a favorite memory of a nativity story? Please share a comment/and this post if you like it!