Ever since my oldest (23) was a first grader, we’ve been using the same traditional Christmas Pageant at our church. Our pageant usually takes place in lieu of the 9:00 a.m. service on the 4th Sunday of Advent.
The 1st Sunday of Advent is Thanksgiving weekend in the United States – and no classes for any age take place on that Sunday. On the 2nd and 3rd Sundays in Advent, we hold our pageant rehearsals in the church during the Sunday School hour. We begin by telling the Advent stories on the chancel steps with the children gathered around. It helps to to center them – and us – prior to the rehearsal. Instead of response time, we say something like, “And today our work will be the Christmas Pageant…”
After the presentation of our Christmas Pageant, we all gather in our parish hall for our “Happy Birthday, Jesus!” party. One storyteller tells a version of the Advent/Christmas/Epiphany stories complete with burning frankincense and myrrh, and adds in a bit of the Circle of the Church Year as well. (It’s a great advertisement of Godly Play to the parents and other parishioners present!)
After the story ends, we gather around a lovely cake and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus. If we’ve planned it right, the children then wrap the gifts they’ve brought for a local children’s charity, and we wrap the presents there at the party.