BIDWELL: Christmas Nativity Story
A Christmas Pageant Story
by Reverend Charles M. Bidwell, PhD
November, 2004
            Zach - elementary school aged boy      
Dad - 30's-40's
      This can easily be done in the readers theatre style where the players carry their scripts.

ZACH - [rushing into the room] Guess what, Dad.

DAD - I give up. What, Zach?

ZACH - I'm going to be a wise guy in the church Christmas play.

DAD - Wise man, son, a sage or ancient scientist.

ZACH - Anyway, I get to wear a neat robe and maybe even a crown on top of it all.

DAD - What did you have to do to get the part?

ZACH - Last Sunday, Mrs. Zubot read us the story of when Jesus was born and then we talked about all the people in the story. Well, today we got to say what part we wanted to play in acting it out for the Christmas concert. Five other boys and two girls wanted to be wisemen. Can girls be men, Dad?

DAD - There is no reason why girls can't act the part and maybe one of the sages or scientists could have been a woman if she were rich enough to afford private tutoring. And beside that, there is no reason that we would need to limit the number of wise ones in any re-enactment of the story; it's not an historical event; it's a myth.

ZACH - Anyway, we had to draw our names to see who would be lucky enough to play the wisemen, because we only had three robes from last year.

DAD - And you were lucky and got a part.

ZACH - Yessiree, Dad. I'm Casper, like the friendly ghost.

DAD - Did any of the girls have their names drawn?

ZACH - Yeah, Lorraine, is gonna be one of us guys.

DAD - [chuckling] I think that's great. I think it's also a myth that only men are wise.

ZACH - You said 'myth' before and now you've said it again. What is a myth?

DAD - It's a story which is told to teach a lesson or truth, but it's not true in the sense of being accurate historically and probably nothing like it ever really happened.

ZACH - So you mean that there might not have ever been any wisemen visiting Mary and Joseph to bring gifts to baby Jesus.

DAD - Exactly and that's not all. There was no huge star that lit up the heavens and no angel choir and no trumpets waking up the shepherds. It makes for a dramatic story but it's not a historical fact like a battle or the destruction of a temple. It's a myth like many other stories from the Bible. You know that Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden is a story to teach that God created everything and that we can become too arrogant and domineering and lose what we have.

ZACH - Yeah, I never believed that there was ever a talking snake.

DAD - And there are other stories that have a basis of fact but that have been embellished to make a more dramatic story that will be easy to remember.

ZACH - Embellish? What's that?

DAD - Sorry, embellish means to make more of the facts than are true, to tell us that the fish that got away was bigger than it really was to impress folks.

ZACH - That's lying.

DAD - Well, it isn't the factual truth, but the people hearing the story know that and enjoy the exaggeration. It's like the tale of Paul Bunyan and his huge blue ox or Jack and the beanstalk. They teach lessons but nobody believes that there are a factual account.

ZACH - Then the baby Jesus wasn't really born in a feed trough and no angels talked to shepherds about it.

DAD - Not in actual fact. There is some probability that Jesus was born into a working-class family and having him born in a stable would give us that idea without having to say 'Jesus was not born into an upper-middle class family' to those who were listening to the story.

ZACH - Gee, Dad, is there anything about that story that is true?

DAD - Not historically true or scientifically factual; the Bible is not a library of scientific records; it's a collection of accounts of how people have related to God over centuries. There are truths or lessons to be learned from reading these books, but don't go looking for scientific facts like Noah's Ark - there never was such a ship.

ZACH - So why do were act out these stories about Jesus' birth, if it's all untrue.

DAD - Why do you think we do it?

ZACH - Well, it's always been fun to see little kids on stage and it's a great story with lots of parts for everyone to be in the play, even if your part of a donkey.

DAD - Yes, that would be part of my answer to your question too. I always enjoy it when a kid does well or even if he goofs up and misses a cue or walks into a palm tree because he's too busy looking for his mom in the audience to pay attention to where he's walking. But there is another reason why we act out this story. It's a way of celebrating that a great teacher came into our history and has inspired millions of people to try to be more loving and respectful in their relationships with other creatures and other people.

ZACH - So even if it's all a made-up story it's fun to act out and watch.

DAD - Right, and it makes us all stop and recall that Jesus was a gift to us from God and we are wise, if we follow his teachings.

ZACH - You mean that we can all be wisemen by following the example of Jesus?

DAD - Well, I'd say wise people, but that's the idea.

ZACH - Okay, but why did they say Jesus didn't have a father? Joseph was there.

DAD - Well it's another long story. In the country where Jesus was born - I mean really born because he was a real person even though his birth was not as it is depicted in the story - the Romans had taken over the country. The Hebrews, Jesus' people, heard that the Roman ruler was considered to be a god by the Romans; he was said to have had a miraculous birth and so decades later, people thought that Jesus was as important or special as any Roman ruler and so they said Jesus needed to have a special or miraculous birth. That's why he was said to have had God as his father and not Joseph.

ZACH - Is that possible?

DAD - Not really. Centuries ago when this story was written down the word 'virgin' meant someone who was not married, but we have shifted the meaning to indicate a person who has not engaged in sexual intercourse.

ZACH - Like making love with someone to make a baby?

DAD - Yes, you remembered our talks about how babies are made.

ZACH - And you said it took an egg in a woman and a sperm from a man to make a baby, so Mary must have had somebody's sperm inside her.

DAD - In actual fact that's true, but the people of faith who were telling the story of Jesus' birth were trying to make his birth spectacular to match his life and so they embellished the story. After all, they wrote down that story decades after Jesus had died and nobody recalls asking Mary what went on around his birth. I think if such a spectacular birth had really occurred, there would be Roman documents reporting it. It's hard to hide a star that big and the sages who came to visit in the story were said to be astronomers, so you'd expect to be able to read accounts of that comet or whatever astronomical event caused that much light in the night.

ZACH - So it's all a fairy tale.

DAD - Not quite; Jesus was born and we think he was born in Nazareth and the messages we are to get from the story are that he came to poor people - he wasn't born to a king or emperor. He came to all races and nationalities - the wise ones or astronomers came from other races and countries. So you see there are messages in the Nativity Story that tell us truths, but the story is not a historically accurate account.

I think it's a great story and I'd miss seeing the Nativity Scene if we got too caught up in being historically accurate, but I want you to understand that it is a story or myth and you can play with what goes on in it, if you keep true to the messages it contains. The astronomers can be women; the shepherds can be farmers; the baby can be born in a hostel or shelter; the star can be fireworks. The details can vary, Zach, but the message of a great teacher being born and how following his teachings and example can guide us to living a heavenly life in relationships with others and our world are what it's all about. So keep that in mind when you play with the play.

ZACH - Okay, Dad. So I guess you'll be there when I walk out in that old bathrobe.

DAD - You bet, Zach. Now, go wash your hands for supper.