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Tis the Season

Lori Haynes Niles

Through the stories of the Old Testament festivals, we learn that God loves for his people to celebrate! And at Christmas, celebrate we do -- with programs and parties, caroling and crafting, shopping and sharing throughout the season.

In the middle of this cacophony of Christmas, we long to give our children the memory-making experience of leading their congregation in the true meaning of Christmas. Yet we often find that families are so stressed out by the sheer volume of activities in November and December that rehearsals can send them over the edge. Adding preparation for a full-fledged Christmas production can also nibble away at our Christian education programs and take a giant bite out of children's regularly scheduled worship. The inevitable casting crises that can arise in trying to slot children into singing or performing roles can even cause those children who end up a twinkle short of star billing to feel less than joyous. So what are you gonna do?

There is a low-stress way to encourage kids to use a variety of talents in the celebration of Christmas and give them the experience of leading a meaningful, memorable worship time with the whole church. The following events may be somewhat nontraditional, but they'll allow more kids to participate with less preparation and lead your congregation into a unique experience of celebrating the newborn King.

THE CHRISTMAS PARADE

Borrow from the traditions of Mexico in this no-rehearsal Christmas program that works best with smaller congregations. Set up three rooms, each staffed by a Bible-costume-clad innkeeper. Close the door to each room, and put a sign on each room door.

Inn 1 -- Set out supplies to make a simple paper lantern. Fold and cut a sheet of construction paper into a "snowflake." Roll the snowflake into a cylinder, staple the overlapping edges, and add a 2-inch-wide paper handle to the top of the cylinder. This looks beautiful with a flashlight shining through.

Inn 2 -- Set up a poinsettia-making shop. For each person, you'll need 1/2 of a 11/2-inch Styrofoam plastic ball spray painted yellow and eight red craft feathers. To make the poinsettia, simply push the feathers into the Styrofoam around the outer edge of the ball to create the petals.

Inn 3 -- Set up a large nativity scene using people or a commercial set to create the atmosphere.In the Mexican celebration of Las Posadas, choose two children to be Mary and Joseph. Others join in throughout the parade. Invite the other children to dress as characters in the Christmas story -- a shepherd, an angel, or an animal.

Stage the Christmas parade by having children lead the adults to each of the three designated rooms in order. Depending on your setup, you may need to put masking tape arrows on the floor to help children direct the adults. At each door, the children must knock and ask, "Do you have room for baby Jesus?" As they travel, have these printed words available so they can sing this song to the tune of "O Come, All Ye Faithful":

We are the seekers of the baby Jesus. Where is there room for baby Jesus to lay?We seek the Savior, born to save the world.Oh, where will we find him? Oh where will we find him? Oh, where will we find him, Christ the Lord?

In the first room, the innkeeper answers, "No, no room in this inn. But you're searching in the dark! Come and I will give you each a lantern to light your way as you search!" Then children each make a lantern.


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In the second room, the innkeeper answers, "No, no room in this inn. But what will you do when you find him? You have no gifts for the baby! Come and I will help you find something to take to him." As the children create a poinsettia, the innkeeper explains that there's a legend from Mexico about two children who had nothing to give to the baby Jesus in their church's nativity scene, so they picked green weeds along the road. Everyone made fun of the children's gift. Yet having nothing else to bring, they laid their little green plants beneath the manger where baby Jesus lay, and as they stepped back, the plants burst forth with brilliant red flowers -- the poinsettia.

In the third room, the innkeeper answers, "SHHH! Such a ruckus! The baby is sleeping." Everyone enters the room and places their poinsettias around the manger scene as they sing a few selected carols. Take pictures of each child or family kneeling by the manger with the poinsettias as a lovely bright backdrop.

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