Where you there on the night Jesus was born?

Of course not, no one alive today was. But we know who was there, the Bible tells us. Mary, Joseph, angels, animals, and shepherds. Since we weren’t there that special night, man has created an
annual event to honor and remember this historic event. It’s called the Christmas Pageant.

NCF has been performing Christmas Pageants for about 10 years. This year’s play was simply outstanding. This is the third performance I’ve attended at NCF and each year it gets better and better. All the practices, hard work, effort, and emotions were worth the joyful expression of love we have for our Savior born that first Christmas Day.
I did not grow up with the Christmas Pageant tradition, so at first I didn’t get it. But this year “I got it!” It is a joyful, sometimes funny, expression of our covenant children’s love for their Savior. It is a wonderful opportunity for them to express their joy at knowing the Lord.

After this year’s pageant I went home wondering “when did Christmas Pageants start?” Like I said, I didn’t grow up with them. In Maryland live-action Nativities are the advent regular, perhaps because it’s a little warmer climate. But I’ve read “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” years ago so I knew a little of what they were about. A quick Google search revealed the following interesting information regarding the history of Christmas pageants:

St. Francis of Assisi (c. 1181-1226) played a major role in early Christmas traditions. “…Francis’ friars (and perhaps Francis himself) were the first to write simple, happy, Gospel-based songs.

These were much lighter and festive than hymns and are considered by historians as the first carols. Francis also is the first person on record to create a Christmas nativity scene. On Christmas Eve 1223, in order to “Set before our bodily eyes … how he [Jesus] lay in a manger,” Francis and his companions worshiped in a cave near Greccio, Italy, surrounded by the traditional oxen, sheep, and donkeys.
An early Francis biographer recounted, “Neighborhood people prepared with joy according to their capacity, bringing candles and torches to illumine the night that has been the light of the world through its star.
Finally, the saint of God arrived and saw it and was glad. The manger was ready, hay was spread, and the ox and ass led in. “Thus, simplicity was honored, poverty exalted, humility praised. Greccio was made a new Bethlehem. The night became as day to the joy of men and animals. The people were happy at this great mystery. The forest echoed with the voices of the congregation; the rocks cried out in jubilation. The friars sang their debt of praise to God, and the night echoed with their hymns. The saint of God stood near the manger, overwhelmed with love and swelling with happiness.”
(excerpt from http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/news/2004/trad.html)

~ M. Skinner

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