Catholic Activity: A Christmas Play
This Christmas play can be acted by children. It begins with the Annunciation and ends with the Epiphany, following the Gospel story well and the antiphons from the Breviary.
Scene 1 — The Annunciation
Play opens with chanting by the angels who are grouped across the front of the stage. They sing the antiphon for second Vespers of the feast of the Annunciation twice. During the second singing, the angels step gracefully to the sides. As they step back, the tableau of the Blessed Virgin receiving the salutation of Gabriel is revealed. When the angels are in place, the choral choir begins immediately the narration. The parts of the Angel Gabriel and Mary may be narrated by the entire group, or spoken by individual members of the choir.
Angels: Gabriel Angelus locutus est Mariae dicens: Ave gratia plena: Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus. (Liber Usualis) or "Lo, How a Rose Ere Blooming."
Choral Choir: And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel being come in, said unto her:
Angel Gabriel: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou among women.
Choral Choir: Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said to her:
Angel Gabriel: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob forever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Choral Choir: And Mary said to the angel:
Mary: How shall this be done, because I know not man?
Choral Choir: And the angel answering, said to her:
Angel Gabriel: The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren: Because no word shall be impossible with God.
Choral Choir: And Mary said:
Mary: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word.
Angels: (Advancing toward the front of stage as they sing) Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum, benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus. (Liber Usualis)
Scene 2-The Nativity
(Angels remain as a "living curtain" across the front of the stage. During singing of "Ave Maria" and beginning of "Hodie" figures in tableau are changed and Nativity scene is set.)
Angels: Hodie Christus natus est: hodie Salvator apparuit: Hodie in terra canunt Angeli, laetantur Archangeli Hodie exsultant justi, dicentes: Gloria in excelsis Deo, alleluia. (Liber) or "Gloria" chorus from the "Angel's Song." (Angels step back revealing crib scene-Mary, Joseph, and Infant.)
Choral Choir: And it came to pass, that in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled. This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, everyone into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child. And it came to pass, that when they were there, her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
(Angels remain in place, but begin chanting. At this point, shepherds enter and after kneeling to adore the Child, group themselves around the crib. Sing: "Come, Ye Shepherds."
Choral Choir: And there were in the same country shepherds watching, and keeping the night watches over their flock. And behold an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God shone round about them; and they feared with a great fear. And the angel said to them:
Angel: Fear not; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people. For, this day, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger.
Choral Choir: And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying: "Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will." And it came to pass, after the angels departed from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another:
Shepherd: Let us go over to Bethlehem, and let us see this word that is come to pass, which the Lord hath showed to us.
Choral Choir: And they came with haste; and they found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. And seeing, they understood of the word that had been spoken to them concerning this child. And all that heard, wondered; and at those things that were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God, for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
Scene 3-Adoration of the Kings (Tableau and angels remain in place. Upon completion of narration of Scene 2, angels chant communion verse from the Mass of Epiphany. The verse is sung twice during which kings enter carrying gifts. An effective touch with the gifts is to have them wrapped as Christmas presents, tied with red ribbon. The kings kneel, adore the Child, present the gifts to Mary, who places them at the foot of the crib. They then rise and remain in an attitude of contemplation during the narration.)
Angels:Vidimus stellam ejus in Oriente, et venimus cum muneribus adorare Dominum. Liber) or "We Three Kings of Orient Are."
Choral Choir: When Jesus therefore was born in Bethlehem of Juda, in the days of King Herod, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying:
Kings: Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to adore him.
Choral Choir: And King Herod hearing this, was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And assembling together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where Christ should be born. But they said to him:
Chief Priest: In Bethlehem of Juda. For so it is written by the prophet: "And thou Bethlehem the land of Juda art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come forth the captain that shall rule my people Israel."
Choral Choir: Then Herod, privately calling the wise men, learned diligently of them the time of the star which appeared to them. And sending them into Bethlehem, said:
Herod: Go, and diligently inquire after the child, and when you have found him, bring me word again, that I also may come and adore him.
Choral Choir: Who having heard the king, went their way; and behold the star which they had seen in the east, went before them, until it came and stood over where the child was. And seeing the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they adored him; and opening their treasures, they offered him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having received an answer in sleep that they should not return to Herod, they went back another way into their country.
(Play concludes with all singing a joyous Christmas carol.)
Activity Source: Twelve Days of Christmas, The by Elsa Chaney, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, 1955