Not a Very Silent Night! – a Pop-Up Nativity

This is an instant Nativity play suitable for schools, all-age worship, crib services or Messy Church. It  has a few, very simple props and uses the tune of ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’ to tell the story of God with us. And No Rehearsal Needed! (Yay!)

Just go with whomever is there; adults, children, passing aliens, anyone. If they’re in costume – great. If they’re not – that’s fine. Plenty of audience interaction and a simple but relevant message that God lives with us in our messiness.

You might like to have the words on a screen, adding the lines as the script introduces them.

On the birthday of Jesus it’s POP Nativity!
12 stars a-shining
[action],
11 cows a-mooing [moo],
10 sheep a-baaing [baa],
9 camels moaning [moahh],
8 donkeys braying [hee-haw],
7 angels singing
‘Peace to all people’.
5 noisy things!
Four shepherds, Arghh!
Three wise men
,
Mary and Joe,
and Jesus the special baby.

Props

  • Doll in blanket
  • Shawl (preferably blue)
  • Five tea towels
  • Three crowns or cloaks
  • Three gifts

Charles Le Brun adoration of the shepherds 1689Not a Very Silent Night

I’d like your help to sing a Christmas song that tells the wonderful story of the world’s biggest birthday party – The Twelve Days of Christmas – do you know it? [Yes]

Excellent. Now, how does it start? On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me … [A Partridge in a Pear Tree]

A what? A partridge? You’re kidding, right?  Who here wants a partridge in a pear tree for Christmas? No, me neither.

And anyway, I don’t remember any partridges or pear trees in the Bethlehem stable. I think we need a better line. How about, “and Jesus, the special baby”. That works. And perhaps ‘the first day of Christmas’ could be “On the birthday of Jesus”.

So what shall we do to celebrate this birthday? How about a Pop-Up Nativity! If you can make a pop sound with your mouth, do that, or if not just shout POP! Let’s have a practice.

On the birthday of Jesus it’s POP Nativity!
and Jesus the special baby.

crib-service

Great! What’s the next line? [Two turtle doves] Hmmn, more birds? I’m not sure they’d be much good at changing Jesus’ nappy. How about “Mary and Joe / and Jesus the special baby.”

We need a Mary and a Joseph. [Two volunteers to front. Give Mary shawl and doll. Give Joe a tea towel]

Now every time we sing your name I want you to do a pose. Joe, you could look all strong and carpentery. Mary, how about you wave to your adoring fans because you’re far more famous than Joe. Sorry Joe, that’s just how it is.

For the last line we could all do jazz hands for the special baby. Let’s try it.

On the birthday of Jesus it’s POP Nativity!
Mary and Joe,
and Jesus the special baby.

3 wise menAwesome! What about 3? We could have … [3 wise men] Brilliant! That fits beautifully. We need three more volunteers. [Give three volunteers crowns or cloaks and gifts]

You can hold up your gifts when we sing about you. Shall we have a go?

On the birthday of Jesus it’s POP Nativity!
Three wise men
,
Mary and Joe,
and Jesus the special baby.

Excellent! What’s the next line of the song? [Four calling birds] Again with the birds! Let’s swap them for some more of our story.

4 shepherdsWe’ve got the wise men, the holy family, who else do we need? [Shepherds] Ah yes. We could have four shepherds. [Four volunteers, give them tea towels]

“Four shepherds …” Hmmmn, that doesn’t work. It’s too short. And the shepherds need an action. What do you think the shepherds said when they saw the angels? [Arghh!] OK. So its “Four shepherds, Arghh!” Shepherds, you have to look gob-smacked. Are you ready? Let’s try it from the top.

On the birthday of Jesus it’s POP Nativity!
Four shepherds, Arghh!
Three wise men
,
Mary and Joe,
and Jesus the special baby.

Brilliant!

Who else is in the story? [Angels] Yes, we can have angels singing ‘Peace to all people’. We can all be the 7 angels singing. [or have angels with halos up front]

What else do we need? How about some animals? What animal might have been there? [cows, sheep, camels, donkey] Great, we can fit all of those in, and we can have their noises too.

[Divide people into four groups. Address each group in turn.]

So let’s have this section being the donkeys. When everyone sings “8 donkeys braying” can you all go “hee-haw”, please? Let’s hear you.  Great.

Now this section. Camels – what noise do camels make? Kind of a moan. So when everyone sings “9 camels moaning” can you all go “moahh”? Great.

Sheep next. When everyone sings “10 sheep a baaing”, you all go “baaaaa”. Fab!

And finally the cows. When everyone sings “11 cows a-mooing”, you all go “mooo”. Brilliant!

Just one line left and I think we need some stars: “12 stars a-shining” and we can do some star actions, just to make sure we’re awake.

Let’s have a quick practice. So that’s

12 stars a-shining [action],
11 cows a-mooing [moo],
10 sheep a-baaing [baa],
9 camels moaning [moahh],
8 donkeys braying [hee-haw],
7 angels singing ‘Peace to all people’, (that covers 6) … oh. I’ve missed out 5.

Perhaps for 5 we can have our “5 noisy things”: the cows, the sheep the camels, the donkeys and the angels making such a racket it’s amazing anyone got any sleep at all that night.

Because although I love the carol ‘Silent Night’, to be honest, it probably wasn’t anything like that pretty Christmas-cardy scene. Anybody whose given birth will tell you it’s messy and it’s painful. And for Mary, giving birth in a smelly stable, far away from her family and friends, with not even a proper bed for the baby – I don’t suppose that was how she had wanted it to be.

But I think, perhaps, that’s the whole point. Life isn’t like a pretty chocolate box picture, it’s more like (as Forrest Gump said) the chocolates inside – You never know what you’re gonna get. Sometimes it’s great – mmm, caramel delight. Sometimes, not so great – urghh, sprout and marmite crème.

But at Christmas, Jesus stepped into our messy, painful lives. He lived with us in all the ‘not how I wanted it to be’. The Bible says ‘The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood.’ (Jn 1:14, Msg) That’s what Christmas is about: God with us. In our neighbourhood. Not in the posh houses where the film stars live. Here. With us. Right where we are, in the mess and the pain and the ‘not how I wanted it to be’.

Perhaps this Christmas you’d like to take some time to talk with the God who became a baby, who knows each one of us better than we know ourselves, and who still likes us, even with all the mess.

 

So with all our imperfect, noisy, messy Christmases, let’s get our Pop-Up Nativity going.

Are you ready with your stars a-shining?
Are you ready cows a-mooing?
Are you ready sheep a-baaing?
Are you ready camels moaning?
Are you ready donkeys braying?
Are you ready shepherds [Arghh!], wisemen, Mary and Joe?
And is everybody ready to POP?
Here we go.

On the birthday of Jesus it’s POP Nativity!
12 stars a-shining
[action],
11 cows a-mooing [moo],
10 sheep a-baaing [baa],
9 camels moaning [moahh],
8 donkeys braying [hee-haw],
7 angels singing
‘Peace to all people’.
5 noisy things!
Four shepherds, Arghh!
Three wise men
,
Mary and Joe,
and Jesus the special baby.

Image Credits

with thanks to

Thornton-le-Moors, Ince and Elton

Guardian.com

Walton Holymoorside Primary School

And apologies to Charles Le Brun – Adoration of the Shepherds – 1689

 


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