Christmas Day * “Holy Wonder: Angels!” * Inspired by Luke 1:11-19; 26-38; Matthew 1:18-21; Luke 2:8-15

A Pop-Up Readers Christmas Pageant for at least three actors/readers and one narrator with “in the pew” parts for everyone! Prep/Prop info appears after the service, below.

image and original written content: Rev. Kathryn M Schreiber ©2022

We Gather

”Christmas renews our youth by stirring our wonder. The capacity for wonder has been called our most pregnant human faculty, for in it are born our art, our science, our religion.” – Rev. Ralph W. Sockman, 20th-century gifted preacher

Prelude (musician)

Pastor’s Welcome and Acknowledgements (pastor) Merry Christmas! Welcome to this very special Sunday Morning Christmas Day! This Christmas morn we join the angels in telling the story of the birth of Christ and celebrating God’s most wondrous gift.

No matter who you are… No matter where you are on life’s journey… You are welcome here! Welcome guests. Mention COVID/Flu protocols.

Through Jesus Christ, we are called together as the Beloved Community. We are blessed by this sacred worship space located on unceded territory of the Lisjan-Ohlone people. We honor the past and face the future in peace with hope.

Today’s…

  • Flowers: available for dedication 
  • Worship Team: Musician Ian Pong; Cast: TBA; Advent Wreath: TBA; Pastor & Narrator: Rev. Kathryn Schreiber.

Carol: “Angels We Have Heard on High” #155, verses 1-3 (musician)

Advent and Christ Candle Lighting (tba) On this blessed Christmas Day morning, as we light all the Advent Candles and the newly lit  Christ Candle, may we transformed by Holy Wonder. (Light all FIVE Candles)

Passing the Peace (all share gestures and words of peace; pastor)

“The Birth of Jesus As Told by Angels”

Introduction(pastor)

This Advent and Christmas we are being led by HOLY WONDER – moments when we fully awaken to God’s now – moments that move us to awe – moments flush with Big Hope – moments when courage opens our hearts to partnering with the Christ-Still-Being-Born.

One of the great preachers of the last century, Rev. Ralph Sockman, said this about wonder at Christmas time: ”Christmas renews our youth by stirring our wonder. The capacity for wonder has been called our most pregnant human faculty, for in it are born our art, our science, our religion.”

The Bible is filled with wonderful and wondrous stories about God’s ongoing response to humanity. In our Judeo-Christian tradition angels are a special order of beings who serve as God’s messengers. Whenever an angel appears, God is delivering a critical message.

Today, on this Sunday Christmas Morning, we will re-tell the story of Jesus’ birth through sacred moments captured in scripture – episodes where angels appear at critical junctures to carry forward God’s Dream for us through Jesus Christ.

We will be telling this story together! Some folks have volunteered in advance; all will be called unto service as we recount a special, angelic version of the Christmas Story.

Now, I’m going to let you in on a secret – the more we relax and have fun with this telling, the more likely it is that we’ll encounter a Holy Wonder. I hope you’ll really enjoy your part in sharing this wonder-filled sacred story! And that God will use our collective storytelling to speak to each and every one of us.

Act One: “Gabriel”

Mary is seated on one of two center chairs on the dais. She is wearing a scarf about her shoulders. Gabriel, wearing a lit halo and carrying a bag (with unlit halos in it) is in the back of the church, not yet visible.

Narrator: “Young Mary is the niece of Temple Priest Zacharias and her Auntie Elizabeth of noted Hebrew religious lineage. Young Mary’s Uncle and Auntie, long past the time of having children, had offered decades of prayers and offerings, even though they remained childless.

“One Day, while Zacharias was performing sacred rituals, the angel Gabriel appeared to him with the wondrous news that Old Elizabeth would bear a child! The child’s name would be ‘John’ and he would prepare The People for the coming of The Messiah.

“It is now six months later and God has sent that same angel to another woman to announce the news of her unexpected pregnancy.”

Gabriel starts walking up the aisle toward Young Mary.

“God sent angel Gabriel to Young Mary to a town in Galilee named Nazareth. Young Mary was engaged to a man, Old Joseph, a descendant of the Great King David. Through Gabriel, God will extend the most amazing invitation to Young Mary.”

Gabriel approaches Young Mary.

Gabriel: “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you!” 

Gabriel makes big, kind gestures.

Narrator: “Young Mary is confused and perplexed by these words. What sort of greeting is this? Angel Gabriel seeks to assure her.”

Angel Gabriel: “Don’t be afraid, Young Mary. You have found favor with God. And God has a very big honor to bestow upon you, should you agree.”

Young Mary listens carefully.

Angel Gabriel: “And now, you will conceive and give birth to a son. You will name him ‘Jesus.’

Young Mary is very confused.

Angel Gabriel: “He will be great! He will be called the Son of the Most High! God will give him the throne of his ancestor the Great King David! He will rule over the House of Jacob forever! Of his kin-dom, there will be no end!”

Narrator: Young Mary thought for a while. Then she looked, carefully, at the angel and said to Gabriel,”

Mary: “But, how can this be? I have never done what a young woman needs to do to make a baby!”

Gabriel: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you… (pause). And the power of the Most High will overshadow you… (pause). The child to be born will be holy. Young Mary, he will be called the ‘Son of God.’”

Narrator: “Gabriel went on to tell Young Mary about his visit to her Auntie Elizabeth, long barren, now six months pregnant.”

Gabriel: “Young Mary, nothing is impossible for God.”

Mary replies brightly with conviction.

Mary: “Here I am – God’s servant. Let it be as you have said.”

Gabriel pulls a halo from his bag, turns it on, and places it on her head. Gabriel turns away and walks down the aisle. Young Mary stays put for a while. As we sing, she moves to the side two chairs and sits down.

Carol: “O Come, All Ye Faithful” #148, verses 1-2 (musician)

As we sing Old Joseph, with his blanket, takes a seat in one of the chairs in the center of the dais.

Act Two: “The Angel of the Lord”

Old Joseph is seated in one of two chairs in the center of the dais. He is wrapped up in a blanket and nodding off to sleep.

The Angel of the Lord, wearing a lit halo and carrying a bag (with many unlit halos in it) is in the back of the church, not yet visible.

Narrator: “Now, this is how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. Remember that Young Mary, Jesus’ mother, was engaged to Old Joseph, but they had not ‘lived together’ yet. She was pregnant and showing.”

Old Joseph, asleep, tosses and turns.

Narrator: “Old Joseph, Young Mary’s fiancé was a righteous man. He knew he wasn’t the father of Young Mary’s child. Old Joseph also knew he could legally, publicly renounce her and break the marriage contract because of her pregnancy. However, righteous Old Joseph had no desire to humiliate Young Mary. As he fell asleep, his plan was to privately, quietly dismiss her.”

The Angel of the Lord walks up the aisle toward sleeping Old Joseph.

Narrator: “As Old Joseph slept, poorly, The Angel of the Lord appeared to him in his dreams.”

The Angel of the Lord gently lays a hand on Old Joseph’s shoulder before speaking.

The Angel of the Lord: “Old Joseph, descendent of the Great King David, don’t be afraid… (pause). Take Young Mary as your wife… (pause). The child she carries was conceived by the Holy Spirit.”

Old Joseph moves in his sleep, turning toward the angel. The angel continues speaking.

The Angel of the Lord: “Old Joseph, Young Mary will give birth to a son. You will name this child ‘Jesus’ and he will save his people from their sins.’”

The Angel of the Lord pulls a halo from his bag, turns it on, and places it on Old Joseph’s head, and then departs down the aisle. Old Joseph wakes up and goes to sit beside Young Mary sitting on the side.

Carol: “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” #150, verses 1 and 3 (musician)

We Pray

Christmas Day Prayers (pastor) Beloved Author of all Life, and Source of all that is Truly Good, on this Christmas morning we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ – not only in Bethlehem thousands of years ago, but if it is Your will, born again in our hearts on this very day.

Long we have awaited the arrival of angels bringing Good News that You have removed whatever plagues us. We forget that You are not Santa Clause to our childish wishes. You are the Great I Am who constantly calls forth from us what is needed for all to thrive.

In the way of Young Mary, we ask a blessing upon the brave young ones who are doing radical work, co-birthing with You, a kinder, sustainable, healing way forward.

In the way of Old Joseph, we ask a blessing upon the righteous old ones who are setting aside the past to apply seasoned wisdom to new situations with new tools.

In the way of the Terrified Shepherds, we ask a blessing upon all who labor long and are weary, yet hopefully, go to greet You when Good News is delivered.

On this Holy Day, in this Sanctified Place, amid the Beloved Community, enwrapped by Sacred Story we each arrive with our own private joys and concerns. Holy One, hear our silent, private prayers.

(long silence)

The Lord’s Prayer (pastor) And now, as we have physically gathered in one place, may we also spiritually gather by saying a common prayer together, the prayer Jesus Christ taught us to pray. Amen.

Special Music

Act Three: “An Angel of the Lord and Angelic Multitude”

Narrator: We need to do a bit of casting before continuing on with our story. Everyone will have a part. You have two choices: 1) to be a Shepherd which requires making sheep sounds and looking terrified, OR 2) to be part of the Angelic Multitude which requires a little speaking and singing and looking thrilled. So, Shepherds: hands up and make a “baaaaa” sound. Thank you! Angelic Multitude: hands up and say “Praise God!” Thank you!

Angels with bags of unlit halos pass out unlit halos to everyone who doesn’t have one – or at least one per household.

Narrator: “It was the evening of Jesus’s birth. In fields nearby, Shepherds were living and keeping watch over their flock by night.”

Shepherds make sheep sounds and look around.

An Angel of the Lord walks up the aisle to the middle of the sanctuary.

Narrator: “And then, An Angel of the Lord stood before the Shepherds and their sheep.”

An Angel of the Lord turns on many unlit halos. Move them about, turn around to look at everyone. Be a spectacle.

Narrator: “The Glory of the Lord shone brightly all around them and the Shepherds were terrified!”

Shepherds be terrified!

Narrator: “Noticing their terror, An Angel of the Lord sought to assure the Shepherds.”

An Angel of the Lord: “Don’t be afraid, Dear Ones. Behold – I am bringing you Good News of Great Joy for all people! To you is born this day, in the City of David, a Savior, the Messiah, the Lord!”

Joseph and Mary, carrying Baby Jesus (a bundle with a lit halo on it), walk to the center two chairs on the dais and sit down. They take care of Baby Jesus as the story continues.

An Angel of the Lord: “Dear Ones, this will be a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 

Narrator: “And, suddenly, there is with the angel a Multitude of the Heavenly Hosts!”

Angelic Multitude angels turn on your halos and place them on your heads.

Narrator: “And the Angelic Multitude praises God!”

“Praise God!” (angels repeat)

and they sang (Joy to the World tune):

“Glory to God…” (angels repeat)

“in the highest heav’n…” (angels repeat)

“and peace…” (angels repeat)

“on earth…” (angels repeat)

“for all!” (angels repeat)

An Angel of the Lord walks down the aisle to the back joining “Gabriel” and “The Angel of the Lord” if they were played by different folks.

Narrator: “When the angels had left and gone into heaven, the shepherds spoke among themselves. They decided to go, immediately, to Bethlehem to behold the wondrous thing God had just made known to them. “

Shepherds turn on their halos and place them on their heads.

Carol: “Joy to the World” #143, verses 1-3 (musician)

During the last verse, some Shepherds and speaking part Angels bring up donated items for the Women’s Daytime Drop-in Center placing them around Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus.

Offering Prayer (pastor) Jesus Christ tells us that whatever we do for our neighbors in need, these acts are done to him, too. On this Christmas morning, we honor the Living Christ with these things needed by our homeless neighbors served by the Women’s Daytime Drop-in Center down the street from our church.

Please extend your hands in a gesture of blessing sending Big Love into these items. Thank you. Let us bless these items:

On this Christmas morn as we celebrate Jesus Christ, may we also embody the Big Love Christ came to earth to teach us. Holy God, may it be Your spirit that fills these needful things and continually calls us to care for each other as we would care for Your son, Jesus Christ. Transform all of us, everywhere, with Christmas Holy Wonder. Amen.

Offering Our Praise “Doxology” (musician; all)

We Transition

Announcements (pastor)

  • Next Sunday: New Year’s Day. Sing-a-long lay-led worship service
  • Sunday, January 8th: Guest Minister
  • Pastor Kathryn on vacation until January 10th

Carol: “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” #153, verses 1-2 & 4 (musician)

Reading: “Advent Blessing” by Ann Weems (pastor and Esther Lee)

“It is not over, this birthing, There are always newer skies into which God can throw stars.

When we begin to think that we can predict the Advent of God, that we can box the Christ in a stable in Bethlehem that’s just the time that God will be born in a place we can’t image and won’t believe.

Those who wait for God watch with their hearts and not their eyes, listening, always listening, for angel words.” (aw)

Benediction (pastor) Peace on Earth and Goodwill toward All! Merry Christmas to you and Happy New Year!

Postlude (musician)

The service is concluded.

Worship Resources:

(kms) All content prepared and written by Rev. Kathryn M Schreiber, unless attributed to another source.

(NRSV) New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Note: Scripture has been adapted and modified.

(aw) Ann Weems, Kneeling in Bethlehem. Line breaks changed.

Preparations for this Pop-Up Readers Theater Play

In Advance:

  • prepare scripts for key roles (if folks want to practice)
  • secure volunteers for key roles (OR cast everyone at the beginning of the service)
  • assemble props before Christmas week. (Order halos early! We like Feather Crown Headband Luminous with 10 LED Lights” from Amazon)

Casting

  • Scripted speaking parts: Narrator; Young Mary; Gabriel; The Angel of the Lord; An Angel of the Lord – one person could play more than one part
  • Scripted acting part: Old Joseph
  • Everyone else involved, pop-up parts – no scripts needed
  • Narrator may give verbal stage directions to cast members

Sanctuary Set-up:

  • two empty chairs, together, in the center of the dais
  • two empty chairs, together, over to one side
  • specific cast props placed where needed
  • shelter donations ready to move upfront

Props:

  • one bag with unlit halos for each speaking-part Angel, up to three
  • halos for everyone, if possible – definitely for main cast; if halos light up, be sure to pull protective strip out before attempting to turn on
  • scarf for Mary
  • blanket for Joseph
  • Baby Jesus wrapped in a bundle

Residency Acknowledgement: This content was written in Huichin Village, unceded territory of the Lisjan- Ohlone people, where I dwell and serve as a local church pastor. Please support indigenous rematriation efforts, the #LandBack movement, and give to Sogorea Te’ Land Trust Soghttps://sogoreate-landtrust.org/ and other non-profits that reform, balance, and heal relationships with our indigenous hosts. Thank you!

Copyright Note: Copyright laws changed in December 2020 when Congress passed the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2020 (CASE Act). Please check with your legal counsel as to the appropriate use of licensed materials, especially print and recorded music when sharing content online. Please observe ethical use of resources and follow the publishing requirements of any broadcasting or publishing platforms you use. Protect the rights of content creators. Thank you!

Online Publishing Date: December 9, 2022.

Permission: Permission is not granted to share or distribute this resource beyond your community without additional permission from the author. Please attribute source and observe ethical use of all resources. Follow your platforms’ publishing requirements for all created content especially if publishing online or broadcasting. Thank you!

Donation: Due to the current coronavirus pandemic this content is free. If you’d like to support the congregation I serve as pastor – Berkeley Chinese Community Church – we’d be most grateful for your support. Please send checks to: BCCC UCC, 2117 Acton Street, Berkeley, CA 94702, Attn: Diane Huie, Treasurer. Thank you!

For Online Content: Please see Facebook pages: “Berkeley Chinese Community Church” and “Living Liturgies”; as well as my website: www.inthebiglove.com and YouTube channel: “Kathryn Schreiber”

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