St. Nicholas Pageant
by Deborah Dresser, Episcopal Diocese of New York, for the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. The American Friends support humanitarian aid in the region, particularly educational and medical services for children. The pageant was first performed at St. George's Episcopal Church, Newburgh, New York.
This full nativity pageant makes clear the connection between St. Nicholas and the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem (a simple version is here).
St. Nicholas should be played by someone with great stage presence and sparkle. The suggested music may be changed.
Length: 45 minutes
St. Nicholas Pageant
St. George's Episcopal Church
Newburgh, New York
St. Nicholas of Myra
3 wise men
Children in ethnic costumes
Players for pantomime, optional
Scenery & Props
Chair for creche scene
Welcome: The Host of the Pageant welcomes the people. The Host might be the Rector of the parish or some other person in leadership.
Welcome to our St. Nicholas pageant on this special day, December 6th, the feast day of this great saint. Before we begin I would like to thank ___________ and to invite everyone to a Nicholas feast following our pageant (tell them where).
December 6th is also the Sunday we highlight the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. The American Friends for over twenty years has supported this Episcopal Diocese whose presence is in Israel, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. The diocese supports 23 parishes and 22 educational and medical institutions that minister to Palestinian Christians and Muslims who struggle in a violent region. The offering that will be taken for the children of the Holy Land will be given in the generous spirit of St. Nicholas and sent directly to the Diocese of Jerusalem.
And now let the festivities begin.
There is a loud knock on the front door of the church and the Host invites St. Nicholas to enter.
Welcome Nicholas of Myra, welcome on your festival day.
Instrumental or vocal piece by an ensemble. If a hymn is chosen for the processional it is preferable not to have the audience singing as the procession is moving down the aisle.
Nicholas enters with great pomp surrounded by angels. He bows to the audience as he makes his way forward to his place of storytelling. This should be a grand chair such as a bishop uses. He dismisses the angels. The Nicholas story may be presented as a dramatic reading or memorized. Either way it is to be presented with flourish.
Greetings one and all who have gathered here today (this evening). I have traveled a long distance to be with you, and at last I may sit down and rest my weary feet. I am about 1609 years old, you know.
You might ask: where have you come from? I come from whereever children live, little children and bigger children, and even those who are along in years but carry the spirit of childhood in their hearts. From every corner of the world I have come and today I have come to share my gifts with you.
My name is Nicholas. Some call me Kris Kringle, some call me Santa Claus, but my true name is Nicholas. I was born in a small village called Patara in an area you might know now as Turkey. I was born before the year of our Lord 300. My parents were very devout Christians and as all good Christian parents they told me the great stories of our Lord and taught me to follow in his footsteps. They died when I was very young (it was very sad) and left me a great deal of money. But I remembered the words of Jesus that they taught me, "Sell what you own and give the money to the poor." So, I did just that: helping the sick and suffering with my wealth. I dedicated my life to the mother Church and in time the Church made me a Bishop, the Bishop of Myra.
The stories that follow might be pantomimed off to one side.
There are many stories that are told about me and the way in which God worked wonders and miracles through my prayers and my hands. Once I was traveling and in a dream I saw three young students who had been murdered and stuffed into a pickling barrel. When I got up from my sleep I called the innkeeper and together we prayed to God and, lo and behold, the three boys were restored to life and wholeness. For this the Church, that holy and sacred mystery, made me the protector of students and all children.
Another time I was traveling to the Holy Land, that glorious place where our Lord Jesus was born and did so many miracles, praise be to God (Nicholas looks a bit dreamy) . . . as I was saying . . . we were crossing the Mediterranean Sea and a great wind came upon us and we all thought we were going to drown in that great and terrible water. But the words came to my lips and I prayed to our lord Jesus, "Just as the waters of the Galilee were calmed by your words, command these waters to be still and know the wonder of God." And the waters fell silent, praise be to God. And, for this the Church, that holy and sacred mystery, made me the protector of sailors and all people who travel on seas.
My favorite memory is of the young girls who lived in such terrible poverty that their father was unable to support them. When it was time for them to be married, the poor father did not have dowries to give to prospective husbands and, so, as was the custom of that time and place, the father prepared to sell his daughters into slavery. Ah, it placed a burden on my heart and then a thought stirred in my mind.
One night, when the moon was full, I approached the house of the three daughters. In my hands I held three bags filled with gold. Not hearing a sound, for I presumed that they were sleeping, I carefully threw the first, then the second and then the third bag of gold up and through the window of the sleeping sisters. And, then I slipped away. The next morning the father, such a God-fearing man, was heard out in the streets of Myra, "A miracle! It's a miracle!" he shouted, "There was nothing and now this morning there is abundance and happiness in my house. Praise be to God." Truth be told, it warmed my heart to share my gift of gold with these children. And for this the Church, that holy and sacred mystery, made me the protector of all young girls and of young brides.
But enough with the stories of Nicholas! For there would be no stories about me had it not been for the greatest story ever to be told. There is no St. Nicholas without our Lord Jesus; there are no gifts of the heart without the greatest gift that God has given to the world, himself. So, our storytelling brings us to Bethlehem, to the birth of a child, to a humble cave where heaven reaches down and kisses the earth. It is the story of the gift of Christmas.
So, let us stand and herald the beginning of this marvelous story with a hymn.
At this point the bishop's chair is moved to the side but still visible to the audience. Nicholas commands a prominent place either as the Narrator or as a joyous spectator of the pageant. If the latter, a Narrator needs to be appointed.
Carol Prepare the way, O Zion
The carol suggested is an advent carol. Should another be chosen it is important that it be a rousing tune with a text that anticipates the Christmas story. The hymn should cover the moving of furniture and the placing of scenery.
This is the story of the first Christmas, the night Jesus was born. The story did not begin in the brilliant light of the heavenly hosts but in darkness; it did not begin in hope but in hardship. Our story begins when there were great troubles in the land of Israel and there was a great despair in the hearts of God's people. There was violence in the streets and hunger in the bellies of children, and throughout the land people cried, "Where is God?" The people were looking for a sign from God that he would always be there to look after them. After many years of waiting God sent a man—a savior, a prophet—to teach the people that God loves them and how they should love one another—Jesus, the Christ, Lord of Lords, his only son. To prepare for the coming of Jesus, God sent prophets to get the people ready.
Three prophets come in and stand on boxes to give their proclamation.
Behold, the Lord God comes with might. He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms and gently lead those that are with young.
For unto us a child is born and his name shall be called—Wonderful Counselor, the Prince of Peace.
God will give you a sign, a young woman shall conceive and bear a child, whom she shall call Emmanuel, God is with us.
In the fullness of time, God went among the people and spied a young woman named Mary. In God's mind Mary would become the mother of God's own son. Mary lived in the little town of Nazareth. She was engaged to a man named Joseph.
Mary is in the background working in her house. Mary comes forward and is surprised by the angel Gabriel.
Carol The angel Gabriel from heav'n came down, stanza 1, or another hymn that talks about Gabriel
Hail, Mary, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women.
Mary was frightened by his appearance and disturbed at his words. But Gabriel was reassuring and told her that God had sent him to tell her that she would bear a son and that his name would be Jesus.
Fear not Mary, for you are special in God's eyes. God has chosen you to give birth to a son and his name will be Jesus and he will be the Son of God and his kingdom will have no end.
Mary took these words and pondered them in her heart and then she said:
I will do as God chooses.
Carol Song of Mary, stanzas 1, 2 & 7, or Sing we of the blessed Mother
During the singing of the carol, Mary exits to the back of the church where she will reappear with Joseph. The Narrator continues following the carol.
Now Joseph was disturbed that Mary was to have a child but he had a marvelous dream and in the dream he was told by an angel to trust God; Mary was to bear the Son of God.
Mary and Joseph move forward; the innkeeper comes forward to center stage standing behind a half door prop.
At that time Caesar Augustus in Rome sent out a decree that everyone was to be taxed. Although Mary was heavy with child, she and Joseph were required to go to Bethlehem, Joseph's ancestral home. It was there that they were to be counted for the tax census. It was a long, hard journey and when they arrived in Bethlehem they found it to be crowded with other families who had come to be registered. They went to an inn; knocked on the door (knock, knock).
We have traveled a long way and my wife is expecting a child.
Sorry, there is no room here for you.
The innkeeper exits. Innkeeper #2 who is standing behind him takes the door.
This happened over and over again until at last Mary and Joseph came to an innkeeper who took pity on them.
There is no room here in my inn but I do have a stable over in that direction and a little bit up in the hills. You can stay in there and keep warm.
The innkeeper takes the door and exits. Mary and Joseph enter the area of the stage that is the stable area.
Mary and Joseph left the center of town and went up into the hills and found the stable. The stable was filled with animals that had come to keep warm. Mary and Joseph were grateful to have found shelter in this little town of Bethlehem.
Carol O Little Town of Bethlehem, stanza 1, Angels and congregation
While the congregation is singing the hymn, the angels stand in front of the stable area while the stage hands arrange cut-outs of the animals. Mary and Joseph are around the manger. At the end of the carol the angels pull back to reveal the creche scene.
In the nighttime, Mary gave birth to Jesus.
Bells ring in joyous celebration.
This child, born of Mary, is the gift of everlasting Peace to the world. Mary took the tiny, Holy Child and wrapped him in strips of cloth and laid him in the animals' feeding trough.
Several angels come in; two hover over the manger scene and the third angel steps forward to lead the congregation in the singing of Away in a Manger.
Carol Away in a Manger, stanza 1
Now there were sheepherders camping in the fields near Bethlehem. The night was cold and dark and they were lonely. The stars in the heavens looked so for away.
Carol Go tell it on the mountain, or 'Twas in the moon at wintertime
The shepherds begin to come down the aisle. An angel appears in a high up place (a high box, covered ladder, the pulpit, a balcony) and the shepherds look up on the refrain of the carol.
Suddenly, a brilliant light lit up the sky. The light was the glory of God and in the middle of the light was an angel.
The shepherds look up pointing to Gabriel, they back up, frightened.
The shepherds were terrified. They had never seen an angel in the sky. Have you? But then the angel spoke to them.
St. George's Episcopal Church
Newburgh, New York
Don't be afraid. I'm here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody worldwide: a savior has just been born in David's town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you are to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and laying in a manger.
At once Gabriel was surrounded by the heavenly host praising God and saying:
All the Angels
Glory to God in the Highest and peace to all people on earth.
Carol Angels we have heard on high stanzas 1&2
During the singing of the hymn the angels come down and take their place in the creche and on the 2nd stanza, the shepherds come in and kneel left and right to the manger.
Far and wide the news spread about the miraculous birth of God's Son. Far to the east of Bethlehem, wise men of great knowledge noticed the unusual brilliance in the sky. And they left their homes to follow the star.
Carol We three kings of Orient are
Three wise men begin their journey from the back of the church. If possible the 2nd, 3rd & 4th verse are sung by a wise man as they move forward in turn. An ensemble may sing verses 1 & 5 with the congregation singing the refrain.
The tableau is now set with the three wise men kneeling in front of the manger.
Now the story has been told in all its wonder and beauty. But this story is just the beginning, the beginning of giving. God begins by giving himself to the world in the person of Jesus. Mary gives her willingness to be the mother of Jesus. Joseph gives his gift of care-taking this family. The animals give their warmth on a cold night. The angels give their light and their song of praise. The shepherds give their adoration and the wise men their gifts of gold, frankincense and rich perfume.
As Jesus received all these gifts, he became the gift for the world. All during his life he showered everyone with God's affection; ah, just to have been in his presence.
And you know what? He loved the children best of all; so many children he gathered around him; blessing the children.
Carol O come little children
Sung by St. Nicholas if possible, or a choir ensemble. At this point children dressed in costumes from many countries come up to the creche scene.
St. Nicholas Pageant
St. George's Episcopal Church
Newburgh, New York
Photo: Barbara Shelley
Today, Jesus continues to bless God's children all over the world and especially the children of Bethlehem and his hometown Nazareth and in Jerusalem—all the children of the Holy Land. He is present with every child in their joys and in their nightmares; in their hunger and their hurts; in their loneliness and the soothing of tears. Jesus is Emmanuel, which means God with us.
And Jesus' greatest gift is that is that we are gift bearers in his name. Like Jesus we reach out to bless the children in our homes and in far away places and especially tonight (today) in the Holy Land.
In my lifetime, my three bags of gold brought freedom and happiness to the three young girls in Myra. Tonight (today) your bags of gold will help an infant in Jerusalem who was born deaf receive medical treatment so that she can hear. Your bag of gold will allow seven-year-old Iyad in Bethlehem to buy shoes so he can walk to school. Your bag of gold will provide a scholarship for ten-year-old Samira in Ramallah so that she will have a future.
You and my good helpers of the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem are going to see the gift of Jesus come alive tonight (today). So let us with great cheer fill our gold bags with treasures for the children of the Holy Land.
Music Ensemble, choir or instrumental
The offering might be gathered by three children in costume who come down off the stage to pass three large gold bags. Or the offering might be made in gold paper bags that are in the pews. These would be collected by the children in costume or by the angels.
The offering is brought forward and placed in full view of the manger.
The Doxology is sung
God bless you and Merry Christmas to you all.
Carol Hark, the herald angels sing
By Deborah Dresser, Episcopal Diocese of New York, for the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem (AFEDJ), a non-profit, non-political partnership with the Church in the Holy Land. AFEDJ support the work of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem in two major hospitals, several schools, 29 parishes and 35 service organizations in Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. Click for more information. Used by permission.