If it were here and now today
This pageant was commissioned by Young United Church, Winnipeg, Manitoba for it’s annual Christmas service involving the children and youth of the congregation, many of whom are also instrumentalists (hence the particular instrumentation of the score). The text is my own; other dialogue may be added as is fitting and appropriate, depending on imagination, creativity and the setting of the performance.
I have envisioned a contemporary, "here and now" version of the nativity (inspired in no small part by William Kurelek's "Northern Nativity.") Imagine a homeless couple in an inner city setting, unable to find a room for the birth of their child. In place of shepherds, imagine children running around telling each other about this surprising and wonderful birth (children, or perhaps office workers, etc. -- the only limitation is the imagination here). The only "star" in this inner city world is a street lamp; it is a cold, snowy winter’s evening, perhaps the corner of a parking lot, perhaps a shelter against a wall warmed by a building exhaust vent; imagine.
This is not a hopeless birth. The story is about the challenge and wonder of the life that exists beyond the walls of the privileged, seen through the lens of the biblical account of the nativity. What we remember at Christmas is, after all, a story of the disadvantaged among us: ragged shepherds who wondered at the birth of a newborn in a barn, the child of a young couple who had no means to secure even a proper bed for the infant's first days. What would that story be if it were here and now today?
•An adult reader (reading the biblical nativity story)
•Children (one or more) listening to the reading
•Youth Choir (YC); singers double as actors in the story (though these roles can also be separated, depending on available resources)
•A soprano and a tenor soloist, youth or adult (M & J)
•Congregation (singing Hope is a Star, Hymn #7 from Voices United)
•Instrumental ensemble of at least intermediate ability (flute, French horn, Bb trumpet, violin, cello, piano, organ); single or multiple string players may be used
TEXT: Apart from the lyrics, which are my own, I have not included any text except the words of Luke, and a phrase from Matthew. The pageant may be performed exactly as is, simply with appropriate actions, but dialogue may be invented to enhance and individualize the work for specific communities – this can be a creative and meaningful process as the work develops. Such an exercise will also give the performers a special sense of ownership of the work.