Church Christmas pageants. I’m not sure how many churches still do the simple Nativity plays anymore; they seem to have given way to more elaborate, sometimes almost off-Broadway-style extravaganzas. The church I grew up in wasn’t very big, and we barely had enough kids willing and able to even do a simple Nativity, so our plays were almost always simple retellings of the Christmas story. Sometimes we’d do it in church, in place of the sermon, sometimes after church in place of Sunday school, or sometimes in the evening. I think I liked the evenings the best. There was something about doing the story in a dimly lit church. It made it easier to imagine the first Christmas night, with Mary and Joseph in a dark stable, shepherds in the fields watching their flocks by night, and then the spotlit angel appearing to give them the Good News.
When I was in 6th grade, we did one of our first non-Nativity plays. It was called 365 Days of Christmas. It was kind of a corny story about an angel visiting a bunch of kids who were goofing their way through play practice, and she shows the kids how the spirit of Christmas and the love of Christ can be present all throughout the year, through the other holidays, and even through the days of summer. I still have the book somewhere, and I still sing the songs in my head sometimes. In fact, I used a couple of them at Bible Release Time in years past.