Beyond the Nativity Play

If it’s been said that you should “never work with children or animals”, then working with lots of children dressed as animals must be a really bad idea.

It’s nativity season again, a world I was fairly blissfully unaware of until this year when I had to help a class of 7 year olds prepare for their own nativity play. I’m finding that even after several weeks of practicing, the success of the production falls on the teachers shoving the right children on to the stage at the right time – the children aren’t entirely sure what’s happening!

It’s easy to forget, in our familiarity of the Christmas story, that the first Christmas was full of unknown surprises.

You are a shepherd, who has been visited by a terrifying angelic creature, telling you the Messiah has been born.  Were you really expecting the Messiah to turn up in swaddling cloths?

You are a magi, who has been studying the stars all your life. You know all about the prophecies and the anticipation. The stars finally align, you travel for many months to find Him.  Weren’t you expecting the Messiah to be born in the palace?

If I was the shepherd, or the wise man, I would be sceptical. I would be disappointed. I would be confused and frustrated.

But Matthew 2 tells us a different reaction from the wise men:

When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
— Matthew 2:10-11

And Luke 2 tells us of a similar reaction from the shepherds! 

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
— Luke 2:20

If I’m being honest with myself, it can be easy to look no further into the Christmas story than what we see in a Nativity play. It’s easier to think of Mary, Joseph, and the rest, as 7 year olds with ill-fitting tea towels over their heads, looking a little bit lost and ever so cute. Wasn’t it lovely that God became a little baby! Wasn’t it kind of Mary and Joseph to let the shepherds join their party! And then the wise men joined them and they all cuddled the lambs and sang carols together, while Baby Jesus slept through, no crying he makes!

But time and time again throughout the Christmas narrative, it is the glory of Him who is to be worshipped that shines through. The glory of Him, who even when He was restricted to the body of a human baby, still made grown men fall on their faces to worship Him.

As we approach a story we are fond of and know well, how do we learn from the people that were first to see Him and recognise Him for who He really was? How do we approach baby Jesus? What is our reaction to our Saviour and King, humbling Himself to our level and making Himself knowable? Are we laying aside our expectations of Him and choosing to worship Him in all of His glory? This Christmas, I want to learn more about Jesus, as God Incarnate, and fall down and worship Him.


Anna is on staff as an intercessory missionary at Manchester House of Prayer. With a passion to see people in Godly community, she is developing our Family Prayerwatch and is also our social media whizz. She also serves in the prayer room as a singer and prayer leader. 


https://www.mhop.org.uk/blog/beyond-the-nativity-play