It's that time of year again! There's a flurry of activity up and down the country as children and parents prepare for this year's Nativity. Few stories are so widely known as the Nativity story, and the annual tradition of tinsel and tea towels is one that brings a whole lot of joy across the ages. Nativities present a special opportunity for children and adults alike to be reminded of the true story of Christmas and the reason we celebrate.
The Nativity is an important way to teach and remember the story of God come to earth, but it's also a culturally, educationally and spiritually important tradition. Mark and Helen Johnson have been writing Nativities for over 30 years.
Helen says, "There's something very special about everyone working so closely together, and we're sure children enjoy building community as well as confidence.
"Putting on a great nativity musical is unlike anything else in the calendar. Our hope is that the children would really prize that experience - and hopefully they'll remember the story and songs for a long time after the show is over and done with."
The performance of the Nativity can be a daunting experience for many children, but it's an amazing opportunity to take pride in the communal effort they've put in. Seeing their parents or friends in the audience with big smiles is a massive encouragement and can be a memory that sticks. The teamwork involved in putting on the production really helps build a sense of community spirit in both the children and the adults.
Singing, speaking and performing in front of an audience is something that children often first experience as part of the annual Nativity. If this first experience is a positive one, then it can really be life changing for that child going forward.
A good Nativity director will really encourage children to enjoy their role, whether it's as Mary, Joseph or a tree, boosting confidence and growing creativity. Younger children can watch the performing children and learn from them, whilst those that are older can remember their own performances in years past. The retelling of essentially the same Nativity story across different generations is a great way to link all the ages together and learn from one another.
Kelly Fort, director of many a Nativity, has this advice for anyone putting on a Nativity this year, "Please have fun with the children as you practise. Christmas is a joyful season, as we celebrate the birth of God's Son Jesus Christ - the King of Heaven and Earth, who came to liberate us from the power of sin, to be free; uninhibited as little children...and remember, even the tone-deaf kids sound angelic to him!"
Andy Bodkin is CEO at Same Boat Music and Out of the Ark Music, having worked previously as a global executive for Christian Copyright Licencing for 18 years. Andy plays guitar and leads worship in his local church in Sussex. Same Boat Music believes in the importance of the Nativity and provides resources to help people host their own. For more information on its Nativities and Christmas music visit www.sameboatmusic.com.