It was a cold December during Advent. Members of the small, intergenerational congregation I had been called to serve a few months before that night began arriving at the church. We were gathering for the annual Christmas pageant. This Christmas pageant, however, was unlike any Christmas pageant in which the congregation had previously participated and we were all about to be transformed.
For decades, the congregation had gathered a week or two before Christmas Eve to watch as the children participated in the pageant. On this night, however, there was no age limit to be a participant. All who wished to play a part were invited.
Oh, Starry Night
As congregants arrived, simple costumes created by the children were offered to each person who wished to play a role. Among the props congregants chose were halos made of tinsel, paper trees glued to popsicle sticks, the faces of sheep created with cotton balls on paper plates and stars made from yellow construction paper and glitter. With costumes in hand, we gathered in the sanctuary.
As the Christmas story was shared, participants made their way to the front of the sanctuary. Aunts and uncles stood with nieces and nephews as angels. Grandmas and grandchildren were among the trees. Moms and dads stood alongside their children as stars and various animals at the nativity scene. A group of dads and grandpas made their way to the front as the sheep while children shepherded them. A grandmother and grandfather became our Mary and Joseph.
Intergenerational Christmas Story
By the end of the pageant, we discovered there were families with three generations of members who had participated. There was also an approximately 70-year age difference between the youngest and the oldest participants. Our intergenerational and multigenerational Christmas pageant reflected the intergenerational and multigenerational Christmas story. Children, teens, parents and grandparents played a baby, parents, an older aunt and uncle and young shepherds in the Christmas story. What a joy!
We sang and we laughed. We were transformed by the simple act of experiencing the intergenerational and multigenerational Christmas story as an intergenerational and multigenerational community. The group experienced abundant life as we found new meaning in the Christmas story enacted together.
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins, executive director of the Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging, noted in the resource, Age-Friendly Congregations (Cleveland: United Church of Christ Council for Health and Human Service Ministries, 2017), “Church is one of the only places in our culture where three, four, and five generations of people gather to experience and share in community.” How are we experiencing abundant life through intergenerational events in our churches? This Christmas, how might the story come alive in a new way for all using intergenerational activities?
Such transformation and abundant life is not limited, I believe, to the church. How might using intergenerational activities this Advent season transform the lives of those in your ministry setting? How might the Christmas star shed light on ways to renovate Advent and Christmas traditions to include people of all ages? What might we learn from one another if we dare to experience Advent and Christmas as an intergenerational community? If you have an intergenerational activity for Advent and Christmas that has been transformative for your congregation and/or ministry setting, please share it with us!