Summary: While most Nativity plays at our SS Christmas programs focus on Matthew and Luke, this Word Play is found in John. It tells the story of Jesus’ birth from Heaven’s point of view.
One of the great highlights of the Advent season is watching our Sunday School students re-enact the Nativity. I remember as a child myself how on Christmas Eve we would have our Sunday School program, receive our goodie bags and go home to open presents. The Nativity play was a central part of that experience.
I read about a Sunday School that was putting on a Christmas pageant which included the story of Mary and Joseph coming to the inn. One boy wanted so very much to be Joseph, but when the parts were handed out, a boy he didn’t like was given that part, and he was assigned to be the inn-keeper instead. He was pretty upset about this but he didn’t say anything to the director. During all the rehearsals he thought what he might do the night of performance to get even with this rival who got to be Joseph. Finally, the night of the performance, Mary and Joseph came walking across the stage. They knocked on the door of the inn, and the inn-keeper opened the door and asked them gruffly what they wanted. Joseph answered, "We’d like to have a room for the night." Suddenly the inn-keeper threw the door open wide and said, "Great, come on in and I’ll give you the best room in the house!" For a few seconds poor little Joseph didn’t know what to do. Thinking quickly on his feet, he looked inside the door past the inn-keeper then said, "No wife of mine is going to stay in dump like this. Come on, Mary, let’s go to the barn." -And once again the play was back on track!
You may have seen the Nativity play dozens of times but it’s moments like this that make it fun.
There are traditionally two gospels from which we get our Nativity scene, but did you know there is a third gospel account? This one is difficult to act out if we take it literally from the text. This third account is found in the gospel according to John and it is my favorite. If we were to give it a name we could call it the Word Play. It is both a play on words and a play about the Word. What is most significant about this Word Play however, is that it lays a foundation for the Nativity and gives us the reason for Christ’s coming.
Let’s look at this Word Play in John 1:1-5 together and observe the Nativity from Heaven’s point of view.
1. The Perpetual Word
John introduces this pageant with a familiar phrase. As the curtain goes up we hear the words, “In the beginning was the Word…” (v.1). And with these words John takes us to the beginning, not to when the angel came to Mary, but to the time before time. There is no mistake in that these words remind us of Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God…” for that is what John intended. This phrase introduces the story of old creation and now it also introduces the new creation.
If we pretended to know nothing of whom John was speaking we would first of all realize that this Word, whoever he is, is eternal, perpetual, always was and always will be. Even the insignificant little word “was” tells us that he had no beginning of his own; when other things began, He – was.