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The Annual Nativity Play

Children's Story
Roddy was plunged into gloom. It was that time of year again - the time of the annual nativity play. Roddy hated it. For a start, he had only once been chosen to actually feature in the play. That was the year he had to wear his dressing gown with a stupid tea towel on his head, and say one line: "Look! Let us follow that shining star!" Only he'd pointed to the star and forgotten the words. The audience had started to laugh, and the teacher said afterwards that "the whole feel of the play had been lost." Roddy was never invited to be in the play again.

That left only one option, the choir. He didn't want to be in the choir either, since he hated singing and his voice never came out anywhere near the note. But apart from the ten or so children in the play, all of the rest of the class formed the angelic choir. Last year, Roddy had stood in line and refused to open his mouth. Unfortunately, his mother had had her eyes glued on him throughout the play, and was furious with him afterwards. Phrases like: "letting the whole family down" and "whatever do you suppose Mrs Taylor thought?" kept emerging for days (Mrs Taylor being the mother of one of the shepherds, and a close neighbour of Roddy's family). It very nearly spoilt Christmas for Roddy.

And now it was that time of year again. Roddy's teacher called for volunteers to act in the play. There was no shortage of eager hands, so Roddy sat back and dreamed of the new Game Boy he was hoping for on Christmas Day. When the main characters had been chosen, Roddy's teacher moved smoothly into her pep talk with the rest of the class, assuring them that the choir really was the most important part of the whole production. Roddy yawned and continued to sit back. He wasn't that gullible.

He realised the teacher was talking directly to him when he became aware of a hush in the class.

"... important part of the work," his teacher finished. Roddy assumed she had been talking about the choir.

"I hate singing!" he growled.

"If you'd been listening," his teacher said crisply, "you'd know I was asking you to be responsible for all the scenery."

Roddy stared at her. What did she mean?

As though she'd heard his thoughts, his teacher continued, "You'll need to gather a group to work with you, and you'll need to decide what scenery you're going to use. Then come and tell me, and if I agree, then you'll be responsible for making it. Will you do it?"

Roddy felt a strange excitement seep into him. He loved making things with his hands, and he loved painting. He began to picture the scenes of the play in his mind, and already he began to see exactly what he wanted to do. He nodded enthusiastically.

But his teacher hadn't finished. "One word of warning, Roddy. You are responsible for the largest part of the preparations. You need to make sure everything will run smoothly. If you get it wrong, the whole play will be a disaster."

Roddy didn't care. He ran home and told his family all about his important role. "It's up to me to get everything properly ready," he said proudly.

Three of his friends were keen to help him, although two of them only wanted to get out of anything else. But they all set to work with a will, drawing up plans, deciding on props, working out changes of scene.

They were busy throughout Advent. It was harder than they thought, for as soon as they decided on something, one of them would argue for something entirely different. In the end, Roddy was forced to take the decisions himself, which meant that the whole responsibility rested on him. If the production fell flat, and the audience hated the props, it would all be his fault.

When two of his team pulled out with just two weeks to go, Roddy got quite grumpy. But he went on working hard. Painting and cutting, drawing and polishing.

When the day of the play arrived, Roddy was really nervous. He was so afraid the scenery would fall down, and everybody would laugh, and the play would be ruined again because of him. But it went like a dream, smooth and very moving. He found that this year, he enjoyed the play more than he'd ever thought possible.

Afterwards, everybody clapped the cast and the choir, and Roddy felt a bit left out. His work had been in the background, and nobody really noticed it. But then his teacher called him onto the stage. She said it was the best scenery they'd ever had, and the play had only gone well because the way was prepared so brilliantly by Roddy. She said she hoped he'd do it again next year.

It was the proudest moment of Roddy's life. He smiled and nodded and bowed to the audience, and felt like the herald who prepared the way for Jesus.

And he just couldn't wait for next year!
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