Kids had their lines whispered to them, wiggled in their costumes and cried on stage as they performed the traditional Christmas play.
Parents smiled, snapped photos and applauded at the adorable nativity play that tells the story of the holy night of Jesus’ birth.
True to the “one night that changed the world,” as Pastor Tim Holland said, the children at Grace Baptist Church put together and performed the show in just one night.
Holland’s wife, Alice, came up with the idea as a way to serve the community by offering a chance to participate in a Christmas play “without making the holidays crazier.”
“It will be just as sweet with an afternoon and evening of practicing as it would be if we’d met over and over again,” she said. “And they’ll have a memory they can take into adulthood with them.
“One evening to practice, sing, love Jesus and everybody has a good time and goes home.”
Mother Shanan Stevens said she was “blown away” with the play, which started three hours after she dropped off her children to prepare.
The photos and smiles she got from seeing her children perform the story of Christmas were every bit as memorable.
“They’re all so cute,” Stevens said. “It’s such a blessing to all of us.”
Her son, Jay, played the part of Joseph, which Stevens didn’t know until she saw him on stage.
The children were assigned parts and began learning lines at 4 p.m. on Wednesday.
For the most part, they would be able to repeat something the narrator had said to keep the memorization to a minimum.
At 5:45 p.m., the children found their costumes on a chair by their names, and they used sheets and props to transform into shepherds, sheep and angels.
A member of the church’s acting group for teens, Autumn Musgrave, helped get the kids dressed and quizzed them on their lines.
Ariana Henderson, portraying Mary, said she had just one line, which momentarily escaped her memory.
Musgrave cued her, “It’s when you get mad, you say … ”
“He was not leaving me at home,” Henderson said, crossing her arms.
She was ready for the stage.
About 6 p.m. the first run-through began.
Tim Holland, the narrator, read his opening line.
“Many, many years ago, the prophets of Israel promised a coming savior,” he said, meeting silence.
He then whispered: “Micah’s supposed to go to center stage.”
The kids got up and down from the stage, changed places as the director moved them and repeated their lines as they forgot them.
The lone dress rehearsal began immediately afterward. It was about 6:30 p.m.
Parents started to filter in as the kids rushed off to eat a snack and the adults tried to calm the nerves created by the fast pace of the night.
“It’s time to do this,” said Jay Stevens, as Joseph high-fived Mary in the line-up to go on stage.
As they walked out singing “Jingle Bells,” no one gave any thought to the time spent creating the children’s Christmas tradition.
Musgrave said the church has done Christmas plays in the past, for which she attended several rehearsals and did a lot of work.
“I think it was rough,” she said of the one night concept, “but it’s good because people who don’t know about the Lord can come and learn.”
Alice Holland said the play was a “tremendous outreach.”
The open role call for a Christmas play experience in a single evening drew in more than two dozen kids who had attended Grace Baptist frequently, occasionally and never.
Enjoying cookies after the show, Henderson said she had fun playing Mary and telling the story to the audience.
“It’s the most important thing about Christmas that we showed them,” she said.