The Nativity at Glenview Community Church is a celebration of the story of the birth of Jesus and a sharing, through music and movement, pageantry and song, of the message of Christmas. It is a worship service that heralds the Advent season. GCC has presented this gift to the church family and the community each year since 1951 (with the exceptions of 1959 and 1960 when the sanctuary was under renovation).
In 1951, Helen Miller had an idea to create a new kind of Christmas pageant at GCC. She envisioned something active and colorful with “participation plus”—roles for children and youth of all ages. While Helen and George Miller receive credit for the original script, a democratic group of parents, teachers, music and dramatic directors, ministers and youth met to craft, plan and produce the new pageant. Agnes Cashman, director of the Rhythm Choir, worked with high school girls to choreograph a host of angels and bring reverence in movement to the pageant (and she continued to direct the Tableau Angels for over twenty years). Children from first grade through high school had parts, with the older teens taking central roles. The Chancel Choir, youth choirs and soloists added their voices to tell the story in song.
Each section of the original pageant script has a clear purpose. “The Prologue” relates the ancient story to Glenview of today. “The Annunciation” declares the extraordinary nature of the baby to be born to Mary. “The Journey to Bethlehem” illustrates the people of the day and the crowds that left no room for Mary and Joseph in the inn. “The Awakening of the Shepherds” demonstrates the spread of the good news. “The Search of the Wise Men” shows the effect on rulers of the day. “The Adoration and Gifts” emphasizes the significance of Jesus’ birth to all people and ties in the modern custom of Christmas giving. Richard Creyke’s 1961 revision of the Millers’ script added a section titled “The Birth” that included “O Holy Night” and the Beatitudes, to reflect Jesus bringing new light into the world.
Throughout the years, The Nativity has been “polished and honed,” as Reverend Bob Alward put it. Herod first appeared in the 1956 pageant. David, a boy born in Glenview, began serving as the pageant’s link to the modern day in 1961, replacing and expanding on the original role of a Glenview family. Before the sanctuary had a cross lit as the shining star of Bethlehem, the cast included an “angel of the star” to carry that light. Second graders made their dancing debut as cherubim, or “pink angels,” in 1976. The kings received splendid new robes in 2005. Musicians and vocalists gathered in 2011 to record an audio CD of the pageant. A new drawing created by one of the youth appears on the bulletin cover each year. In reminiscing on The Nativity, Helen Miller laughingly noted the freedom of directors to “change where they can, as long as they stay within the hour.”
Seven dedicated general directors and numerous co-directors have overseen a coordination of efforts for The Nativity in its seven decades so far. Many, like current director C.J. Sultz, return to their positions year after year. Casts of thousands have given of their time, talents and creativity to carry out, and carry on, The Nativity. Teens begin rehearsals for their parts in the Fall. Sunday school children and confirmands take their parts each year, moving through various roles as they grow up in the church. Volunteers tend to staging, narration, costumes, make-up, props, lights, sound, and the preparation and cuing of the participants. Choir members and musicians reconnect with the songs of the season. It is a community endeavor and experience, bringing everyone to the manger so that all may belong to the Christmas story.