Pictured is the scene in the Nativity story when Mary and Joseph meet the innkeeper.
Pictured is the scene in the Nativity story when Mary and Joseph meet the innkeeper.
Whether they drew pictures or recited lines, the talents of young people from St. Rose Parish, Belmar, were tapped to share the Christmas story with others.

Mercy Sister Donna D’Alia, parish pastoral associate for catechesis, said it’s an annual tradition for students in the religious education program and St. Rose Grammar School to participate in a pageant that presents the story of Jesus’ Birth.

Sister Donna observed that the pageant not only offered a warm and vibrant childhood experience that would long be a memory for participants, but it also presented important lessons about their faith.

“With the Holy Family, we have a story that repeats itself again and again in our daily lives, if we open our hearts to Jesus like a child. The Christmas pageant helps us to do this,” she added.

While the younger children portrayed angels and shepherds and sang carols, their older counterparts were the narrators and actors. The story begins with the visit of the Angel Gabriel to the young Mary and continues through the arrival of the Three Kings at the Epiphany.

By becoming more familiar with the Books of the Bible and Scripture read throughout the Christmas season, students might better understand that “the Infancy Narratives of the Gospel are not a myth nor are they simply historic events in time to be remembered nostalgically,” she said.

Among the highlights of the performance was the singing of “Celebrate Jesus’ Birth,” a specially written piece by Filippini Sister Marie Roccapriore that is sung to the tune of “Jingle Bells.” Also, after the Dec. 12 performance, a special surprise awaited the children outside the church where “manger animals” were brought. Members of the Mizerny family, whose children attend St. Rose Grammar School, arranged for the animals visit.

But the presentation was not without its challenges. Quick action was required when the students who portrayed the Angel Gabriel and Joseph had to quarantine following exposure to COVID-19. Creative stage effects were used to represent Gabriel, and Joseph was portrayed by a former religious education student who is now a freshman at Manasquan High School.

In addition to the pageant, religious education students drew Nativity scenes for residents of the Tower Lodge Care Center in Wall Township.

“We wanted the pictures to be specifically religious since they are hard to find,” Sister Donna said, noting that along with the 50 pictures that were submitted, the students also gave each resident a gift of non-slip socks.

“Our celebration of Christmas has become so secular that it becomes harder to find the real story and the meaning of Christmas in our generic decorations, holiday music and celebrations,” she said.

“The true meaning of Christmas gets lost and hidden behind the snow and Santa,” she said. “I am hoping that even our youngest children will come to know Jesus personally and celebrate his birth in their own hearts so they can pass his story and his message on.”