Church pageant lends spiritual dimension to Calgary Christmas

Latter-day Saints here celebrated the holidays in a special, spiritual way by presenting the annual Nativity Pageant for the public Dec. 18-25, at Heritage Park by beautiful Glenmore Lake.

Media and public awareness, acceptance and anticipation increase yearly for the pageant. This year the eight-day pageant was expected to draw a total attendance of about 20,000.The pageant is presented on a hillside at the park: Mary on a donkey and Joseph walking beside arrive at the inn to find no room. The distraught Joseph, after consulting with Mary, asks if they may seek the shelter of the adjoining stable. The innkeeper has no objection, and they settle in the stable. The baby Jesus is delivered in the stable and presented, and the angels proclaim the event.

The shepherds on the hillside are "sore afraid" but comforted. They proceed to the stable to honor the Christ child. Three wise men come from the East, following the star, and present gifts and pay homage to the newborn King.

The words of Isaiah, chapter 9 – as immortalized in Handel's "Messiah," "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace" – complete the pageant on a powerful scriptural note.

Presenting the pageant has involved young and old alike. Crew and cast have taken a proprietary interest in the pageant, actively recruiting their family and friends to be involved in the production, or at least to view it.

Cast and crew volunteered to learn and do other jobs on the pageant. Thus a wiseman hammered nails, a stable boy helped with parking. All took an active working interest in Jack, the faithful donkey, and the sheep.

A stage manager this year had a friend who was introduced to the gospel and baptized. He immediately came on board as a cast member, a "new" wiseman.

A 12-year-old was brought to rehearsal by her part-member family, and they also joined the cast.

The total number involved in the cast has increased from 40 last year to more than 60 this year.

The pageant, which began in 1964, was originally administered locally by the Canada Calgary Mission, but as mission presidents, priorities and time commitments changed, it was felt best some years ago to bring the pageant under the direction of the Church Missionary Department.

Locally, one of the five stakes in Calgary, in rotation, has jurisdiction and provides priesthood supervision, each stake having a four-year assignment for continuity. The stake presidency and assigned high councilor call one or more pageant directors who then organize a committee for various functions.