In partnership with ‘Then and Now’
Baby Jesus at Polesworth started in December 2001 and was an idea generated by Di Kirby and Trisha Burton, whose company, ‘Diversions’ and ‘Then and Now’, already had an excellent reputation providing history through drama in primary Schools.
Chris Clamp from ‘Then and Now’ presents Baby Jesus at Polesworth together with volunteers from the Abbey and local community in Polesworth
‘Then and Now’ we welcome you to hear the Christmas Story and go to Bethlehem. On the way you’ll meet the Tax Collector and follow the Star to the Stable. Then you’ll return to hear the story again — but this time you’ll be a character on stage or provide the sound effects for the tableaux.
Everyone hears the story, pays their taxes, visits the stable and the dresses up and becomes part of the Christmas Tableaux. The components of your Baby Jesus day are:
- Arrive at Polesworth, usually by coach
- Walk the short journey over the river bridge and see the Abbey in the distance through the trees
- Welcome at the Abbey: you might have arrived with your lunch, and will be shown to the Refectory where you can eat and maybe practice the songs you’ll sing to Baby Jesus
- Then your Baby Jesus program starts; you go into the Abbey and site down — you see the Christmas Tree and the lights, the figures of Mary, Joseph and Jesus; the Shepherds and Wise Men; you are reminded of the animals and see our collection of camels and sheep.
- The story is told by Miriam — Miriam is the storyteller for your time with us. She sets the scene and takes you back to the time when “Caesar Augustus issued a degree that a tax should be paid throughout the whole of the Roman Empire”. You are introduced too to Ben and Anna and Hassan.
- Next we divide into groups and decide together that we will make the journey to Bethlehem ourselves, that we will go now and follow the star. But first we must go to the Tax Office and register for taxation and meet the Tax Collector, who is also interested in where the child might be…
- We find the signs to the Tax Office: ‘Tax Office this Way”. We find the sign that tells us that the “Tax Office is Open” and knock on the door. Usually the Tax Collector is grumpy, but he invites us in and gets us to write our name on the census form; this makes the Tax Collector happy and we are given our Baby Jesus souvenir badge to keep.
- When we’ve said good bye to the Tax Collector we have to find the star. We need to search for it, and when we find it we see that there is ‘no room at the inn’. Only at ‘The Star’ inn do we find a welcome, and then it’s the stable where we find the star comes to rest. We go in…. and this is the best part…
- Mary and Joseph are there, and the animals; we find that the Kings have already left their presents, and we bring our gift – our song, our love and we hear that part of the story again. We see the angels and can ask Mary and Joseph about their journey. It’s hard to leave them behind.
- We go back to the Abbey — now we know the story and have seen just how it happened. We can put on costumes or learn to join in with our crowns, sheep, stars, and angels. The story is told again and we are the actors. We form a beautiful tableaux and finally find a Happy Birthday cake and blow out the candle. Christmas is Jesus’ birthday.
- If we have had our performance in the morning we might stay at Polesworth Abbey and eat our lunch in the Refectory.
- Our teacher will receive our follow-up materials for us to use back at School. There are bound to be lots of photos that people have taken for us to share with our School and our families. We get back on our coach and make the long journey back — we’ve been to Bethlehem and have such memoires of Baby Jesus at Polesworth.
In 2004 Heritage Lottery Fund kindly provided finances for a new visitor entrance and new facilities for visitors which has added to the quality of the experience for everyone and Baby Jesus has become one of the heritage projects that the Abbey offers to Schools.
Contact: Chris Clamp