Oak Creek Few things are more Christmas than an eight-year-old Mary and Joseph in bathrobes holding a rubber doll of Jesus.
On Saturday afternoon, a group of 15 children dressed in floppy sheep ears and cardboard angel wings rehearsed their lines for today's performance of "The Grumpy Shepherd."
"The same sheep. The same brook," sang Marcie Norris, who plays Joram the grumpy shepherd. "I'm bored : same old thing : boring, boring, boring : I'm bored."
Instead of tending his sheep, Joram drops her paper mache herding staff and lies down by the fire to take a nap.
The angel Gabriel (played by Lauren Trotter) wakes Joram with a surprise a very important baby has been born in a stable.
Joram is annoyed. Why would we go to town at this time of night, "and what about these stupid sheep?" she said. "What kind of king sleeps in a box?"
But she goes nonetheless.
The group has been rehearsing every Monday afternoon since late September. Only a third of the children attend Community United Methodist Church in Oak Creek where the pageant will be held.
The play is the first product of the church's after school program.
Initially, the church tried to start a children's choir, but only three children joined, Pastor Karen Gibson said.
She then found the script for "Grumpy Shepherd" and saw the chance to include more children.
"We prayed and sent out flyers," Gibson said. "They said 'The Grumpy Shepherd needs you' like the Uncle Sam posters."
They hung flyers from Oak Creek to Yampa.
Fifteen kids started coming regularly after school for snacks, crafts and play rehearsal. Anyone interested was offered a ride to and from the church.
If all goes well, Gibson said, the church hopes to put on a spring musical called "Once Upon a Caterpillar," the story of a caterpillar that turns into a butterfly at Easter.
"This all began during Vacation Bible School last summer," she said. "Twenty kids came on this rainy kind of week."
After seeing the success of VBS, Sonja Norris, director of Grumpy Shepherd, approached Gibson with the suggestion that there was a need for a children's program.
"Some parents work a lot or have other commitments," Norris said. "When kids come to the church on Mondays, their parents know where they are and that they are safe."
"The Grumpy Shepherd" will be performed tonight at 7 p.m. The children will also participate in the church's Christmas pageant on Christmas Eve at 7 p.m. at Community United Methodist Church, 301 Sharp St. in Oak Creek.
For more information about the play or after school program, call Karen Gibson at 824-7939 or 736-2463.