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Taking All the Credit

People behind the scenes can be unnoticed, but are still important!

by Brian Radcliffe (revised, originally published in 2009)

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To consider the minor characters in the Christmas story, and to reflect on the difference that each of us can make to the world.

Preparation and materials

  • None required.


  1. Imagine that you are the producer for a TV film of the Christmas story. Which characters in the Christmas story would be the starring roles?

    Obvious suggestions are Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the three kings (or wise men), King Herod and the innkeeper. Many of us have been in Nativity plays where we have played these roles. All of us will have seen the characters displayed on Christmas cards or scenes of the first Christmas.

    But have we covered all the characters who matter?

  2. Many famous actors have expressed their concern that the credits that appear at the end of TV programmes are often difficult to read. At the end of a programme, the full screen usually switches to a split screen after a few seconds, and is used to advertise the next episode or the next programme appearing on the TV channel. They argue that it is unfair that the names of the people who were involved in the programme are often not seen and are given little importance.

  3. Have you ever read the credits following a TV programme or remained in the cinema after the end of a film and read the list of people who were involved in making it? The names of the stars in the films are always first, sometimes followed by the director. However, there follows a long list of writers, technicians, researchers, gofers, location managers, make-up artists, set builders and so on. The contribution made to the production by these people is no less important than that of the stars. The film or programme could not be made without their skill, time and effort.

  4. Let’s go back to the Christmas story. Naturally, the focus is on the main characters: Mary and Joseph are central as the parents. The shepherds and the three kings (or wise men) shed light on the special nature of the newborn baby. Herod is the baddie in the whole affair. But what about those who were in the background? Have we ever thought of all the other people who may have been involved in some way?

    - Did the innkeeper have a wife? Was she there at the birth?
    - Did the three kings (or wise men) have servants or travelling companions who secretly peeped in at the presentation of the gifts?
    - There would be many other visitors in Bethlehem, all summoned for the Roman census. Did they chat with Joseph and Mary on the way?
    - Was the inn full of these people? Did any of them call in to see the newborn baby?
    - Did any other people apart from the shepherds hear the choir of angels or see the star that shone above the manger?
    - Did the cry of the newborn baby wake up the neighbours?
    - Did Mary and Joseph’s parents come to see the newborn baby?

    Such an important event could not have taken place without affecting many more people than just the main characters. They’re not in the main credits, but I wonder what part they played in the drama.

Time for reflection

What about us? Christians believe that Christmas makes a difference to the world. Christmas isn’t just about the vicars, priests and people who go to church. Christians believe that Christmas is about God being close to us and showing his love towards us. They also believe that every person is special. Whether people are famous or unknown, rich or poor, wherever they live and whatever they believe, they are all individuals who contribute to the world in which we live. People may not always be given credit for what they do, but everything that each of us does has an effect on other people in this world.

Let us spend a moment considering the following thoughts. (You may wish to turn them into a prayer.)

- Be thankful for Christmas and all that you enjoy about this time of year.
Be sorry for sometimes ignoring the meaning that is at the centre of the Christmas celebration.
Make a plan to take some action that arises out of today’s assembly.

Optional: maybe you could get hold of a Bible and read through the different versions of the Christmas story one at a time. Read slowly and thoughtfully. Picture yourself there.


Any Christmas song.

Publication date: December 2016   (Vol.18 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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