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The cast of St. Paul Lutheran Church's children's pageant, to be staged Sunday, Dec. 15. The public can attend. photo by Renee Landuyt.

December 12, 2013
For 30 years Susan Kvale has directed children in telling a 2,000-year-old story — the narrative of Jesus Christ's birth.

"It's a story that never grows old," she said while sitting in the lounge of St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church. "Christmas is so commercialized today, this gives the kids a foundation."

With 35 children to include in the annual St. Paul pageant telling the story in words and music, she begins thinking in September what she will write.

"In September in Sunday school, they ask if we are doing the Christmas pageant. 'What part am I playing?' The parents are excited. All parents like to see their children up there doing something like this," she said.

First graders are always angels, second graders portray the animals and the parts of the shepherds are handled by the third graders. Fourth and fifth graders get the roles of the wise men and Mary and Joseph.

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Each class performs a song and a recitation significant to their roles.

Kvale said she has to pen original works because of the shortage of commercially produced scripts.

"Everybody has a star role in it," Kvale said. "There aren't many Christmas stories written that the whole Sunday school can be in."

The 2012 version of her Christmas story revolved around the stars and the little drummer boy telling the story.

"I find new ways of telling the same story. I do a lot of original work. I usually pick a theme song. This year's is 'Were You There on That Christmas Night?'" she said.

The 2013 production, Kvale penned, is the original Christmas story. Culminating the performance, Mary, Joseph, the angel, the wise men, Jesus and a shepherd, played by the Rev. Krister Ulmanis, will explain how the story affects each one today.

As a side bar, Ulmanis never was in a Christmas pageant as a youngster, so he was drafted to be a shepherd, complete with flowing robes and a staff.

Along with the traditional songs performed during the presentation, the children's choirs and the congregation join in with a hymn sing during this once-a-year service.

Adding to the pageantry, all the children are appropriately costumed.

"We have lots of costumes. I have had help making costumes," she said. "It is a sight to behold when the children are there."

During her three decades of directing St. Paul's children's Christmas pageant, she has seen two generations of families in her productions. Is it time to turn the project over to a younger director?

"This is a gift of love. I majored in vocal music (at Capital University in Bexley, Ohio). I taught school in Richmond, Va., and used to do all four choirs here. I started writing because I wanted all children to have a part. My love has been children. They look forward to it (pageant). This is the Sunday school's gift to the congregation at Christmas time. With children, if they make a mistake, people love it.

"I've been doing it so many years, I know it will fall into place. This is a story that lasts all year and forever. It (the story) brings it into our lives today," she said. "It gets the Christmas season off to a proper start," she said. "It puts Christ in Christmas. It's not a good Christmas without Christ."

And when the songs are sung and the story told, "Every year tears come to my eyes when it closes," Kvale said.

But, she adds, it's a story that lasts through the year.

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