Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

VIDEO | PODCAST Series, Episodes 6-7

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Have Yourself
a Merry Little Christmas

This file contains the complete Video Script and the Study Guide

This script originally accompanied a filmstrip and cassette tape. It has been converted to DVD.

If you decide to perform this play, download the text below and make copies for your players. You do not need written permission. Be sure to keep the credit at the end and to include it in the printed program if you have one. Thanks.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Study Guide


For many people, the celebration of Christmas has become an ordeal rather than a joy. The pressure to spend ever more money on gifts, decorations, food and entertainment has turned this holy day into a field day for retailers. Even those who would like to reclaim Christmas as a family-centered celebration of Christ 's birth find it difficult to resist the massive pull of advertising, social expectations and family customs.

The purpose of this film is to challenge the commercialization of Christmas, to encourage people to reflect on their own celebrations, and to support efforts to make Christmas celebrations less consumer-oriented and more meaningful.

The consequences of changing Christmas celebrations go far beyond just making Christmas a more meaningful occasion, however. What if even a small portion of the $20 billion spent each Christmas on gifts, decoration's and trappings went to people who really needed it? What if changing patterns of celebration at Christmas opened the way for living more simple, less consumer-oriented lifestyles during the rest of the year as well? What if Christmas became a time to truly commit oneself to continuing the work of Christ?

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" will help you to explore these issues in a lucid, non-judgmental fashion.


Some Ideas for Discussion

As discussion leader, you will probably find that people are eager to share both their positive and negative experiences of Christmas. To introduce the film, you might ask how many people would like to change something about the way they celebrate Christmas. Have each person write down the thing they like best about Christmas and the thing they would most like to change. Invite people to share their responses briefly. Present the film as a challenge to extravagant, consumer oriented celebration, and an exploration of some alternatives.

After the video is over, form small groups of three to six persons to discuss the following issues for 15 to 20 minutes:

  1. What kinds of activities seem like meaningful ways to celebrate the birth of Christ?
  2. How are our gift-giving practices and other celebration customs influenced by advertising and commercialism? What are some ways to counteract the influence of commercialism?
  3. What are some ways to present the possibility of changing Christmas giving practices to family and friends?
  4. What are some good "birthday gifts" for Jesus?

Have each group select one or two of the key issues they have discussed for presentation to the larger group. Invite members of the larger group to respond.

Your job in guiding the discussion will be to keep the focus on the problem of commercialization and ideas for alternative forms of Christmas celebration. Remember that Christmas celebration is a sensitive topic for many people. Avoid making the assumption that everyone wants a less commercialized, "alternative" Christmas. Some people may like it just the way it is. However, the goal of the discussion is to make people think about the importance of how we celebrate and to encourage them to feel a sense of control about celebrations despite the pressure exerted by "popular" culture.


Advance Preparation

  1. Watch teh video yourself before you show it to a group. Study the script as you go.
  2. Check out your equipment before the showing.
  3. Check the lighting and placement of the screen. Will your audience be able to see well? Some darkening of windows or arrangement of your screen may be necessary if the filmstrip is shown during the day. If the light switches are very far from you, assign someone to turn them off and on for you.
  4. There are a few seconds of silence at the beginning. Before your showing, check to be sure that the volume control is turned up adequately.
  5. If it is possible to plug into an auxiliary sound system, it should enhance the sound and make the narrative portions more intelligible.

[Technical note: Numbers are original frame numbers, followed by description of the frame.]

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Script


1. Title: Alternatives presents

Music (6 seconds)


2. Title: Have Yourself . . .

Music (5 seconds)


3. Christmas at home

Music (6 seconds)


4. close up Christmas at home

Music (5 seconds)

Child: We have Christmas because . . .


5. manger

. . . a long time age in Bethlehem Jesus was born in a stable and everybody wanted to come and look at him . . . .


6. shepherds

. . . and so we celebrate Christmas because Jesus is the son of God and that was the day he was born.


7. parade of tress

Music: "Haul out the holly, put up the tree before my spirit falls again.


8. house with lights

Fill up the stockings, we may be rushing things but deck the halls again now.


9. children's play

For we need a little Christmas right this very minute . . .


10. Victorian costumes

. . . candles in the window, carols at the spinet. Yes we need a little Christmas . . .


11. group on stairs

. . . right this very minute. It hasn't snowed a single flurry, oh Santa dear we're in a hurry."


12. tree in window

Woman: I love the whole atmosphere of Christmas. I love the decorating. The getting ready with the Christmas tree and the ornaments and things of that kind.


13. boy in bed

Man: The Christmas that most impressed me was when I was 12 years old and I was already working 40 hours a week.


14. boy

My dad said come along, you can pick out anything you want for Christmas. What an invitation!


15. paint set

And I remember picking out a paint set and it cost $2.40, a tremendous amount to spend. But I've been painting and drawing ever since.


16. child

Child: At Christmas time we go to church and sing a lot. One of the songs we sing is "Santa Claus loves the little children, all the children of the world."


17. mall with train and pinwheel

Narrator A: Christmas time is a kaleidoscope of colors and sounds and feelings and memories. As December nears, the pace of life picks up all around us.


18. child in snow

We remember past Christmases and we try to repeat the good things or change what we didn't like so well.


19. child at tree

It seems that there are more children in the world at Christmas time perhaps because their excitement and wonder shine from their faces . . .


20. children on curb

. . . or perhaps we see ourselves as the children we were in their anticipation.


21. candlelight service

As Christians we find Christmas even more magical and awesome because the gift of Jesus Christ began it all.


22. nativity: baby in lap

Music: Silent Night (6 seconds)


23. nativity: baby on floor

Narrator A: Without the coming of that small child none of this would be happening.


24. nativity: baby in crib

In the still of that night 2000 years ago a quiet celebration began . . .


25. couple viewing mall

. . . and it has grown to enormous proportions in His name.


26. huge tree at night

Music: Silent Night continues (6 seconds)

Narrator A: But is it really in His name? It's easy to forget that tiny child in Bethlehem.


27. escalators

We say that every year. Preachers preach it and we say it to each other at the shopping mall.


28. two part: Santa and Christmas factory

Nevertheless, Christmas has become a 20 billion dollar a year industry. Advertisers touch on our deepest emotions of affection, love and generosity . . .


29. four part: shoppers

. . . in order to get us to spend money - often for things that we can't afford and don't need.


30. family at tree

Narrator B: How can we untangle our celebration so that we keep the joy and magic and excitement, without losing sight of the wonder and grace and almost unbelievable gift of the Son of God?


31. David dancing

The Bible is full of celebrations: in David celebrating the return of the Ark of God to Jerusalem . . .


32. Palm Sunday

. . . the triumphal entry of Jesus on Palm Sunday, the wedding at Cana.


33. Children with candles

Celebration plays a crucial role in our lives. It's a time to let go of our everyday existence and focus on how we wish things would be all of the time.


34. Christmas worship

For Christians, the Christmas celebration is a way of being grateful for what we have been given in Christ. It is also a time to think about how we can live out the spirit of Christ here today.


35. Mother and daughter at tree

And so Christmas has become a time of joy and gift-giving, of coming together with family and friends to recognize the love we share with each other.


36. Woman behind candy canes

But somewhere along the way something happened, something was twisted and many of us find ourselves with vague feelings of unrest, sadness, anger and disappointment at Christmas time.


37. Two part: banner and shopping

Perhaps it's because we've forgotten whose birthday it really is. All of us are victims of the consumer society. We are inundated with urges and appeals to buy.


38. Shoppers at counter

At the same time we ourselves perpetuate the system each and every time we respond to those irresistible appeals.


39. Stairway at mall

Woman: I hate going to shopping malls before Christmas. The closer it gets the more desperate it begins to feel.


40. Crowd of shoppers

Man: I wish somehow we could take away that pressure to have to spend so much money and energy.


41. Lonely person

Woman: I think it's a great letdown. It's like any good thing. It's neat to think about it and prepare for it, but when it's gone, it's gone.


42. Town with factory

Narrator A: In the 19th century, the industrial revolution changed forever our perception of goods and products.


43. Snowy town

Until that time, people had believed that God was calling us to work hard and live frugal lives.


44. Women in factory

But when machinery and technology developed, there were more and more things to buy and not that many people willing to buy them.


45. sewing machine ad

Thus the advertising business came to be in order to inform people about products that were available.


46. thread and dog

Many of the items were things people needed and it was useful to let them know where they could be acquired at the best price.


47. cars

But soon, so many products were for sale that in order for their manufacturers to sell them a different tactic was developed.


48. tobacco ad

Consumers began to be told that they needed these products and the values of society began to change.


49. victorola

Instead of thrift and frugality, we began to be told that an important value was to buy, to acquire things in order to be happy, healthy, successful and good.


50. workers

It all tied in with our work - we needed to work hard in order to have money to buy things.


51. family

Now we didn't work for the glory of God but for our personal happiness.


52. freeway

Other people, the environment and spiritual values were no longer as important as our accumulation of things.


53. Santa arrives

Music: Instrumental introduction


54. Outdoor sale

"Up on the housetop, reindeer paws. Out jumps good old Santa Claus.


55. Santas

Down through the chimney with lots of toys All for the good little girls and boys.


56. Kids and Santa

Ho, Ho, Ho who wouldn't go; Ho, Ho, Ho who wouldn't go."


57. Mall with elevator

Narrator B: We live in a throwaway society and nowhere is it so evident as in the commercial preparation for Christmas.


58. Trees

Hundred and thousands of trees give their lives to grace living rooms and to be turned into wrapping paper and greeting cards.


59. Window with toys

Barrels and barrels of oil are chemically changed into war toys, household gizmos, talking dolls and holiday decorations.


60. Window with shoes

But doesn't our economy depend on big spending at Christmas?


61. Woman getting food

The fact is that lots of people need to spend more - for food, clothing and shelter.


62. Parking lot

And all of us could benefit by spreading out our spending throughout the year.


63. Manger scene

Music: "I wonder as I wander out under the sky


64. Starry display

How Jesus the Savior did come for to die


65. Wrapping paper

For poor ornery people like you and like I.


66. Trees

I wonder as I wander out under the sky."


67. Shoppers

Narrator A: let's get down to basics - what about Christmas presents? What are we saying with them, why do we give them, how do we feel about getting them?


68. three kings

The wise men brought gifts to Jesus. Gold, frankincense and myrrh. The original Christmas presents.


69. magi with child

The wise men just may have been embarrassed when they arrived with their gifts. Perhaps Baby Jesus would have been better off with a new blanket or food for his parents and their guests.


70. magi at manger

If the wise men had known whom the were going to honor before they left their castles, would they have brought different gifts?


71. wrapping gifts

Woman: I think gifts are a way to tell people that we care about them. That they're important to us. Gift giving is a time to share something of myself with somebody else.


72. man and woman

Narrator B: We give each other gifts for many reasons. The common thread is our attempt to give people something that they might like.


73. family with gifts

Sometimes we get that confused and give them something we want but usually our intent is to give presents that will bring happiness.


74. Santa and St. Nick

In fact, the original idea of Santa Claus came from Saint Nicholas, a man who lived in the third century and gave gifts anonymously and only to those people who really needed them.


75. Family at advent calendar

Many people try to teach their children to remember that Christmas is a celebration of the birthday of Jesus and that we should honor him.


76. Girl

But what gifts would Jesus want if he could tell us and how can we humans actually give Jesus a birthday present at Christmas?


77. Convalescent center

Woman: I think Jesus wants us to do things and give things to people in our towns that need our help. He said it in the parable about the man who got to heaven and couldn't get in . . .


78. Silhouette

. . . because he had refused to give Jesus food when He was hungry or clothing when He had none or visit Him when He was sick or in prison.


79. Man with gifts

It's a matter of our being willing to give Jesus Christ what He wants, especially at Christmas.


80. Two children

Music: "Away in a manger no crib for a bed


81. Soup kitchen

The little Lord Jesus lay down his sweet head.


82. Wheelchair

The stars in the heavens look down where he lay.


83. Sleeping on lawn

The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay."


84. Row houses

Narrator A: Let's face it, the way we celebrate Christmas is not good news for the poor.


85. Televisions

Almost everybody has a TV these days. Even very poor children watch Saturday morning cartoons and see the toy commercials.


86. Child

How many poor children decide that since they didn't get what they asked for from Santa, they must be bad people?


87. Woman

And how do parents feel when their children are disappointed on Christmas morning?


88. Serving food

Being poor in a consumer society doesn't usually allow for a happy Christmas of toys and games and good food.


89. Family outside

Man: Christmas is a poor family is a time of great stress because there's pressure for you to do the right things for your kids and for your family and you just can't.


90. Girl with gift

None of the kids are ever going to get what they want, what they dream of, what they talk about. And so, it's another way of telling you if you're poor,


91. Girl with pink car

. . . that you're not of as much value as the other kids who live on the other side of town that live in nice houses and get bicycles and ponies for Christmas.


92. Boy

Narrator B: There are ways that Christmas can become a time to make our Christian ideals more real.


93. Granddad and kids

There are ways to make the holidays more meaningful. There are ways to reduce the aches we feel after Christmas.


94. Woman and children

Some of the ways are simple and some are more radical, but all kinds of people are creating their own way of celebrating Christmas . . .


95. Family

. . . celebrations that combine the decorations and colors and sounds and smells and memories in ways that are gifts to the Christ child.


96. Family

Man: We've found that in our family each person often really, really wants one particular thing for Christmas.


97. Girl

So we all go in together to see that they get that one item even if they don't get a lot of smaller gifts.


98. Family making gifts

Woman: Getting ready for Christmas is a big event at our house. During Advent we make presents and decorations and we have an Advent calendar on the wall that the children enjoy.


99. Two boys

Then on Christmas morning we celebrate Christmas itself, having celebrated Advent during the weeks before.


100. Decorated plant

Woman: Last year for a Christmas tree we decorated one of our large house plants. It looked great with decorations on it and we could keep the tree all year.


101. Women making gifts

Woman: What I'm trying to do is simply emphasize all of those non-material things about Christmas that I love and the protest as loudly as possible when the peer pressure says yes but we have to buy this and this and this.


102. Young family

Man: When you think about not buying Christmas gifts, then there's a big vacuum of "What can I do now?" I thought about making something but I'm not very crafty.


103. Coupons

So last year I made a coupon book with things my wife could redeem all through the year. For instance, there was a coupon for a Saturday when I would happily do any of the fix-it jobs around the house that she wanted done.


104. Food line

Woman: Shelters for the homeless are very busy in cold weather and they need lots of food to feed the hungry.


105. Making sandwiches

Our church group made 1000 sandwiches one night as our Christmas gift to the shelter.


106. Family dinner

Woman: We've adopted some older people who go to our church and don't have any other family.


107. Family singing

They're always part of our Christmas and other holidays and our children give them gifts and love them like grandparents.


108. Family reading

Man: We've found that the less time we spend running around frantically buying presents that the more time we have to be together and do things as a family.


109. Prisoners

Man: Last year we decided to go visit prisoners at Christmas. It turned out that there was a Jaycee chapter in the prison . . .


110. Collecting toys

. . . collecting toys and food for needy families. So we helped them get the donations they needed to help others.


111. Wrapping gifts

Woman: There are a lot of things in the world already that can be recycled into new Christmas presents. I go to thrift stores and buy slightly moth eaten sweaters . . .


112. Sweater

. . . and appliqué butterflies and birds and flowers over the holes. They make beautiful gifts and I make them myself.


113. Two boys

Teenager: We make our own wrapping paper every year by dipping folded up white tissue paper in bowls of food coloring.


114. Holding paper

Every piece is unique, it's inexpensive and it's also a lot of fun.


115. Underwear

Woman: We like to buy socks and underwear and give them to groups who then pass them along to people who need them. Then we tell our friends and family that the things were donated in their names as Christmas gifts.


116. Family with student

Man: there are lots of international students in colleges in our city and at Christmas we invite one or two into our home to share Christmas with us.


117. Family

Woman: There's no doubt that gifts are important. We just decided that what our family really needed was a world without war and hunger and with a safe environment, and less racism and injustice.


118. People at food kitchen

So instead of spending so much this Christmas on presents and decorations we took 25% of what we spent last year and gave it to organizations that work toward a better world.


119. Two teenagers

Even though it wasn't that much money, we felt like we'd used Christmas to make a first step toward committing ourselves to some of the ideals Christ stood for. And that felt good.


120. Family dinner

Narrator B: When we cut back on unnecessary spending at Christmas, we find that we have extra money and more time to share - with family and friends, and with all those Christ came to serve.


121. Woman and child

If we make this a time to strengthen our commitment to the disadvantaged, the outcast, the displaced, Christmas really can become "good news to the poor."


122. International students

Narrator A: Our gifts to Jesus can take many forms. By living and giving at Christmas in ways that honor Christ's message of peace, justice and care for our world and it's people . . .


123. Father and son

. . . we can experience a different way of being as Christians that will change our lives during the rest of the year as well . . .


124. Candlelight service

. . . even after the wrapping paper is gone and the sounds of carols have faded in the winter air.


125. Credit: produced by

Music (6 seconds)


126. Credit: special thanks

Music (6 seconds)


127. Credit: this filmstrip funded

Music (6 seconds)


128. Credit: a Burst/Gosa production

Music (6 seconds)


129. Credit: for more information

After music

Copyright Creative Commons attribution, not-for-profit license
(originally 1984, 2001 Alternatives)

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