One of my favorite Christmas stories is The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, which was written by Barbara Robinson in 1972. The book was adapted into a television movie in 1983, featuring Robinson's teleplay and starring Loretta Swit.
I recently bought the DVD version of the original movie, and we watched it over the Thanksgiving holidays (my granddaughter Avery and I actually watched it three times!).
It tells the story of six delinquent children known as "the Herdmans," who were infamous around the community they lived in. Among other things, they lied, stole, hit people, ignored and/or cussed at their teachers and other people in authority, set fire to things, and, in general, caused trouble. All six also smoked cigars. I know that sounds like a terrible beginning, but remember the title of the movie is "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever," and I promise you will have a lump in your throat and tears in your eyes before it's over.
The Herdman children go to church for the first time after being told that the church offers snacks. Despite protests from other church members, the Herdmans are given roles in the Sunday School's Christmas play, in which they tell the Christmas story in a very unconventional way.
It is such a heartwarming story, and I highly recommend it. A note on the cover states it is appropriate for ages 8 and up, but, as I said, Avery (who is six) and I watched it three times, and she loved it. The little Herdman girl, Imogene, who played Mary in the pageant, was my favorite, and Avery liked Ella Herdman best, who portrayed the Angel of the Lord.
I look forward to making The Best Christmas Pageant Ever part of our Christmas traditions, and I'm sure Avery and I will watch it again at some point during the holidays this year.
You can purchase the DVD on Amazon. Be sure you buy the original version starring Loretta Swit.