Q: Many parishes have some sort of children’s program at or even during one of the Christmas Eve masses – sometimes called the Christmas play/program etc. It usually involves children acting out the Nativity account from the Gospel. Are such things good practices? How do they enhance the liturgy or do you think there might be better ways to do that?
A: The Directory for Masses with Children will give you some advice. A Christmas Eve Mass probably qualifies as a Mass with Adults in Which Children Also Participate (16-19), which does not give as much freedom as Masses with Children in Which Only a Few Adults Participate (20-54). However, #19 allows elements from 20-54 to apply if the bishop consents.
A children’s program could effectively serve as a prelude to the Mass, as a presentation after the homily and before the Creed, or during the period of thanksgiving after communion. However, it should not replace the gospel or the homily. Nor should it be so long that it becomes program+Mass rather than Mass+program.
Involving children in the Mass is a great idea. Their participation often encourages the participation of other family members who may not otherwise come to church. There are evangelical benefits. A program should assist the liturgy, not detract from it, for everyone’s benefit—including that of the children.