The Power of Repetition and the Comfort of the Familiar – What Born is the King has taught me about doing something over and over (and over) again

The first year that we used Born is the King we practised the play roughly 5 times before Christmas Eve (starting about a month out). It was amazing to see how through repetition, the kids were able to learn, understand and memorise a play. There is great power in the repetition of words and actions – through repetition, the kids in our church were able to take what they had learned, practised and memorized and then tell it to the 150 people who attended our service, many of whom were new to our church.

I also learned a great deal from their courage that Christmas Eve, the way that even the shyest of our group became confident to stand in front of others and boldly tell them about Jesus. After that first year of doing Born is the King, I packed the play away and wondered what the kids would do the next year, confident that whatever they put their mind and heart into would be great.

We were all set to do something different the next year. September rolled around and we were contemplating using other resources for our family Christmas service, but then were stopped in our search by the kids in our church. They told us that they weren’t ready to move onto other things. They needed to do Born is the King again so that they could play different parts. Mary wanted to play an innkeeper, the angel wanted to play Mary, Joseph wanted to play Gabriel, and part of the flock of sheep were very keen to be shepherds in charge of a new little flock of sheep in our crèche.

I was surprised by how much the kids in our church wanted to do Born is the King again. But then, when I thought about it, it made sense. Kids delight in doing the things they enjoy over and over again, whether it is a book, or a movie, a toy, or a game. Kids often read or tell a favourite story, or sing a favourite song, over and over (and over!) again. And it is the repetition of those favourite things that kids can find so meaningful and enjoyable. Our kids asking to use Born is the King again was the highest praise I could hope for.

After all, the repetition of small enjoyable acts are right at the centre of so many of our favourite celebrations and rituals and habits, particularly when it comes to Christmas, and birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays, but even in the breakfast that we eat, or the coffee or tea we drink, or the path we walk to and from school or work. We tend to do the things we enjoy over and over (and over) again. And interestingly, in doing this, we are involved in creating something that is larger than just the repetition of one small meaningful act. In this repetition we create habits and traditions that can actually help us know who we are. This is particularly true when we use such repetition to remind ourselves of who we are in Christ.

So, if you decide to use Born is the King this Christmas, remember each time you practise the lines, it’s not just repetition for the sake of repetition. It’s an opportunity to tell others about the arrival of Jesus, our forever king, and perhaps create a new tradition in your church or school, and not just any tradition, but one that helps us know who we are in Christ.