by John Kenneson & John Wayne Samples
Not your basic warm-and-fuzzy Christmas Eve service. A trio of choral readers recite the scriptures while the innkeeper and a shepherd reunion cast a different twist on the traditional approach. This can easily take 20-30 minutest to perform. Note: Response to this piece has been mixed; some people prefer to not challenge, or be challenged, on Christmas Eve.
To challenge Christmas Eve attendees to walk a little closer, not just hurry home to their presents.
If you have three stage areas, use them all, otherwise, each segment can move into place as necessary, although there should be no lag in timing between the segments.
Choral readers ONE: , TWO: & THREE: : (dressed in dark clothing so as to draw
as little attention as possible.)
The Innkeeper: (traditional period costume). 3 shepherds: (traditional shepherd garb.
(Lights up on trio.)
And, it has come to pass in these days, a decree has gone out from Caesar Augustus
that ALL the world will be counted.
This is the first time a census has been taken since Cyrenius has been Governor of Syria.
And all have gone to be counted,
each to his own city.
And Joseph has come up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth,
into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, Because he is of the house and family of David.
He has come to be counted,
Along with Mary, who is engaged to be his wife,
And she is with child, by the Holy Spirit.
Now, when they arrive in Bethlehem, they find there is no room for them in the inn.
Lights down on trio and up on Innkeeper location. He walks into the light, talking as he enters.
No room for them in the Inn, No room for them in the Inn! How many times have you heard that over the years? No room in the Inn. ALL sold out. No vacancy!
Well, I'm sorry, but there wasn't. ALL those people in town to be counted so they could be taxed some more, ALL those Romans in town to count all those people, and they all wanted to stay in MY inn. So, there wasn't any room for the young couple.
But if I had only known. If I had only known who they really y were. If I had only known who that baby to be born was to become. I would have given them everything, if I had only known.
I'm a good man. I pay my taxes, I go to temple on the Sabbath, I even tithe. So why shouldn't the Lord's family come to my place of business. Sure, I gave them the best that I had -- a clean place to sleep, a roof over their heads, and my wife even helped with the delivery -- but, oh my, how I would've treated them if I had only known who they were.
Even so, I still feel like one of the luckiest men around. I mean, after all , that was MY stable they were in, it was MY hot water my wife took to them, and they DID come to MY business. How many folks can say that?
A reflective pause, almost like he's done and ready to leave.
How many indeed?! That baby did grow up to say, "Whenever you have done it to one of the least of these", you have done it unto Him. But still, if I had only known it was Him!
Has that ever happened to you. You know, you have an opportunity that you miss, simply because you didn't realize how important, how significant it was.
If I HAD known I had been blessed with a visit from the Messiah, it would have changed my life.
How I envy you folks here tonight. You DO know who it is that you honor in this season of remembering. How your lives must be because you've let Him in.
How fortunate you are to never have to look back and wish you had recognized the Lord.
How wonderful it must be for you to no longer have to wait for the Messiah to arrive. How good it must feel to serve Him, to put Him first everyday.
Lights fade quickly to black as the trio delivers their lines in the dark.
And it comes about, while they are there, that Mary gives birth to her first-born son.
ONE: & TWO:
And she wraps him in swaddling clothes,
TWO: & THREE:
and lays him in a manger.
(Lights come up as the congregation joins in the singing of "Away in a Manger". As the song ends, house lights go down as trio lights come up. This section should be delivered with more drama and acting than the first. Not a lot a body motion, but voice inflection and arm movements can add a lot. One)
And there are in the same country, some shepherds, living out in the fields,
keeping watch over their flock by night.
And an angel of the Lord suddenly stands before them,
ONE: & THREE:
and they are so very afraid!
and the angel says to them,
Do not be afraid, for I bring you good news of great joy, which shall be for all people.
For there is born to you this day in the city of David,
A savior, who is Christ the Lord.
And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, laying in a manger.
And suddenly, there appears with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men!"
And, so, the angels have gone away, into heaven,
and the shepherds say to one another,
Let us now go straight to Bethlehem
and see this thing that has happened
which the Lord has made known to us.
And they go in haste, and find their way to Mary and Joseph,
and the babe, in the manger.
(Lights should fade to black as the trio finishes, and a soloist should immediately begin singing "The First Noel" a cappella, or house lights up one-half for congregational singing. As the song ends the trio begins reciting the next passage in the dark as lights come up slowly on a shepherd warming himself by a fire.)
And the shepherds tell what the angels had told them about this Child.
And all who hear them, wonder at the things which are told by the shepherds.
But Mary, she treasures up all these things, and ponders them in her heart.
and the shepherds return, glorifying and praising God for all that they had seen,
just as had been told them.
(Trio lights fade and fake firelight comes up, or half light on the Shepherds' reunion. A single shepherd is warming his hands at the fire. Another shepherd is seen in the fringe of the light as he speaks.
JOSHUA: Trying to see in the dark, unsure of his find...)
Mordechi? Mordechi? Is that you?
Who wants to know?
Mordechi! It's me. Joshua!
Another shepherd enters behind Joshua.
And me! Simeon!
Come on over here by the fire where I can see you... By the stars, it IS you!
(Everyone embraces in greeting.)
Well what brings you TWO: guys back around here. Trying to get your old shepherding jobs back, are you? Goodness! How long has it been, anyway ... 30 years?
Joshua: ( Suddenly serious).
It's been 33 years since we saw the angels, Mordechi.
I know THAT! Why do you think I'm up on this hill in this kind of weather? The SHEEP don't even come up here anymore. Do you know I've spent this night every year here on this spot? Right here where we all saw... well, where we all saw... what we saw.
Angels, Mordechi. We saw ANGELS. Why do you say it like that? Have you forgotten what happened that night? What BEGAN that night?
How could I forget!? But, I was just a boy. A lot has happened since then. I have responsibilities now: a family, I'm on the town council, my business. So much has changed.
No, I haven't forgotten, I guess I'm just not sure I still believe it all anymore, Simeon.
MORDECHI: ! A lot has changed with us as well. But what does that have to do with what happened to all of us right here on that night?!
Beginning to get excited.
I mean, how could you possibly have an experience like that and not believe every hour of every day. I don't understand how you...
(Simeon is interrupted by Joshua's hand on his arm. Joshua is still under control.)
Mordechi, are you serious about having been up here every single year since that night?
Yeah. Haven't missed a one.
Why? If you don't believe, Why do you keep coming back, year after year after year?
I didn't say that I don't WANT to believe. I just said that I'm not sure I DO believe anymore. Every year when the weather starts to change and there's that certain feeling in the air, well, it just reminds me of that night way back then and I get that warm feeling inside and, I guess I just keep coming back here hoping, well, maybe hoping it will happen again, that anything will happen to help me ... believe.
But, hey! Enough about me. How long has it been since you TWO: left this hill and this great job? 30 years? I didn't think I'd ever see you TWO: again. Especiall y after what happened to your family.
Yeah. After our little brother, and all those other little kids were murdered by Herod, it just seemed there wasn't anything around here for us anymore.
You knew that Mom died just a few weeks after that didn't you? Well, Simeon and I just kinda hit the road, doing odd jobs here and there. I guess we did that for 8 or 10 years...
Then one day, we were in Jerusalem for the Passover and there was this kid on the steps of the temple talking to the priests and rabbis like nobody we ever heard. We listened for a while, then you'll never guess who we saw...
You're probably right. I'd never guess.
Come on, Mordechi, guess.
Mordechi shakes his head and looks to Joshua.
Mordechi. It was Mary and Joseph.
(Mordechi shrugs his shoulders unable to place the names. )
Mary and Joseph. You remember. That nice couple in the stable 33 years ago. The parents of the baby the angels told us about. You do remember the stable and the baby......?
Oh my, yes. I could never forget that. Nothing has ever been so real to me. I felt like we were at the beginning of something truly wonderful.
SIMEON: (Getting too excited again.)
We were Mordechi, we were. That's what I'm trying to tell you!
That boy talking to the priests on the steps of the temple? He was the baby in the manger, Mordechi. Listening to him talk there on the Temple steps filled us with a joy we had not experienced since that night so long ago.
But that baby was killed a couple of years after we first saw him. With your brother and all those other kids.
No, Mordechi. God warned them in a dream and they moved to Egypt just a few days before the murders. They stayed there awhile, then moved back to Nazareth when God told them it was safe.
JOSHUA: (Explaining how they know these things).
We introduced ourselves to Mary and Joseph there in Jerusalem and began walking and talking with them and the boy, and the next thing we knew we were at their home in Nazareth.
MORDECHI: (To himself).
So, he didn't die. The baby the angels told us about did not die!
We stayed in Nazareth for almost 20 years. We got jobs, settled down, and watched this amazing boy grow up among people who had no idea who he was. Then about 3 years ago, He started doing these amazing things...
Miracles! Water to wine. Healing the sick. Raising the dead. Giving sight to the blind. And boy could He preach!...
(Standing and preaching.)
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
MORDECHI: (Recognizing the words).
HE said THAT!
Yes, and lots more. He said,
(Getting excited and preaching again.)
"We should love our neighbor as ourself." And he said....
To make a long story short, we've been with him ever since. Mordechi, that baby WAS, no, IS the Messiah.
Just like the angels said he was. It did happen.
Tell me again, what was His name.
Jesus. Jesus of Nazareth.
Yes! That name does sound familiar.
Familiar!? You mean you don't know Jesus?!?!!?
I told you I've been busy.
Jesus. Jesus. JESUS! What a beautiful name!!!!
Hey, You guys never said why you are up here tonight.
Mordechi, he was very near here tonight. We were with him on that road down at the bottom of the hill when we realized where we were and, well, when he left, we just decided to come up here for old times' sake.
MORDECHI: (Looking around).
You... you said he's here... ?
He was. He and his apostles went on in to Jerusalem to observe the Passover. We're going to join them in a couple of days.
Mordechi, I think we're here for a reason, tonight. Simeon and I have been sent to tell you the good news all over again. So what if things have been a little out of balance for you recently, you can change all that tonight.
Come with us, Mordechi. Come, be with Jesus. You've got to know that he came for us. That he came for you!
Joshua, Simeon. I remember now. That special feeling... The one from that night. I have it again. I have it!
(Lights to black for a moment, then house lights up 50%.If a communion service is part of your observation, it should begin during the following reading...)
And he takes the bread, gives thanks, breaks it, and gives it to them, saying:
This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.
Likewise, he takes the cup, and says:
This cup, which is poured out for you, is the new covenant in My blood which is shed for you.
During communion, a soloist sings "The Lords Prayer". Following Communion, house lights full as the trio concludes.
And He leads them out as far as Bethany, and He lifts up His hands, and blesses them.
And it comes to pass, while He is blessing them, that He is parted from them, and is carried up into heaven.
And they worship Him, and then return to their homes with great joy. And are continue to praise and God.
(Stage lights go dark as somewhere out of sight, perhaps in the lobby, a quartet begins singing "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.")
Copyright John Kenneson & John Wayne Samples, all rights reserved.
This script may be used free of charge. In return, the authors would like to be told of any performances. They may be contacted at JohnW@JSam.com. Further scripts by the same author can be found at www.jsam.com