Performed at St. Mark’s in Mystic, CT on Sunday, December 21, 2014
This version of the Christmas pageant employs two sets of main characters, one younger and one older. The older versions sit on stools flanking the main action. They stand up to deliver their monologues. During the monologues the younger versions pantomime the action and speak at the end of each speech.
Before the universe existed, there was God. There was no time and no space, but there was God. Then God spoke and Creation came to be. One of the things God created was freedom, which was the ability to say “yes” or “no” of your own free will and not be compelled to answer one way or the other. God yearned with all of God’s heart that the Creation God made would say “yes” to a deep relationship with God its creator. But more often than not, parts of that Creation said, “No.” People said, “No.” We said, “No.”
Saying “No” to relationship with God led people down some dark paths. They dominated each other instead of serving each other in love. Fear ruled the day. And yet God did not give up. God decided to send God’s own Son into this wayward Creation to show us the path back to the God who never broke the relationship like we had done. All God needed was someone to say, “Yes.”
Scene 1: The Annunciation
While the OLDER MARY speaks her monologue, YOUNGER MARY and GABRIEL pantomime their conversation.
Until that day, nothing had ever happened to me. I grew up like everyone else in my town. I worked my father’s farm with my brothers and sisters. I watched the sun set. I watched the sun rise. That was life. Even getting engaged to be married to Joseph was just another day. It was expected. I always did what was expected.
Then Gabriel appeared to me, and every day since has been more unexpected than the last. He told me not to be afraid, but there was no need. His presence wasn’t frightening. It was exciting. From the moment he spoke, I felt a quickening in my gut, a hum, a desire finally to discover the person I longed to be.
The angel told me of the son I would have, the heir of David’s throne, the flesh and blood of the Most High God. It all sounded impossible. But Gabriel said nothing is impossible for God. I thought for a moment: I’ve never done anything in my life. I’ve never been anywhere. I’m not special in any way. Why would God choose me?
And that’s when it hit me. God chose me because God knew I would say…
Scene 2: Joseph’s Dream
Mary said, “Yes,” to the angel. She said, “Yes,” to God’s dream for her life, and that dream became a reality. And as the dream was growing inside her, the angel made another stop.
YOUNGER JOSEPH is fast asleep when GABRIEL stands over him pantomiming speaking.
My namesake was a great interpreter of dreams. He saved Egypt during a seven-year famine. He saved his own family, too. I always wondered what it would be like to have that kind of gift. Then one night I found out. My dream didn’t need interpretation, however, because the angel stood before me plain as day, and when he spoke, the words tasted true.
Everyone around me, society at large, even my own father, urged me to get rid of Mary, to dismiss her quietly so as not to cause a fuss. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Then the angel told me why. Somehow I knew, even before the angel told me, that the child was special. I didn’t have the words to describe the way I felt until the angel called my son, “Emmanuel.”
GABRIEL departs, and YOUNGER JOSEPH rises from sleep. He join YOUNGER MARY and puts his hand on her pregnant belly.
Yes, the joy I felt came from that place, that place of nearness. When I looked at Mary and felt the baby kick, I knew…
God is with us.
Scene 3: Arrival in Bethlehem
As the NARRATOR speaks, YOUNGER MARY and YOUNGER JOSEPH make their way to Bethlehem.
Mary spent the first few months of her pregnancy with her cousin Elizabeth. But as the time drew near for the baby to be born, the Empire called for a counting of all the people in their territories. Joseph had to go to Bethlehem to be registered because his ancestors hailed from there. Mary went with him.
The waves of pain began weeks before Jesus was born. At first I thought I was going into labor, but Elizabeth assured me it was normal. I learned to live with them, even though they got worse as the day drew near. But that first night in Bethlehem, a different pain hit me, and I knew it was time.
YOUNGER MARY AND YOUNGER JOSEPH pantomime the story being told: breaking into the room, being surrounded by ANIMALS.
In desperation, I broke into the backroom of a house to get us out of the cold. The owner’s animals were huddled there. It stunk to high heaven, but at least it was warm. When Mary started to cry out in pain, I thought that we were done for, that the people of the house would drive us back into the night.
The FARMER comes in with a rake. Then the MIDWIFE enters.
But they didn’t. The farmer came in brandishing a threshing rake, but he took in what was happening right away and called for his wife. We asked if we could stay, and she said, “Yes.” Turns out she was a midwife. What a blessing from God. Joseph was beside himself. He didn’t know what to do. But she calmed him down, directed him.
She put a blanket in my hands and guided them.
One last thunderous wave of pain washed through me, and then…
YOUNGER JOSEPH holds the BABY JESUS in his arms.
I held my son Jesus in my arms. I held God. And I knew God was holding me.
Scene 4: The Shepherds
The SHEPHERDS and SHEEP cluster in the center aisle.
The light of the world shining from the baby wasn’t the only light shining that night. In the fields outside Bethlehem, dawn seemed to be breaking impossibly early.
The ANGELS and GABRIEL stand on the first pew and pantomime talking to the SHEPHERDS.
The light grew slowly at first, so we didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. But then the field was awash in brilliance. It was like an eclipse in reverse. But what I remember more than the light was the song. The angels sang a song of peace. Of peace! How could you sing a song of peace in such a war-torn age? And yet that is what they did.
The SHEPHERDS and SHEEP walk to the Nativity scene and join it. The ANGELS gather around behind the Nativity scene.
We went to find the One of whom the angels sang. And we found him in the dirt, among the animals just like my own children were born. The song of the angels rang in my mind and I sang it for the baby, a lullaby of peace for the Prince of Peace. And I knew he was one of us. And he was here…
To make us more like him.
Scene 5: The Magi
The MAGI begin their trek slowly from one side aisle of the church around the back and up the other side aisle. At the side of the church near the lectern, the MAGI meet HEROD, who pantomimes a conversation.
Not only did Jesus’ own people seek him out. Immigrants from a far off land arrived guided by a star in the heavens. They first met King Herod in Jerusalem, but they knew Herod was not the king they sought.
The MAGI move to the main group and present their gifts.
We had been searching the stars for a sign of the One who was to come. And when we found the celestial body streaking westward we knew we had to follow. We didn’t know where it would lead. What we didn’t expect, though, was for it to lead us not only across the desert, but deeper into our own hearts. When we met our true King the first time, we felt the inadequacy of the gifts we had brought – the gold, the frankincense, the myrrh. The infant gazes at us, into us, into our hearts. And we knew the gift he truly wanted. And so I gave him not just a box of gold…
I gave him myself.
The OLDER CHARACTERS move to join their YOUNGER SELVES.
And so God sent God’s only Son to teach people to use their freedom to remain open to God, to say “Yes” to that deep relationship. A few decades later, he would die for his convictions. But then he rose again to show that nothing, not even death, can separate us from God’s love.
So when you are searching for God…
Know that God is always with us…
And when the Prince of Peace calls to you…
* * *
(*=tiny speaking part; **=big speaking part)
MAGI x3 (1*)
*Artwork: detail from “Birth of Christ” by Antoine Pesne (1745)