One Night In Bethlehem

By Peter & Mary Minson


A Christmas presentation designed for congregational involvement and all-age participation. A highlight is the two soliloquies from Joseph and Mary at the end.


As people enter, Guards at the main doors hand out Census Cards. These are checked by an Official, who sits at a table with a Census roll, and stamped.

Reading: (Luke 2:1-5) At that time, the Emporer sent out an order for all the citizens of the Roman Empire to be registered in a census. So everybody went to their own town to be registered. Joseph went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to the town named Bethlehem, where King David had been born. He himself was a descendent of King David. Joseph went to register himself with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage, and who was pregnant.


Song: "If I Lived in Bethlehem" (sung by the Bethlehem Thespians.)

All: If I lived in Bethlehem, in about Zero BC
If I lived in Bethlehem...
Policeman: A POLICEMAN I would be.
And as I walked along
you'd hear me song my song.
Big left hand stop sign "Stop!"
RH points to person "You there!"
RH swings wildly to right "Get back on the pavement!"
All: If I lived in Bethlehem, in about Zero BC
If I lived in Bethlehem...
Wine Seller: A WINE SELLER I would be.
And as I walked along
You'd hear me sing my song
Leans forward, holds out bottles "Here's some wine
And here's some mead
Bends to pick up bowl And here's a bowl to barf in
(Wine seller repeats, with Policeman
joining in with his verse)
All: If I lived in Bethlehem, in about Zero BC
If I lived in Bethlehem...
Fishmonger: A FISHMONGER I'd be.
And as I walked along
You'd hear me sing my song
Holds "haddock" up and out right "Fresh haddock!"
Holds "carp" up and out right "Fresh carp!
Waves fish left to right Buy the best from me!
(Fishmonger repeats, with Wine Seller joining in with his verse. They both repeat again, with Policeman joining in with his verse.)
All: If I lived in Bethlehem, in about Zero BC
If I lived in Bethlehem...
Shepherd: A SHEPHERD I would be
And as I walked along
You'd hear me sing my song
Bend to pick up "lamb" "Take the lamb out of the fold
Still bending, turn left and put lamb down and give it to its mother.
(Shepherd repeats, with Fishmonger joining in. Both repeat with Wine Seller joining in. They repeat with Policeman joining in.)

SFX: Fade up market noises.

(Enter Mary and Joseph, to converse with Innkeepers 1-4)

Joseph: Hello, have you got any rooms to spare?

Innkeeper 1: Clear off! I've had no rooms for over a week!

Joseph: Good evening. Have YOU got any room for two travellers tonight?

IK 2: No. No room. Can't you see the "no vacancy" sign? Place is chocka full of German backpackers!

Joseph: Yes, have YOU got any room? Even just one night? My wife's about to have her baby!

IK 3: We'll have a room next week. It's hopeless right now with the Census and all. Try the next inn - it's called "The Donkey's Rest".

Joseph: Yes, we'd like accommodation for the night. We MUST have a room. My wife's far on in her pregnancy. Got to have some shelter. What about even a porch or some space on the roof?

IK 4: Look friend, I've got 20 people on the roof already. If I put one more up there they'll all end up in the dining room! There are people in all the porches. I've got people all over the place - let's hope the health inspectors never find where I've put them!

Joseph: there anywhere else you know of?

IK 4: You could try the "Last Ones Inn" - it's that rambling old place over there. They usually manage to pack a few extra in ... but with this census ... I don't know.

Joseph: Thank you, thank you.

IK 4: Just up the road. You'll see the sign: "Last Ones Inn."


(Innkeeper 5 has a small child clinging to him)

Joseph: (bursts out) I want a room! I MUST have a room. My wife's in labour! I've got to get her into shelter at once!

IK 5: No no no sir! You cannot ever stay here at all! We're very full indeed sir!

Joseph: Look, you must have 6 square cubits of space somewhere at this place. Man, we're just plain desperate!

IK 5: No no no no no no! We don't want to be overcrowded. I don't want no trouble at my inn. What would the authorities say? I mean... I just don't be having a room!

Joseph: But NOBODY's got any room! I don't care what your price is. Come on, surely you have something!

IK 5: Well, I'm sure I do not know! We just haven't anything really. Would you believe that the last 3 nights my wife and I haven't slept in our own bedroom?

Joseph: For the love of God. If it was your wife and your baby, would you want her having it out in the road? At night? Come on! Think of something!

IK 5: Ah well, it's a crazy world, I tell you it is. Someone should come along and knock some sense into it, really yes!

Joseph: Well, we're simply unable to walk another step.

(Mary falters and begins to collapse. Joseph catches her. The child tugs at IK 5's sleeve. He reacts. The child is trying to say "Stable" to the parent, but the adults are involved in Mary's fainting.)

IK 5: (to child) Eh! What is it? Can't you see I'm talking to these poor travellers? Eh? What's this you're saying? Table? Mabel? Useless table? Use the stable? Ah! USE the STABLE! Yes! yes! that might be all right. (To Joseph) Sir, we have a stable. It'd be better than the road. Follow the child here. (To child) You take them and stay and give the man a hand with the animals. (To Joseph) Sir, tell him/her to clear out when the baby comes. Send her/him back to me and my wife will fetch the women.

(Joseph and Mary exit, led by Child.)

(Children are invited to go to an appropriate place for "angelisation".)

Carol: Mary's Boy Child


Reading: Luke 2: 6-12

(Angels enter, proceed in two groups to the front, standing in a group with lighted candles till the end of the reading.)

Music: "Glory to God in the Highest" (Messiah)

Reader: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on Earth to those with whom He is pleased!


Shepherds: (At rear of church, with thick country accents)

S1: How are we going to find it then?

S2: Yeah!

S3: There can't be many babies born here tonight!

S2: Yeah!

S3: Yeah. An'd it's gotta be wrapped in them strips of cloth and stuff,eh!

S1: Right. No frill nighties or stretch-and-grows.

S2: Yeah!

S3: Yeah! And it's gotta be in a bloomin' feedin' manger, eh! Not too many of those in yer average five star hotel, eh?

S2: Yeah!

S1: (laughs) Shear brilliance! Yer may be young, but yer not stupid!

S3: Wool whatta we waitin' for?

S2: Yeah!

S1: Good on yer. C'mon then.

Carol: While Shepherds Watched

(Between verses of the song, Shepherds can shout to Innkeepers, greetings, exclamations, questions, etc.)


Reading: Matthew 2:1-2

(STAR leads the 3 Kings slowly across the church. The Kings knock at Inn 5. Child enters.)

K1: We have come seeking a babe, a new-born king.

K2: We have followed his star to this place.

K3: Can you help us to find him?

Child: Yes! Yes! I know where he is. Come with me. I've seen him. I've been with him. I've been helping. It's this way. It's not much of a place for king, but you'll know it's him for sure. I know.

Song: What can we give to the King?

(Mary and Joseph re-enter. Joseph is holding the baby. Mary sinks to a sleeping position.)

Joseph : (Sits) What a world to come into, eh? Hustle and bustle! Everyone leaving home, standing in queues. "Name! Address! Occupation! Family name! Children!" Pushed around, people shouting, no rooms. And how do you like it, after 4 hours? Your mother's asleep now, I think, and those nice shepherds have gone. If you could open your eyes now, I'd show you a lovely star, wouldn't I. Those strangers from Arabia seemed to know all about it. (He gets up and stands looking upwards.) There it is! A great view right through the gaps in the roof. (He chuckles, and then freezes for Mary's speech.)

Mary: (She half rises, addresses audience) I've heard that you people can drive from here to xxxxxxxxx in less than 2 hours. But in our day, Nazareth to Bethlehem - the same distance - 150 kilometres - it took more like a week. No wide sealed roads, no cool dip in a shady river, no safe rest areas, no breathtaking scenery. Just hard, stony, dusty days; freezing nights, and plenty of robbers along the way. So we walked it. Joseph and me. Him worried and watchful. Me, feeling like I'm carrying a supermarket bag full of cans of peaches! And the nights ... if it wasn't wild animals, then it'd be so quiet we'd wonder if there were highwaymen slinking through the rocks. No sleeping bags for warmth, either. Just Joseph and me, huddled into the donkey's side to stop freezing, never quite sure whether we could trust our fellow travellers. (Mary freezes)

Joseph: (speaking to baby) What a fine time for you to come, eh? I had a feeling you were going to pull a stunt like this. And there we were back in Nazareth with a new room made just for you, with a brand new bed. Proper little cradle. I planed it all smooth with no nasty splinters. Set on rockers with a lamb carved into the headboard. You'll sleep in it when we get home, whenever that's going to be. You'll like it. Well, I hope so, because I wouldn't want you to think that your father wanted you to spend your first night in an old feeding trough. (He carefully puts the child back in the manger, and freezes.)

Mary: (Half to audience, half to herself) The... oh! just to find somewhere to stop! I had pains a day out. I told Joseph - dear man - he immediately grew a new worry mark on his brow ... used the stick on the poor old donkey's rump that day. I kept on repeating the prophet's words - the new king must be born IN Bethlehem, no on some rocky road. I fainted outside the gates, but that was all for the best, 'cos some people helped Joseph jump the huge queue, and we were in. So, another impossibility overcome. (freezes)

Joseph: (Examines the manger) One of the legs on this trough is loose. Well, that's nails for you. Never trust nails. That leg should have been jointed. Just takes a little care, tat's all. And now I've got you to care for as well. (Peers solemnly at the baby) I know who you are, you see. You don't know what I am, though, do you? I wish I WAS your father. You're so beautiful. But I'm just standing in, so to speak, for someone else. Well, at least we won't have people saying, "Oooh, 'asn't 'e got ' is father's nose!" Something to be grateful for ..... (freezes)

Mary: We'd heard that the town was full, but oh! the chaos we found inside those gates! Even at Passover in Jerusalem I've never seen such crowds! I told Joseph I didn't think I could stand it much longer - I just had to lie down anywhere. I was desparate! Surely God would make room for his son to be born, somewhere! EVerything got a bit blurred for me, then I felt Joseph's hand on mine. "Just a few minutes more," he whisphered. At last someone found room for us. And now ... now we have that dear little priceless princeling to take care of. Such tiny fingers and deep dark eyes peeping out. So utterly perfect. (Addresses God) I wonder what's ahead for him, though. So far, since I said "yes" to God, it's all gone so utterly different to how I'd expected. But he's certainly been with me and I know he won't abandon this little one. Nor us. He'll see us through...whatever. (Freezes)

Joseph: But you know what I think. (He takes a big breath) I think you are going to have your real father's temperament. Because, you see, your real father is a loving, kind, mighty, glorious , everlasting God. (Pause) And (he leans over confidentially) the angel in my dream told me that you are going to save your people from their sins - which seems a lot to ask of a little chap like you. But I think I'll be pretty proud of you anyway. you're still part of my tribe, you see. And it's a pretty good family. I may be only a carpenter, but your great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather was a king. There! He was! King David. We've had kings, outcasts, farmers, carpenters, and now we've got a king again. And what a king! I'm rapt, actually! (He gets up and strolls around) In fact, it's totally wicked, I'm so rapt! I might even play a song on my trumpet in a minute. Ah, but you might cry, so I'd better just hum to you. You carry on sleeping - I'll just keep an eye on that star up there and make sure nothing bad happens to you as long as I'm alive. (Freezes)

Song: (As cast exit).



© Peter & Mary Minson 1997
Joseph's soliloquy © Riding Lights
All rights reserved
This play may be performed free of charge, on the condition that copies are not sold for profit in any medium, nor any entrance fee charged.
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