Papa Martyn’s Christmas

A Christmas musical by Robin & Delwyn McKenzie
adapted from Leo Tolstoy’s traditional folk tale: “Where Love Is, There God Is Also”


Tolstoy’s classic tale about a shoemaker who dreams that Jesus is going to visit him the following day. He spends the day watching and waiting amid a few interruptions from people needing his help. At the end of the day he is feeling sad that Jesus didn’t come to visit, but hears the Lord telling him that he came in each of those helped, and commending him: “What you did for others, you did for me.”
Note: This document contains only selected scenes. The entire musical can be purchased by contacting the authors (see addresses at foot).


Main cast: 
Papa Martyn
Rich lady
Young mother
Street kid
Nativity mime:
Wise Men
(town folk)


[19th century Russia. A small shoemaker’s shop  takes up perhaps half the stage, allowing room for street scenes played beyond its (suggested) wall, either in front or to one side. The chorus can either sing from this position, becoming characters in street scenes, or from a platform or other part of stage balancing the set. During Scripture reading, Nativity characters enter the empty street and mime the narrative. ]


Song: Zelnoborsk
Scene 1
[Martyn is crossing the street returning home when he is greeted by a long, lost friend.]
Anton: Martyn Avdyéich! My old friend Martyn!
Martyn:  Is that you Anton?
Anton: Long time no see. [they embrace]
Martyn: It must be what, five years?
Anton: It's been eight years since I left here, my friend.
Martyn: Well, you don't seem any older.
Anton: No, but I feel it. [look of concern] However, you do look older, Martyn. You have known troubles since I last saw you?
Martyn: Yes, I've known troubles, Anton. But let's not stand out here in the cold. Come on inside.
[They enter. Martyn busies himself getting a glass of tea for his guest.]
Martyn: So what have you been doing these eight years? Last I heard you were headed for Troitsa.
Anton: That's right. I went there as a pilgrim. But what I have been doing is not as important as what I learned through it all. It is our relationship with Christ that counts, not what we do for him. More of that later. But tell me, Martyn, what have these eight years brought you?
Martyn: A lot of sorrow and pain. As you know, after my dear wife passed away, the one thing that comforted me was having my young son to bring up.
Anton: Yes, I remember.
Martyn: Well, my little Kapitoshka took a fever and died also. That's two years ago now, but it still hurts. My heart still aches.
Anton: I can't pretend to understand your pain, my friend, but I know God does.
Martyn: He does? Hardly a day goes by that I don't ask God why He took my little one and not me. I am afraid I have become bitter in my despair.
Anton: It's not for us to judge God's ways, Martyn. He sees the end from the beginning, and He acts out of love. The reason you are in despair is that you want to live for your own enjoyment.
Martyn: What else should we live for?
Anton: We must live for God, Martyn. He gives us life so we can live it for Him. And as we do, He lifts what we find too heavy to carry.
Martyn: And how do we do this? How do we live for God?
Anton: Christ has shown us how to live for Him. You know how to read?
Martyn: Yes.
Anton: Have you read the Gospel?
Martyn: Not for many years.
Anton: Then read it. Over and over. Absorb the message and live in it. For that is where you will find life again. And you will know how to live it for God.
Song: Living for God
[lights fade]
. . . . .
Scene 4
[Papa Martyn is busying himself with his tasks. He pours himself a cup of tea and stands by the window to peer out. Outside, sweeper enters pushing barrow. He stops, retraces his steps and sweeps towards barrow. ]
Martyn: Not many folk out and about yet. Just old Step«nych shovelling snow and sweeping the streets. Hardly worth sweeping them -- there'll be more snow tonight most likely.
Song: Sweeper’s Song
Martyn: And it's Christmas Day. Why's he sweeping today of all days? [Breathes on window and clears a place to see better.] Wait a minute, that's not Step«nych. [Calls out from the door.] Hey!  Hey there, old man! What are you doing out there on Christmas morning? Come on in for a bit. I’ve just brewed a fresh pot of tea. You like some?
Sweep: Now that sounds like an offer I can’t refuse. But less of the old man bit, I can’t be any older than you, heh heh. [Chuckles 'til he coughs and wheezes.]
Martyn: Come on in then. Mind your step.
Sweep: That’s jolly kind of ya... Nice little place ya got... My word it’s warm in here. Make shoes do ya?
Martyn: Ever since I was a lad. Don’t know any other way to keep food on the table. Same as my father before me. [Pours a glass of tea from the pot and hands it to him.] There you go. Merry Christmas.
Sweep: Cheers.
Martyn: So, where is Step«nych? He usually sweeps our street.
Sweep: Oh Step«nych, yeah he moved down south to his in-laws.  So the Town Council, in their wisdom, elected me to this fine position. At this time of year there weren’t too many applicants. Not exactly tripping over each other to get the job, heh heh. [Chuckles ‘til he coughs and wheezes.]
Martyn: And how come you are sweeping out there today of all days?
Sweep: I don’t earn enough to take days off, ya know. Besides it’s better than stayin’ at home fightin’ with the missus.
Martyn: Will you turn in early today though?
Sweep: Na, it will be dark again before I’m finished today. I can't sweep until I first shovel the snow away, and my broom's gettin’ worn down. That always makes the job take longer. [Has a drink.] Good tea. Foreign is it? [Martyn returns to the window and looks out.]  You expectin’ someone?
Martyn: No... well, yes, I suppose I am. It’s a bit of a long story really. Have you heard of Jesus?
Sweep: The one they talk about in church?
Martyn: Yes, Jesus the Son of God. That’s who I’m waiting for.
Sweep: What do you mean?
Martyn: Well last night I had a dream. At least I think it was a dream, but it seemed more real than that – it was so clear. I saw Jesus himself! And I heard His voice calling me. [Martyn mimes what he saw and heard while song is being sung.]
Song: Papa Martyn (refrain only)
Martyn: So that’s why I’m looking out for him. It may have been only a dream, but it was so real.  Please, enjoy your tea, friend. We can keep on chatting, but forgive me if I still keep a look out.
Sweep: No, you go right ahead. I’ve finished now any way, and I’d better get back to me sweepin’ [Sets glass down and shakes his head. ] Hope it all works out for ya. Appreciated the chance to rest me achin’ bones for a bit. [Gets up to leave.]
Martyn: Take care!
Sweep: You too. Merry Christmas, old man, heh heh. [Laughs, coughs, wheezes and exits.]
. . . . .
Scene 6
Song:Christmas time again
[Martyn again stands at his door and watches people pass by, waiting for Jesus to come. Kids are playing in the street and singing, jostling one another during first verse of song. During second verse an old woman selling apples enters and rests her basket. A street kid in rags enters and steals one and is accosted by the woman.]
Street kid: Don’t beat me. I didn’t take any.
Granny: I saw you, you little brat! Don’t deny it. You’re for it now!
Street kid: No, please. It wasn’t me. [Martyn enters]
Martyn: Let him go, Granny. Forgive him as Christ forgives.
Granny: I’ll forgive him in such a way that he’ll never forget it. I’ll take the rascal to the police station!
Martyn: Let him go, Granny, he won’t do it again. Let him go if you love Christ. [She releases him. The street kid tries to run but Martyn grabs him.] Here, not so fast young man. I saw you take the apple. Don’t you ever do that again! Now, beg the grandmother’s forgiveness.
Street kid: [Sobbing] I’m sorry, Granny. Here’s your apple.
Martyn: That’s better. But I can see you’re still hungry. Here, I’ll buy you one. Next time ask me before you think of stealing, okay?
Street kid: Yes, Papa Martyn, I will. Thank you. [stands there polishing apple]
Granny: You’re spoiling these ragamuffins. He ought to be rewarded in such a way that he should remember it for a week!
Martyn: Oh, Granny, that’s according to our ways, not God’s. If the boy is to be whipped for an apple, what ought to be done to us for our sins? God has commanded that we should forgive, or else we too shall not be forgiven.
Granny: I know you’re right, but young people are so spoiled nowadays.
Martyn: Then we old people should teach them, by example as well as word.
Granny: You are very wise. I really do love children. I had seven of my own, you know. And now I enjoy my grandchildren. Of course, he is but a child. [smiles at street kid] God be with him! [tries to lift the basket onto her shoulder]
Street kid: Let me carry it for you, Granny. I’m going that way.
Granny: Bless you, my child. [She helps him lift the basket onto his shoulder and they exit together. Martyn returns to his shop doorway.]
Song: Christmas Carol Medley
[During medley Martyn continues looking up and down the street from his doorway. He smiles at a grump, pats a child on the head, points someone lost in the right direction and gives a beggar a coin. He has a final look after the medley ends and goes inside.
Scene 7
[Martyn lights the lamp and slumps into his chair.]
Martyn: Well so much for that. I must be getting old. I really thought He was going to come, but it must have been a dream and nothing more.
Reader: Papa Martyn! Papa Martyn!
Song: Didn't You Know Me
[During song: “Didn't You Know Me,” characters Martyn has met emerge from the darkness one by one when mentioned. Martyn is sitting in his chair, deep in thought/prayer, but lifts his eyes with a look of wonder as the last lines of the song are sung.]
© Robin and Delwyn McKenzie 1994, 2002
All rights reserved
This document contains only selected scenes. The entire musical can be purchased by contacting the authors at: