By Andy Lund
A set of 3 sketches shedding different perspectives on nativity accounts. These 3 quite different sketches are designed to be performed in a Christmas service or at a cabaret type event.
Counsellor: Do come in. Take a seat, please. (To Mary) Would you like to put your feet up on something?
Mary: No, thank you. It's all right.
Counsellor: Sure? Right. O.K. If you'd like to take a seat next to your partner, Mr Jacobson.
Joseph: Just call me Joseph, please. And this is Mary.
Counsellor: Fine, fine. It's always good to get on to first name terms as soon as possible, I always think. Now how can I help? You said on the 'phone you were experiencing a certain amount of err ... friction. A disagreement?
Joseph: Well you could say that. Perhaps we ought to begin at the beginning.
Counsellor: Very wise. I believe Julie Andrews recommends the very beginning. (Laughs)
Mary: I really don't think there's a great deal to worry about. I am sure it will all work out to plan.
Counsellor: Indeed ... indeed. Is that how you see it, Joseph?
Joseph: Well, not exactly. As I say, I'll start from the beginning. You see Mary and I are in love. Or at least I thought we were. I certainly love her.
Mary: And I really love you, Joseph.
Counsellor: Well, this is a good starting point. I deal with so many couples who don't really love each other.
Mary: Well, I honestly am deeply in love with Joseph. And I respect him and want to have a family with him ...
Joseph: You couldn't wait to get on with that, could you?
Mary: That's not fair. You know the circumstances.
Counsellor: Ah, I see. And what we have here is the source of some ... friction between you, I take it.
Mary and Joseph: (Together) No/yes
Counsellor: You certainly don't appear to be in total agreement.
Joseph: Well are you surprised? There I was thinking I had won the lottery top prize, I was going to marry the sweetest, loveliest girl in the neighbourhood when I find out that she's ... she's ... been ... with another man.
Mary: I haven't, Joseph. That's not fair. You know I haven't.
Counsellor: I see. Do we need to deal here with a case of paternity? I take it that the father of your child is a matter of some dispute.
Mary and Joseph: (Together) No/yes
Counsellor: Ah ... again a little disagreement. How do you see things, Mary?
Mary: I was looking forward to marrying Joseph in the near future.
Mary: I still am, Joseph.
Joseph: Well, it's not a forgone conclusion now. I really don't think you can take anything or anyone for granted.
Mary: I don't, Joseph. I really don't (Pause) Well, as I say, we were looking forward to marrying. And then I had this ... visit.
Joseph: Who was it? What's his name? I'd really like a few words with this character.
Mary: It wasn't anyone I'd ever seen before.
Mary: Joseph, I've tried telling you all this before and you always lose your temper. That's why we're here.
Counsellor: Joseph, let's just get the complete picture from Mary's side. You'll get your chance in a minute.
Mary: The visitor said his name was Gabriel.
Joseph: No! It wasn't that Gabriel Bar-Zimri? I'll flay him to within an inch of his life, I will!
Counsellor: (Forcefully) Joseph!
Joseph: (Struggles to regain his composure)
Counsellor: Carry on, Mary.
Mary: No it wasn't him. The visitor said he was an angel called Gabriel.
Mary: He told me all kinds of things, which I could hardly take in. I was scared out of my wits in any case at first but once he'd calmed me down he told me that I was in favour with God and that I was going to fall pregnant and have a boy. That was the first incredible thing because Joseph and I have never been together like that. Then he said he would be the Son of the Most High-which can only mean one thing. Added to that this Gabriel told me that he was to be called Jesus-and we all know what that means.
Counsellor: Saviour, isn't it?
Joseph: Yes it is. The whole thing's incredible. My girl's making claims to be pregnant by heaven knows what means and will shortly be giving birth to what can only be ... the Messiah.
Mary: Joseph, I'm as puzzled as you are. But I do know my own body. I know my own morals, too. I promise you I have not been with any other man. Joseph, I'm a virgin. I've kept myself for you. I promise you. Please believe me ... I told this Gabriel it was all completely impossible. But ... he said ... well it wasn't going to happen in a natural kind of way ... that this baby...this boy would be as a result of the power of God and the Holy Spirit coming over me. Most incredible of all that he is to be the Son of God.
Joseph: Mary ... Mary, I really want to believe you. I know, you've never done anything to grieve me. But can't you see what this looks like. You can just imagine what the neighbours are going to say, can't you. Surely you must see my position.
Mary: I do, Joseph. I really do.
Counsellor: Couldn't you have been mistaken, Mary. Are you in some kind of trouble, perhaps, which is manifesting itself in this illusion of angels and the paranormal?
Mary: Absolutely not. I believe what is happening is God's will and however painful it may be it is a path I must tread. I must be obedient. I'd just love Joseph to be treading it with me. I want him to be there for me.
Counsellor: Well, Joseph?
Joseph: I tell you what, it'd take another vision from heaven for me to convince me to do that.
3 Shepherds (Daniel, Nathaniel, Seth)
Donald Koppit (theologian)
D.P. Fried (psychiatrist)
Ivor Harrow (Union secretary)
(Analysis TV programme music- Panorama type programme. This initial voice over could be pre-recorded and played back on sound or audio tape)
Presenter: Last week the normally tranquil atmosphere of rural Palestine was unusually disturbed by rumours and recriminations. The local populace was thrown into turmoil as tales of strange goings-on extra-terrestrial appearances and noise pollution on a previously unheard of scale began to spread within the community and beyond. At the centre of the controversy the unlikely trio of three agricultural workers. What is the truth about the events of last week? What really happened in the fields above the small town of Bethlehem? Tonight "Analysis" brings the events and the debate to you, the viewer, for you to decide.
(Title: Analysis: Shepherds' Delight)
Presenter: Good evening. Welcome to analysis. Up to the minute discussion and debate of a current topical issue. Tonight we concentrate on the strange events surrounding three rural agricultural workers-shepherds by profession (three shepherds look embarrassed and uneasy) and we have them in the studio. Also with us to debate the whole issue are the theologian and writer Donald Koppit, Clinical psychiatrist D. P. Fried of Kentucky State University and Ivor Harrow of the Agricultural Workers Union. If I could turn to the three men at the centre of events first of all. Perhaps I could ask you to introduce yourselves.
Daniel: Well, p'raps I could take on that little task. I be Daniel, this be Nathaniel and this be S.. S ...
Presenter: (helpfully) Spaniel?
Daniel: No. This be Seth
Presenter: I see. Welcome gentlemen. Perhaps you could give us a thumbnail sketch of the strange events of the last week.
All three: Sure (All begin to talk)
Presenter: Well, perhaps one spokesperson would be in order.
Seth: 'Twas last Friday night. On the hills up above Bethlehem. We was just going about our business as per usual.
Daniel: Yes, on night duties we were.
Nathaniel: You know guarding the sheep against wild beasts and so on. It's an important job, if a little tedious.
Seth: Anyway, 'twas getting for the wee small hours and we was taking it in turns to keep awake.
Daniel: I was actually on duty at the time. Well, anyway there was this terrific noise and a blinding great light ...
Seth: Course we was all awake pretty darn quick then. I don't mind telling you I was scared out of my boots. I thought it was sommit like the end of the world, or something.
Nathaniel: That light was brighter than anything I've ever seen before. It was ... awesome, is the only way I can describe it.
Seth: Well that weren' the end of it by a long chalk. With the light and noise came these figures ...
Daniel: Angels they were, I swear it
Seth: Mebbe. Whatever they were they certainly told us some remarkable things.
Nathaniel: Yeah, like announcing the birth of someone really special. They said the long awaited Messiah-you know the one you read about in prophecy-was being born down in the town ...
Daniel: Yes, and if we should care to go down we'd see him in one of the animal feed troughs.
Seth: Yes and this baby was the Lord.
Nathaniel: Then there were a whole load of other figures came
Nathaniel: (getting excited) And then. and then.. Singing like you've never heard before in your life. It was ... .
Presenter: Perhaps I could just interrupt you at that point and bring in some of our studio experts. Donald Koppit, turning to you first. You are an expert theologian with especial knowledge of messianic movements. Can I ask you to comment on what you've heard so far?
Donald Koppit : Yes, of course. Err, I don't wish to be disparaging in anyway but I would want to question the ... um.. qualifications of our three friends when it comes to exegesis and interpretation of messianic doctrine and prophecy. As you know, there are many schools of thought on this one. Professor Herbert von Filzstift has written a remarkable paper on just this kind of dangerous literal interpretation of ancient writings and ...
Presenter: Yes fine, thank you. Perhaps I might just bring in D. P. Fried of Kentucky State University for a psychological perspective of the whole issue. Professor has modern psychiatry anything to help us here?
Seth: What! Is he saying we're batty, or something?
D. P. Fried: Certainly. I think I can be of assistance here. It is not unknown for certain groups to experience something akin to mass hysteria and, shall we say delusions. In this case the delusions seem to be of a rather grand operatic scale with the appearance of massed choirs..
Daniel: Delusions? He is saying we're nuts.
Seth: Oi, mate, you looking for a fight, or something?
D. P. Fried: By no means. I merely proceed from the point of view that something in your environment, your upbringing, maybe both ... nature and nurture, as it were, have combined to ... to ...
Seth: Make us bonkers. Well I'm not having any of it, mate. We're farm workers not fairies. We know what we saw and heard. We weren't up in the fields reading fancy blooming psychology books. We was doing a job of work.
Nathaniel: (Getting angry) Right enough. We know what we saw.
Presenter: (Conciliatory) Quite so. Perhaps this might be an opportune moment to have a voice from the agricultural world.
Ivor Harrow of the Agricultural Workers Union, thank you for joining us tonight. How do you view these matters?
Ivor Harrow: Well I'm no theologian or for that matter psychologist. My main concern is with these gentlemen's rights. As I see it very long hours and monotonous routines imposed by the management have combined to exert a great deal of stress on them. It is small wonder that this work induced stress comes out in this kind of way. We in the AWU have long been asking for a full-scale review of night working amongst shepherds and other manual farm labourers. I think you'll find that the hours demanded by management are just ridiculous.
Nathaniel: Can't say, as I'm that bothered.
Daniel: Actually I quite enjoys night shift myself.
Seth: Best part of the day. When you sits under the stars you can' t help but wonder at the creation. What' s it say in the psalms, Daniel?
Daniel: "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?"
Ivor Harrow Well I'm more concerned about the work of your hands and your rights.
Nathaniel: Well, thank you very much. I'm sure but I've a feeling sommit more important than all of this or all of your talk was happening on our hills last week. And I for one am hardly likely to forget it.
Seth: Well, you've not asked us about the best bit, anyway. Tell 'em, Dan.
Daniel: What ... oh ah..yeah. The best bit is that 'tis true.
Seth: Yes, totally true.
Donald Koppit: Ah.. truth. What is truth. Are we talking truth as you perceive it? I do hope we are not into absolutes here.
D. P. Fried: Yes indeed. There are innumerable sides to truth, you know.
Nathaniel: Well we are talking quite simple truth really. Pure and simple.
Daniel: You see, when we got down to the town we saw with our own eyes ...
Seth: That what we'd been told really had happened.
Nathaniel: And that's really amazing, innit?
King 1: Some say we were Kings
King 2: From a far off
King 3: Country.
King 1: Any King
King 2: Worth
King 3: His salt
King 4: Doesn't bow down
King 1: To anyone
King 2: But we bowed down to Him
King 3: Some say we were star-gazers
King 4: With the ability
King 1: To read in the heavens
King 2: The events of the earth
King 3: But this event
King 1: Was not about a star
King 2: It was about a maker of stars
King 4: Come down to the earth.
King 2: Some say we were
King 1: Wise men
King 3: Sages
King 4: Men of learning
King 2: And experience.
King 1: But all the books
King 3: In the world
King 4: Cannot contain the wisdom
King 1: Of this small child
King 2: This special child
King 3: This God child
King 4: Come to us
© Andy Lund 1999 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.
In exchange for free performance, the author would appreciate being notified of when and for what purpose the play is performed.
He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org