The Shepherds: How It Wasnít

By Denise Busenitz


How it might have been if the shepherds had been distracted from belief by the cares of the day.


Voice of Angel
Six Shepherds (Daniel, David, Jeremiah, Benjamin, Jesse, Matthew [young boy])


The scene is dimly lit, with some kind of "fire" in the middle. Several small bowls that look like pottery are behind the fire, along with a wooden spoon.

Narrator: Have you ever thought about what it must have been like the night that the angels visited the shepherds? Have you ever thought about how you might have responded, if you had been there that night? Would you have believed, or doubted? Or have been too concerned about what others thought, or how it might affect you financially? Well, we know from the Bible that those shepherds believed the angels, and were some of the very first people to herald the arrival of God-in-the-flesh, on earth. But if they had been like some of us, well, it might have gone something like thisÖ

(Enter David and Matthew. David stirs something by the fire. Taking a wooden spoon, he tastes the food, makes a face and spits.)

David: Phew!

Matthew: Is it so bad, brother David?

David: "Is it so bad?" he asks. Of course, it is bad. It tastes like Ė like horsemeat!

Matthew: But, David, it is horsemeat.

David: Yes, of course, it is horsemeat. But do the shepherds like horsemeat? No, of course, the other shepherds do not like horsemeat. So, the stew should not taste like horsemeat.

Matthew: If the other shepherds donít like horsemeat, then why do we eat it?

David: "Why do we eat it?" he asks. Why do we eat it? We eat it to stay alive, little Matthew. We eat it to stay alive.

Matthew: Why donít we eat a sheep instead?

David: Watch your mouth, little Matthew. We are shepherds. We cannot afford to eat the sheep. It is our job to keep the sheep alive. And with what we earn, we buy a few barley cakes. (slight pause) And when a horse diesÖ we have meat. Now, go and gather a few more sticks of wood.

(Matthew exits to one side, and returns with sticks. Meanwhile, the other shepherds enter from the other side, with slight moans of weariness.)

Jeremiah: Oh, what a long day.

Benjamin: I thought weíd never get the sheep settled down for the night.

Daniel: I just want something tasty and warm to eat, and then a good nightís sleep.

Jesse: Iím so hungry; I could eat a horse.

(David is looking toward audience, and his mouth drops wide open, speechless. Matthew has returned to Davidís side, but doesnít notice Davidís reaction.)

Matthew: Oh, good!

(David quickly hushes him, then begins dishing up the food, which is drunk straight from the bowls. The shepherds sit, then make faces as they taste the stew.)

Jeremiah: Oh, David, not horsemeat again. (groans by all) I wish I were a king and could eat all the beef I wanted.

Benjamin: Iíd settle for quail.

Daniel: MeÖ I want a big, juicy pork chop. (all gasp)

David: But we canít eat pork Ė weíre all Jewish.

Daniel: Jews are forbidden to eat pork. (wagging finger) But wanting to eat pork, that is a different matter, no?

(The shepherds talk some among themselves, some shrugging their shoulders, and others nodding their heads.)

Daniel: (stands to his feet) Yes, Iím a Jewish shepherd. (spreads arms to include all) We are all Jewish shepherds, no? (rubs his head, thinking) Often, I have hated being a shepherd. (Other shepherds nod in agreement. Daniel has a slight pause, then continues, softer) Sometimes, I have hated being a Jew. (pause) We are so poor; we have no rights. Is it so wrong to do what you want? Just once in a while? (Other shepherds discuss, nodding, or shaking their heads, shrugging their shoulders. Daniel sits, and Jeremiah stands.)

Jeremiah: And do the Romans ask us what we want? Of course, no. (all agree with him by shaking their heads) Me, I wish that the Messiah would come. He would put those Romans (waves arm) in their place, and we (thumb to chest) would become the elite. Is that such a small matter to ask?

Jesse: (stands) And we will all be rich! When the Messiah comes, Iím sure all of the Israelites will be wealthy!

Benjamin: (jumps to feet) Yes, the Messiah will march in and tell the Caesar and Herod a thing or two!

Daniel: (also stands) And then we can do what we want. Then will the Romans tell us what to do?

David: You know, I donít think it will be like that at all.

All else: Why not? You donít? etc.

David: Jehovah has a way of doing things differently than we would, does He not?

Jesse: What do you mean?

David: Am I not named after the great King David?

Benjamin: Yes, butÖ

David: Heís a good example, right? (Shepherds scratch head, shrug shoulders)

David: Did Jehovah choose the fairest of Jesseís sons? The oldest? The wisest? And donít the prophets tell us that the Messiah will be born of a virgin? No, His ways are not our ways. (Shepherds nod in agreement, saying, "yes" or whatever.)

David: No, I think when the Messiah comes, He willó (A bright light from behind the congregation suddenly interrupts David. All of the shepherds fall to their knees, shaking in fear.)

Angel: Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. (slight pause, maybe have several speak together) Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (The bright light is turned off, and the shaking men slowly stand to their feet.)

Daniel: Did you j-jójust see what I saw?

Benjamin: What did you see?

Jeremiah: Havenít you seen an angel before?

David: UhÖ.actuallyÖÖ.uh-no.

Benjamin: I think it was just a hallucination.

Matthew: A huh loose in a what?

Benjamin: A hallucination, brought on by that bad stew we ate. (nods knowingly, as if to convince the others)

Jeremiah: But we all had the same hallucination?

Benjamin: (defensively) We all ate the same stew.

David: I donít think so. I think the they were real angels with a message for us. I think we should go to find this Baby Savior.

Jeremiah: What? Are we the social elite that we can go to see a newborn king? When King Herod was born, did you see shepherds invited? (shepherds shake their heads in agreement.)

Daniel: Would we be made welcome in the presence of the king in a palace?

Jesse: We would look rather strange, wouldnít we?

Jeremiah: Not nearly as strange as looking to visit a new king in --a manger! I can hear the people now. They already think we shepherds are outcasts.

David: Then what do we have to lose? If they already think weíre all half-crazy, how much worse can it be? (trying to convince the others)

Jeremiah: "What could be worse?" he asks. "What could be worse?" How about they think us totally crazy?

Jesse: Besides, we canít leave the sheep. Weíve had such hard times, if we even lost a few sheep, it would ruin us. I, for one, am staying here.

Jeremiah: (crosses arms) Me too. I have a reputation to think of. Not a very big one, but Iíve got to save what I can.

Daniel: I am too tired, (yawn and stretch) and I just want a good nightís rest. (goes and lies on ground, over to one side. )

David: Well, Iím going to go look for this Baby! (looks to other shepherds) Whoíll go with me? (looks to Benjamin) Benjamin?

Benjamin: No, David, I still think it was just an hallucination. That stew is still not setting too well with my stomach. (rubs stomach, groans, and makes a grimace; goes and sits by Daniel.)

David: Jesse?

Jesse: Iím going to go check on the sheep right now. (exits in direction in which he entered.)

David: Matthew?

Matthew: Sure, brother David, Iíll go with you. (takes Davidís hand) Letís go. (David and Matthew exit down center aisle to the rear. The rest of the shepherds sit to settle in for the night.)

Daniel: Man, this ground is hard.

Jeremiah: Itís not th-

Daniel: (cutting him off) It is too hard!

Jeremiah: Was I saying that it isnít hard? No, it isnít the ground. Youíre on a rock. (Daniel rolls over and moves "rock.")

Benjamin: My stomach feels like I ate a rock! (groans)

Jeremiah: The stupid stew.

Daniel: Our stupid lives.

Jeremiah: I wish someone could help us.

Daniel: I wish the Messiah would comeÖ.


Copyright Denise Busenitz, all rights reserved.
This script may be used free of charge provided no charge is made for admission. In return, the author would appreciate being notified of any performance. She may be contacted at