Writings and Christian
Before The Dawn
Four Act Play by Gail Keffer
Setting: Bethlehem, and the surrounding hills, B.C.
Cast: Station Manager in town of Bethlehem; Abigail, Field Reporter in the hills outside Bethlehem; Simon, Field Reporter on outskirts of Bethlehem.
Act 1: “Chasing The Story”
Carol: “The First Noel”
STATION MANAGER: Greetings! Your Good news reporter here from KCMC. I’m coming to you live from our station in the tiny town of Bethlehem in Judea. We interrupt your present listening because we have received an anonymous tip that something big is going to happen here around midnight tonight. As we approach that time, everything seems all clear. In fact, right now it looks very bare and feels awfully cold up here. We will go to our on-the-spot reporter, Abigail, who is actually up on one of the hills outside of Bethlehem for an update on what’s going on. We have also sent another reporter, Simon, down town Bethlehem waiting to hear this great news although we have been told it is to be on the hills outside the town. First to Abigail, who is working in the hills outside of Bethlehem.
ABIGAIL, REPORTER #1: My crew is ready and waiting to cover this new impending development. Right now, these hills appear to be without much hope of a fast-breaking news story. We certainly could use some good news right now. Even those of us up here watching the stars are feeling that there has to be something better. The fighting among the people, the zealots and the Romans, has been intensified lately, and there seems to be a lack of hope for the future. In fact, I don’t seem to have been a very nice person of late myself, let alone sitting up here expecting something great to happen.
STATION MANAGER: While you were lamenting the state of things, I have been handed a document by the staff. They have been doing some research on what might be happening. It is a statement written by a gentleman named Micah some time ago. Listen to this “But you, Bethlehem, David’s country, the runt of the litter—From you will come the leader who will shepherd-rule Israel. He’ll be no upstart, no pretender. His family tree is ancient and distinguished. Meanwhile, Israel will be in foster homes until the birth pangs are over and the child is born, and the scattered brothers come back home to the family of Israel. He will stand tall in his shepherd-rule by God’s strength, centered in the majesty of God-Revealed. And the people will have a good and safe home, for the whole world will hold him in respect—Peacemaker of the world! (Micah 5:2 -5 THE MESSAGE)
ABIGAIL, REPORTER #1: Great, so you have the words of an old prophet, and you are supposing that he knew about tonight at midnight. Cut me a break. Perhaps we are going to get a new King. We certainly could use someone that would be different from Augustus, someone that would represent us and care about us, not govern from afar and treat us like so many sheep to be counted. But, if we are, I am sure it isn’t going to be a king from among these dirty shepherds. Lets go now to Simon who is down town Bethlehem
SIMON, REPORTER #2: I hate to break up your party up on the hills, but have you considered that perhaps this “great thing” is going to happen in Bethlehem. That is where all the people are gathered for that crazy census from Caesar Augustus. Many of them were so glad to be in the city that they are partying all the time. Others are exhausted from the journey they had to make to get here. All of them are upset that they had to come here to be counted so they could have their taxes raised. I can certainly understand that! However, the business people in Bethlehem are enjoying every minute of it. They are charging top dollar for everything and see it as a real opportunity to make money on those that had to come here. Perhaps this would be a more likely spot. At least there are people here and they are all from one family and the family of David has been a fairly stable family over the years.
STATION MANAGER: Thank you for your input. I can see down town Bethlehem from my sight atop of this hill. The streets did look crowded today, but now they are dark. All of this is such a remote area. How could anything as good and as spectacular as they are predicting come from here?
SIMON, REPORTER #2: There is some light from down in Bethlehem business district. Perhaps it is just from fires burning to keep the people warm and to cook food, but I think it is worth investigating.
STATION MANAGER: O.K. be my guest. Rather you than me. I think I’ll just relax up here. If it is that great, it certainly will be a spectacular scene that we can all see. I can’t imagine anything of value happening up here on these remote hills with all these sheep and a bunch of worthless shepherds.
Act 2: “Beginning to see the Light"
Carol: “Angels, we have heard on High”
ABIGAIL, REPORTER #1: Hey. Wow. Oh my, what a sight. I think the cream in the food at dinner must have been sour; maybe it is food poisoning, but I am sure that I have seen ghosts. Perhaps there are people from other galaxies. Maybe it is men from Mars. I don’t know what it is, and I know you people down in Bethlehem will not believe me, but I have just seen a group of angels winging through the skies and singing. It was awesome. They were over on the one hill, and as fast as they came, they disappeared just as fast. We tried to get the cameras over there, but it was too fast. They are gone. I am sure no one will believe us. I have never seen such a bright light, nor heard such a beautiful choir. I am sorry to be so vague, but we did see it.
SIMON, REPORTER #2: Well, better you than me. Angels? A choir singing? I really don’t want to see a lot of change. At least we are still alive, and no one is trying to kill us. Yes, I am upset with the taxes, but not to the point that I am beginning to have dreams about angels flying through the air and singing. Better, think it over my friend. Strange. (Pause) I have just received word that a group of shepherds have wandered into town and gone to a stable behind Nathaniel’s Inn. I know all the inns are full, but why are those dirty people going to the stable behind Nathaniel’s Inn. They are certainly the lowest of the low to be in Bethlehem at a time like this. Who cares about counting them, and what right do they have to come into town at midnight? They should be out counting the sheep and tending to their own problems. They certainly have no right to bother anyone staying at Nathaniel’s Inn. I will follow through and see what I can find out. Perhaps they are on to something, but I think they are too dumb to know if they did see a King. And, I am sure that any King would not want to associate with them.
STATION MANAGER: I think you might want to remember the sayings of that guy Micah before you get too far involved looking for a King. He said: “The Lord will give up his people until the one who is having a baby gives birth; then the rest of his relatives will return to the people of Israel.” What could this possibly mean? How could a child be a King? However, at this point with the shepherds converging on the town and causing uproar, and Abigail seeing angels flying through the air, I am beginning to think that almost anything is possible. There has to be an easier way to earn a living than sticking our necks out claiming to see things that no one else is going to believe.
Act 3: “I Know what I Saw”
Carol: “O Little Town of Bethlehem”
ABIGAIL, REPORTER #1: You can say what you want about seeing things, but we saw it, and the sky was as bright as day in just that area. Then, just as fast, they were gone.
STATION MANAGER: I have just been handed another item by the staff which has been doing some investigation while all this has been going on. I man named Isaiah once said: “Then listen to this, government of David! It’s bad enough that you make people tired with your pious, timid hypocrisies, but now you’re making God tired. So the Master is going to give you a sign anyway. Watch for this: A girl who is presently a virgin will get pregnant. She’ll bear a son and name him Immanuel (God-With-Us). By the time the child is twelve years old, able to make moral decisions, the threat of war will be over. Relax. Those two kings that have you so worried will be out of the picture.” (Isaiah 7:14-15. THE MESSAGE)
Carol: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”
STATION MANAGER: What do you two make of that? He goes on to say that things are going to improve. We are going to become the land of milk and honey. I want to believe it is true, but why all the mystery? Isaiah also said: “For a Child has been born—for us! The gift of a son—for us! He’ll take over the running of the world. His names will be: Amazing Counselor, Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness. His ruling authority will grow, and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings. He’ll rule from the historic David throne over that promised kingdom. He’ll put that kingdom on a firm footing and keep it going with fair dealing and right living beginning now and lasting always.” (Isaiah 9:7-9 THE MESSAGE)
SIMON, REPORTER #2: Well, they both mention a baby. I realize that, but surely it will be born in a nice warm room with mid wives, etc. It won’t be born in a stable or barn, or some little abandoned place in Bethlehem. However absurd it may seem to you and me, I have tried to get to that stable, but there doesn’t seem to be anything unusual along the way. No one else seems to be interested in checking it out. There is a young couple out there with a tiny new-born baby wrapped in swaddling cloths. They look very common. The shepherds are not there--if they ever were, and so I can’t think that this is the Mighty, Wonderful thing we were expecting tonight. The baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes, doesn’t appear to have a gold crown or anything that would say it is a King. There is certainly no halo, and how would a baby be King and be born in a manger behind Nathaniel’s Inn. The whole thing doesn’t make any sense to me. I’m sure I don’t want to be involved any further in this mess.
ABIGAIL, REPORTER #1: Well, I’ll tell you what. I don’t care what the rest of you say. I saw what I saw. And perhaps the reports you got from research were right. Perhaps there is a King born tonight somewhere. But I have to agree with the reporter from Bethlehem. I can’t see a King being born in a stable and the only ones knowing about it being a group of shepherds, but I am puzzled by that bright light and the singing. I know you think we are crazy, but we saw it and then it was gone. We can’t even find any trace of anything having been in that area. People have reported burned spots from what they called spaceships from another galaxy, but there is nothing here.
SIMON, REPORTER #2: I have just managed to catch up with the one shepherd who seems to be in the lead. There are four of them, along with a couple lambs and a young boy. He said they were keeping watch over their flock as was customary, and suddenly there was a bright light, and an angel stood before them and the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were terrified. But the angel said: “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:11-13
Act 4: “Time to Bow Out”
Carol: “Away in a Manger”
SIMON, REPORTER #2: The shepherds claimed that they were led to a stable behind Nathaniel’s Inn and did see a baby that they believe with all their heart is the new King of Kings, the long awaited Messiah.
ABIGAIL, REPORTER #1: Did the baby look like a King? What else did they say about seeing this little baby when they reached the manger behind Nathaniel’s Inn?
SIMON, REPORTER #2: They said they went to Bethlehem as directed and found a woman named Mary and a gentleman named Joseph with a baby lying in a manager as they were told. They are telling everybody on the street that the Lord has spoken to them. They are returning to their fields, but not before they tell everyone who will listen to them their wonderful news. However, who is going to believe a few dirty shepherds? They are firmly convinced that this baby is the new King of the Jews, Emanuel. They feel we are going to become a new nation, and that we will be the land of milk and honey as was predicted many years ago.
STATION MANAGER: What do you think after talking with them?
Simon, Reported #2: I think we are chasing a dead end. Certainly in our society, the shepherds would be the last group of people anyone would believe speaking about the long awaited Messiah. Now had a person of substance from the upper class seen a baby who is the Messiah as foretold in the scriptures, we could believe. Shepherds? Bah! I think Micah and Isaiah were as confused as those shepherds were who wondered into town. It's been a long night folks. Angels and Messiahs indeed! I could think of several other things that would be more rewarding for the hours we have spent on this one.
ABIGAIL, REPORTER #1: I told you I saw a great light, and I heard a choir. If it was angels, so be it. I am not willing to put my neck on the block. I will remember this night forever, but don’t ask me to verify it, because I can’t. I know what I saw, but I have no proof. I can only pray “Oh, Lord, help my unbelief.” I’ve had enough for one night. Over and out.
STATION MANAGER: Well folks, we have had a few things happening tonight in this town, but nothing that appears to have any story or lasting impression on even the town of Bethlehem. We will let the local newspaper, The Bethlehem Scroll, carry it from here. It is surprising how stories grow in the times of confusion and numbering of people like we have in this town now. Many of the people here are weary from traveling and have not been able to find adequate lodging, so I am sure they are tired and confused. And truthfully, we have not even had any real problems with the travelers. The shepherds certainly were no problem. They seem to have come quietly and left quietly. And those shepherds, well, everyone knows that they are not even fit to bear testimony in court. Who would believe them? If this is indeed a new King of the Jews, I am sure we will be hearing many strong reports in the immediate future. Reporting from KCMC, over and out.
Carol: “Go Tell it on the Mountain”
Quotations taken from THE MESSAGE, The Bible in Contemporary Language, by Eugene H. Peterson.
Notes: Notes: Christmas Carols or Anthems may be added as desired and thought appropriate by those directing the play. They can include audience participation or be done by the choir only at the discretion of the director(s).
© Copyright Raymond Irwin and Gail Kennedy Keffer