Summary: Two shepherds try to understand what is happening in the heavens and on earth. This 'playful playlet' is designed to be integrated into a Christmas service, back and forth between actors and the hymn "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night”. It could be used at the beginning of the service, or later in conjunction with the gospel lesson from Luke. It will need the co-operation of choir and instrumentalist (who might have the script ahead of time for cueing) and some brief introduction to the congregation, but not much.
Style: Humorous. Duration: 12min
Scripture: Luke 2: 8-17
Characters: Jethro and Zeph, abiding in the field
(Jethro is standing, gazing up at the sky, mouth open in awe. Zeph is sound asleep (snoring would be appropriate), and is shaken by Jethro.)
Jethro: Zeph, wake up.
Zeph: Huh? What is it, Jethro. Can't you see I'm sleeping?
Jethro: I don't care if you're sleeping. Wake up.
Zeph: Have you been washing your socks by night again? Do you have indigestion? Can't it wait til morning?
Jethro: Leave my socks out of it. No. I don't have indigestion. And no, it can't wait until morning.
Zepha: O alright. But it better be important.
Jethro: Zeph. There's an angel here. And I think he wants to talk with us.
Zeph: An angel! You do need more sleep. (looking around, then up, shaking his head) Wait a minute. Jethro. Look. There's an angel.
While shepherds watched their flocks by night
All seated on the ground
An angel of the Lord came down
And glory shone around.
Zeph: Jethro. There is an angel. Here.
Jethro: I told you there was an angel. Now would you please stop repeating everything I say and sit up and listen!
Zeph: I'm sorry, Jethro. It's just that this sort of thing doesn't happen every night out here.
Jethro: Stop it, Zeph. Be quiet and listen.
Zeph: I know we get strange noises out here at night. Wolves and loud winds and sometimes I get dreams. But this is an angel. I'm getting a mighty dread.
Jethro: I'm getting a mighty dread, too. But enough already! Let's listen to him!!
Fear not, said he, for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled minds
Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and humankind.
Zeph: Jethro, you've been around longer than I have. And you go to the synagogue. Has this ever happened to you before?
Jethro: No it hasn't, Zephaniah. And I don't know what to make of it, either. But I think this is more than just about you and me getting our sleep disturbed.
Zeph: He sure did that, though. I'll never get back to sleep now. Maybe never. What do you suppose this angel means, "glad tiding of great joy - to us and humankind."
Jethro: How am I supposed to know? Why don't we just stop trying to figure it out and listen.
Zeph: You're right. If we keep talking, he might just get tired of hovering and take off and we'll never know the end of the message.
To you in David's town this day
Is born of David's line
A saviour who is Christ the Lord
And this shall be the sign;
Zeph: David's town, eh? Bethlehem. Just down the hill from here. Sleepy little Bethlehem. Although it's pretty full these days, what with the census and all.
Jethro: It is, Zeph. And something wonderful is happening there. A saviour is born there. Tonight. Our Christ. Our messiah.
Zeph: We don't get too many of those in Bethlehem, do we Jethro?
Jethro: (looking disparagingly at his friend) No. We don't get too many of those in Bethlehem. Not that we don't want one. Our people have been waiting for a Messiah for hundreds of years. And now, if the angel is right, that very one has been born. (whispering) Right here.
Zeph: What do you think we should do?
Jethro: For now, just sit and listen.
The heavenly babe you there shall find
To human view displayed
All meanly wrapped in swaddling bands
And in a manger laid.
Zeph: Imagine that! The baby is lying in a manger!
Jethro: I heard it too, Zeph. In a manger, wrapped in swaddling cloths. Seems strange, doesn't it?
Zeph: Nope. Babies are always wrapped in swaddling cloths. Aren't they? and in our country it's no big shame to be born in a cattle stall. I was.
Jethro: I can believe it, Zeph. And yes, they are wrapped in swaddling. But this is no ordinary baby! This is the child of heaven! What way is that for God to come into the world? Better a palace than a place where cows chew their cud.
Zeph: I am no theologian, Jethro, but I say, if God wants to come to earth in a barn, that's just fine with me. That's the kind of God I could really relate to.
Jethro: Hold on, my friend. Look. There's more of them. They're lining up. Tenors, sopranos, altos, bases. Hold onto your socks, buddy. We're in for a chorus!
Thus spake the seraph and forthwith
Appeared a shining throng
Of angels praising God, who thus
Addressed the joyful throng.
All glory be to God on high
And to the earth be peace,
Good will henceforth from heaven to all
Begin and never cease.
Zeph: What do we do now, Jethro? Honestly, I can hardly think for myself.
Jethro: What do you think we should do? Go to Bethlehem!
Zeph: But what about the sheep? It's the middle of the night!
Jethro: Don't be so practical! This is a message from God about the Messiah being born down the street from us. Honestly, your head is a thick as a ram's. This is prophecy. This is poetry. This is faith. This is salvation, man! We could write a song about this!
Zeph: O you and your muse!
Jethro: O you and your ewes! Come on, let's go. (The shepherds exit down the aisle, chatting as they go.)
(The service continues.)
© Copyright Jim Hatherley, all rights reserved. The script may not be reproduced, translated or copied in any medium, including books, CDs and on the Internet, without written permission of the author.