Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Play: The Shepherd Who Stayed Behind

The Shepherd Who Stayed Behind
Christmas 2014
Shawn Callihan 

Note - this is a draft of a Christmas play I wrote for our children to perform for family on Christmas Eve.  I thought it would be fun to post it here.

Narrator:  Three men, David, his son Nathan, and another shepherd sit around a fire – three candles – in a dark room] “One evening in the fields near Bethlehem, a group of men sat around a small fire, warming their hands from the cool night air.  Behind them is a small cabin.  These men were shepherds.  They had spent many long nights caring for the sheep, guarding them from danger and providing for all their needs.”

“Among them was a young man named Nathan.  Nathan had been tending the sheep with his father David for several years as an apprentice.

David:  [picks up a candle, stands, and yawns]  “We have had a good day.  I think it’s time to rest.  Good evening.”

Shepherd:  “Good night David."

David:  [stops and embraces Nathan]  “Good night my son.  Remember what you have been taught tonight.”  [enters cabin to sleep, exits room and extinguishes his candle.  The other shepherd follows, taking another candle from the fire.  Nathan takes the last candle and walks among the sheep with it.

Narrator:  “Though he had spent several years tending sheep, this would be his first time keeping the night watch alone while the others slept.  It meant they trusted him.  All alone, the world lay silent and still before him.  The only sounds that could be heard were a  soft breeze rustling through the shrubs, and the occasional bleating of a sheep.  [Sheep bleat]  Unbeknownst to Nathan and his fellow shepherds, on that silent night in nearby Bethlehem, Mary would soon give birth to the prophesied messiah, the savior of the world.

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn (Luke 2:7).

Chorus:  Silent Night (Verse 1)
Silent night! Holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and Child.
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace;
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Narrator:  “Nathan walked among his flock of sheep.  Truly alone for the first time, he stared into the clear sky.  He had spent countless hours on evening watches with the other shepherds looking at the stars.  They were familiar companions during long nights in the field.  Then a strange thing happened.  A new light appeared above him, clear and bright!  He had never seen anything like it.  The star had appeared suddenly, but looked as though it had always belonged there.   His father had taught Nathan to wake the others whenever anything unusual happened, and so he ran to the cabin and roused them.  They emerged in confusion and beheld the new star.  They had little time to ponder its meaning, however, for as the gathered shepherds looked in wonder another light appeared, closer and much brighter.” 

[angel appears with a bright candle]

“And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  And the angel said unto them…”

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.”

Narrator:  [turn on lights in the room] “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  (Luke 2:9-14)

Chorus:  Silent Night (Verse 2)

Silent night! Holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight!
Glories stream from heaven afar;
Heav'nly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Savior, is born!
Christ, the Savior, is born!

[angels disappear, lights go out except for Nathan’s, and the shepherds discuss this wondrous news]

Shepherd:   “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.”  [David and Nathan nod in agreement]

David:  [addresses his son Nathan] Our duty is with the sheep.  If you would rather go with the others, I will take your place and keep the rest of tonight’s watch.”

Nathan:  [standing tall] “No father, I have the watch.  You go and see the Messiah, and I will stay with the sheep.”  [They hug, and David departs with the other shepherds]

Narrator:  “It was a hard choice for Nathan.  He watched as his father left with the others.  Alone once more, he recalled the angels and their message of peace and hope.   How Nathan wished he could be there with his father and look on the face of the Christ child!  But this, he knew, was a selfish thought.  His duty was here, tending the sheep.  He had seen and heard the heavenly messengers, surely a far greater witness than a lowly shepherd boy had any right to receive.  Heart full of gratitude, Nathan knelt down and thanked God.”  [Nathan kneels to pray]

“As he finished praying, he thought of his fellow shepherds, who perhaps at that very moment were also kneeling before the baby Jesus.  Again he yearned to be with them.  [Nathan stands and begins checking the sheep again.] 

“The silence of the night seemed all the quieter after being filled so recently with angelic voices praising the Lord.  As he checked the sheep once more, Nathan’s mind turned to a scripture written by Isaiah.  Like most of the young men his age, Nathan grew up learning and memorizing the writings of the ancient prophets, and he often pondered them in the silence of the fields.”

Nathan:  “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me… I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no savior (Isaiah 43:10-11).”

Narrator:  “The angel proclaimed that the Christ child was a savior.  That truth now filled his entire soul with light and knowledge.  And then he felt a voice, quiet but clear, repeating the opening words from the verses in Isaiah – ‘Ye are my witnesses…’”

[David and the other shepherds return to the field, speaking excitedly to Nathan]

“As night departed and became day, Nathan’s father and the rest of the ‘… shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them (Luke 2:20).’”

[Nathan, David, the Shepherd, and the Sheep depart together]

“As the days passed, those shepherds traveled throughout Judea as ‘…they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.  And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds (Luke 2:17-18).’  Although Nathan never saw the child with his own eyes, his witness was no less powerful than his fellow shepherds, for amid the silence of that first Christmas night long ago, after the heavenly messengers departed, he had received his own witness from the still, small whisperings of the spirit.” 

Chorus:  Silent Night (Verse 3)

Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth;
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.

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