The Real Christmas

This play is intended to be used in informal settings—maybe around the dinner table or in front of the fireplace with your family or with a group of friends. There are four characters, but don’t worry if you have fewer than four people—Pat and Chris could be read by the same person. On the other hand, if you have more than four people, have two people share a part. You’ll notice that the names are all gender neutral. We hope you’ll have fun with it!

[Pat, Sam, Chris and C.J. are talking around the dinner table. Sam has headphones on and is bopping to the tunes.]

C.J.: I love Christmas!

Chris: Sam! Sam! [a little louder] Sam! Put the iPod away. We’re talking about Christmas.

Sam: What?

Chris: Take off the headphones and be part of the group.

Sam: I can talk and listen at the same time. I’m postmodern.

Chris: You’re also post-polite. Turn off the music.

Sam: OK, fine. [removes headphones]

C.J.: As I was saying, I love Christmas!

Pat: You’re just saying that because you get presents.

C.J.: That’s not true. There are lots of reasons why I like Christmas.

Pat: But most of the reasons have to do with presents.

C.J.: Well, yeah—I like the presents, but I like other things too.

Chris: What things?

Sam: I like the music.

C.J.: That’s it! I like the music.

Pat: Can you even name one Christmas song?

C.J.: How about “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.”

Pat: Do you know any songs about Jesus’ birth?

Sam: I’ve got some good songs. You want to hear them?

Pat: No, I’m trying to see if C.J. knows anything about Christmas except for presents. So, C.J.—do you know any songs?

C.J.: Sure I do—“Let It Snow.” That has Jesus in it, doesn’t it?

Pat: No, it doesn’t.

Sam: This is hopeless.

Chris: I think C.J.’s just kidding. There are other great things about Christmas.

C.J.: How about decorations? I like those.

Sam: Me too. They’re so cool.

Pat: Really? You didn’t put one ornament on the Christmas tree this year.

Sam: Just because I don’t like decorating doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy what others do. Besides, I was thinking mostly about the way people have the outsides of their houses decorated.

Chris: Right! All those beautiful lights twinkling really help me think about the mystery of Christmas.

Sam: Actually, I like the way our neighbors across the street come up with something new to add to their lawn every year.

Pat: That’s true. Every year their display gets bigger and bigger.

Sam: Yeah—remember last year when they added Rudolph to the nativity scene?

C.J.: I liked Rudolph! His head went up and down.

Sam: Yeah, you watched it for hours!

Chris: And this year they added the wise men. That was so strange!

Sam: Why do you say that?

Chris: Because neither Rudolph nor the wise men were at the manger when Jesus was born.

Sam: Sure they were.

C.J.: Rudolph was at the manger?

Sam: No. Not Rudolph. The wise men.

Chris: No, they weren’t.

Sam: This is easy to settle. Let’s look in the Bible.

[Chris reaches for the Bible and opens it.]

Chris: Look, here’s Luke 2, the Christmas story. Do you see wise men anywhere?

Sam: OK, let’s have a look. [looks at Bible] Let’s see. There’s Caesar Augustus. There’s Quirinius . . .

C.J.: Quirinius? Who’s that?

Chris: He was the governor of Syria.

C.J.: What’s he doing in the Christmas story?

Chris: Not much. They just mention that he was the governor.

Sam: Maybe our neighbor should add him to their yard display!

Pat: That’s not funny. Who else is in the Bible story?

Chris: Well, let’s see—Joseph . . . Mary . . . shepherds—that’s pretty much it.

C.J.: What do you mean, that’s it? Where’s everybody else?

Pat: Who else are you looking for?

C.J.: Where’s the innkeeper?

Pat: What innkeeper?

C.J.: The one who said, “There’s no room in the inn.”

Sam: Yeah, that’s the guy. Mary and Joseph begged for help and the innkeeper gave them a room in the stable.

Chris: I’m not sure he’s actually in the story. Here’s what it says: “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

Sam: Keep reading, next comes the part where the innkeeper comes to the door and talks to them. I think the innkeeper had a British accent.

Chris: Not according to the Bible. It goes right to the part about shepherds.

C.J.: That can’t be! You mean to tell me that Quirkiness is mentioned and the innkeeper isn’t?

Chris: That’s Quirinius—but yes, that’s right.

Sam: That’s strange. What about the part where they’re trudging through the snow?

Pat: There’s no trudging and no snow in the Christmas story.

Sam: No snow? Then how did they build the snowman?

C.J.: You’re kidding, right?

Sam: Well, I’m kidding about the snowman. But I really thought there was snow.

Chris: Let’s see. So far we have no innkeeper, no snow, and no wise men.

C.J.: Well, the wise men have to be there somewhere. They came to the manger too, didn’t they?

Sam: I know they’re in the Christmas story.

Pat: They are in the Christmas story—just not in the book of Luke.

Sam: See, I knew it was in the Bible someplace. Where do we find it?

Chris: It’s in the book of Matthew—right here in the second chapter. But I’m not so sure about being at the manger. Verse 11 says, “On coming to the house, [the wise men] saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.”

Pat: See? They came to a house—not a manger.

Sam: I wonder why it says that. Jesus was born in a stable, not a house.

Pat: Many people think that it was quite a while before the wise men got there—maybe even more than a year.

Sam: Really? I thought they were there with the shepherds.

Pat: Well, they were following the star but we don’t know when they arrived.

C.J.: Oh. At least the star is in the Bible, isn’t it?

Chris: Yes, that part’s in the Bible. There really is a lot of neat stuff in the Christmas story—the actual Christmas story, not the made-up one.

Sam: What do you mean—the made-up one?

Chris: Well, Christmas has become a huge celebration, with presents and trees and decorations and stories like Frosty and Rudolph and Santa.

Pat: Sometime it’s hard to keep track of what really happened and the parts that people made up.

C.J.: It’s not that surprising that people get mixed up. We seem to hear the parts that aren’t in the Bible as much as we do the things that are really there.

Sam: We ought to do something about this! We should start a petition or something.

Chris: That might be really good idea, but first we need to do a little homework.

Sam: Homework? Not me. I’m on Christmas vacation!

Chris: Not that kind of homework—before we tell other people how to remember the real story of Christmas, we need to make sure we’re celebrating the right way.

Sam: Maybe we can get rid of some of the decorations.

Pat: You would say that—you didn’t put any up!

Sam: Maybe we can work on singing more songs about Jesus and fewer songs about snow.

C.J.: Maybe we shouldn’t have so many presents.

Sam: Let’s not get crazy!

Chris: But you do see the point, don’t you?

Sam: Yes, I think so. We have to make sure that we keep our minds on the real story and not let the other stuff get in the way.

Pat: We need to remember that Jesus, God’s own Son, became a baby, born in a stable, so that he could be one of us.

C.J.: I guess that is a lot more important than decorations . . .

Sam: and even more important than presents.

C.J.: If we think about the real story of Christmas then we really have something to celebrate!

Sam: It’s enough to make me want to throw a party! We can invite our family and friends.

C.J.: We could decorate and sing songs!

Chris: I think that’s a great idea.

Sam: So presents are OK after all?

Chris: I think they are.

Sam: That’s good!

Chris: . . . but let’s remember first of all to thank God for the gift of his Son.

About the Author

Laura Keeley is a regional catalyzer for Faith Formation Ministries and director of children’s ministries at 14th St. CRC in Holland, Mich.

Robert J. Keeley is a professor of education at Calvin College and director of distance education at Calvin Seminary.

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