Christmas
Easter
Pentecost

All Saints
Christ The King
Confirmation
Palm/Passion
Reformation
Stewardship

Books of the Bible
Lenten Series
Christmas Dramas

Videos

Series A - Matthew
Series B - Mark
Series C - Luke
Series D - Other







To contact
Edward F. Markquart

info@sfs.com

Christmas
Off Limits Shepherds



The Sunday before Christmas

(Adapted from the drama, OFF LIMITS SHEPHERDS by Gurden Henley. It is from THREE WORSHIP DRAMAS FOR CHRISTMAS by Baker and is available from CSS Publishing of Lima, Ohio. Contact Deedee Norton at CSS by telephoning 1-800-537-1030 or emailing her at dnorton@csspub.com. The publishing rights are inexpensive.) 

Scene
The stable where Christ was born. The stable should be decorated with hay or straw and some live animals. A live donkey is a must. The stable should be decorated with a series of signs e.g. ĎOFF LIMITS TO SHEPHERDS,í ĎNO SHEPHERDS ALLOWED,í ĎSHEPHERDS KEEP OUT,í etc. 

Setting
The first Christmas

Ezra 
(Talking to his donkey as he comes down the aisle of the church with the donkey, making up dialogue with Primrose until the two get into place and the following soliloquy begins.)

I am really tired tonight. Are you Primrose? We worked so hard today. We had all those people here in town. Come on Primrose. Here letís open the door into the stable. (imaginary opening of the door.) Oh, you must be so tired. (feeding the donkey carrots, chatting with him; the donkey will turn and look at Ezra in order to eat the carrots and the congregation will laugh as the donkeyís ears perk up towards Ezra.) I am glad that it has finally calmed down around here. Bet you are tired after a long dayís work like that. I know I am. ... Iíll be glad when everybody leaves Bethlehem and goes home. Home. Well, they should be glad that they have a home. I donít have a home. (getting louder.) Those Romans burned my home. My Anna got killed. And all seven of my children got destroyed. My entire village was wiped out, just because we fed those Zealots. The Roman army came in and killed them all. You saw it, didnít you Primrose. I saw it with my eyes and you saw it with yours. It was just so terrible when they came in ... and Ö what they did to my ... my ... O God. Ohh. Oh. Primrose, I didnít mean to do that. I didnít mean to do that. Sometimes I lose control of myself, Primrose. Especially in the nighttime. The nighttime is the worst time, when all those memories start brooding inside of me. The daytime is much better. Guess because there is so much work to do during the day, and we donít have time to think. ... The inn is absolutely bulging tonight with tired and cranky people. I wouldnít be very happy either, if I have to come here to Bethlehem and pay all those taxes. ... But the boss is really happy tonight. The boss is really happy because he is making all kinds of money off those customers. He says, ďGo and get some more bread. Go and get some more wine. (he shouts) Get more firewood, Ezra.Ē. ... How many trips did we have to make today, Primrose, to get firewood? I bet you are tired, Primrose. I am tired. (pats donkey) We should get some sleep. No stomping tonight, OK? I know the stable is full of all those other animals, and they make you nervous, but we both need to rest. (He goes up to his bale of hay where he is to sleep for the night and covers himself with a blanket.) I need a good nights sleep tonight. Ohhhhh, this feels so good to be off my tired feet. Ohhh. Oh. (He is quiet for a moment and then begins to snore. The innkeeper is coming down the aisle.)

Innkeeper
(tries to open door, but it is locked; so he/she (man or woman) knocks loudly and continuously.) EZRA. (very disgustedly.) OPEN THIS DOOR!!!

Ezra
Yes, Iím coming. Iím coming.

Innkeeper
Open this door. Hurry up and unlock this door.

Ezra 
Iím coming. Iím coming. Yes, maíam. Come on in. 

Innkeeper 
How many times do I have to tell you that you donít have to lock that door? Why do you lock that door anyhow? There is nothing here that anyone would want?

Ezra 
Itís those shepherds. Those shepherds might come in while I am sleeping. Theyíre such a scummy lot. Theyíll steal anything that can get their scummy little hands on.

Innkeeper 
Why do you keep going on and on about those shepherds? Theyíre just people...just ordinary people. They are no better nor worse than anyone else.

Ezra 
Why, they are a bunch of crooks. Thieves. Foulmouthed robbers. Thatís what they are.

Innkeeper 
Ezra, why are you so prejudiced?

Ezra 
I have yet to see a good one. 

Innkeeper
(Purposely changing the subject) Ezra, I have something to show you. Just a minute. (She motions out the door for a little boy to come and he comes running down the aisle and into the door of the stable. During the following speech, Ezra is sizing up the boy in a gruff but gentle way.) I found this little boy huddled in the courtyard. He was part of the caravan that arrived today from Mesopotamia. He followed them. He followed them like a stray dog and they threw stones at him to drive him away, but they couldnít get rid of him. Obviously, he doesnít have a home. When I made my final rounds outside the inn, I saw him huddled against the building, all shivering and cold. I couldnít bear the thought of him being outside and freezing tonight, so I thought he could come in and stay with you by the fire for just one night. 

Ezra 
OK maíam. If you insist. 

Innkeeper 
(She starts to leave and then calls back.) O yes, I am sending out another couple also. They have just arrived from Nazareth and she is expecting a child at any time. The maid is fixing them a bite to eat, and then they will be coming out here. I didnít have the heart to send them away...not with her expecting a child and all.

Ezra 
But where am I going to put them? (really whining)

Innkeeper 
(Starts to leave again). Youíll manage Ezra. You always do. Oh, there is one more thing.

Ezra 
O no.

Innkeeper 
I forgot to tell you. Our young boy here, he speaks no Hebrew, no Arabic, no Greek. The folks from the caravan couldnít figure out which language he does speak. Good night, Ezra. (she leaves) 

Ezra 
Good night maíam. (Ezra closes the door and looks at the boy. They stand, looking at each other, face to face, almost bowing to each other as they speak.) Hmmmmm....Hello. (no reponse). Hiiiiiiiiii. 

Lopsa 
Hiiiiiiiiiii (imitates Ezraís exact sounding of the word, hi, ever so slowly)

Ezra 
Hiiiiii

Lopsa 
Hiiiii

Ezra 
My name is Ezra. (no reponse from the boy.) Numrra est Ezra. (no reponse) Me Ezra. (points to himself.) Ezra. Ezra. (continuing to point to himself)

Lopsa 
(Finally comprehending). Eeeezzzzzrrrrrraaaaaa? 

Ezra 
(smiling,nodding, pointing to self) Yes, Ezra.

Lopsa 
(pointing to Ezra) Ezra. Ezra.

Ezra 
Yes, Ezra, and whatís your name? (no reponse) You. (points at Lopsa) You...whatís your name?

Lopsa 
(pointing to himself.) Sa ben hab? (pointing to himself) Sa ben hab? (points to himself) Ben hab ... Lopsa. (slowly) (points to himself.) Lopsa.

Ezra 
Lopsa? (slowly)

Lopsa 
(all smiles) Lopsa ben hab. Lopsa.

Ezra 
Well, Lopsa. Iíve gotta go to bed. Iíve got a big day tomorrow, and I gotta get some sleep. (He goes to his bale of hay, starts to lie down, groans, and then notices the boy, just standing there, frightened looking. He gets up, takes the boy to a blanket and tenderly tucks him in; and then goes and sits by the fire with his head in his hands, speaking very softly, whispering at first to Primrose.) Primrose. Are you asleep, Primrose? (goes over towards Primrose, but not close enough to get Primrose looking at him and thus creating laughter in the congregation.) Primrose, that little boy there? He reminds me of my little boy, Jacob, with the dark brown hair. My little Jacobís hair was so soft as it curled up against his face. When I tucked that little boy in tonight, he reminds me of my own children. Then ... then ...Those deepest memories. Hidden so deeply in my heart so they wonít hurt me. Then... something like this happens, and it starts digging them up again. (louder) It was those Romans. It was the Romans who killed my children, my Anna, my Jacob. Ohhhh. Ahhhh. (crying out in pain) How long before you get rid of those Romans O Lord? How long before the Messiah comes? How long...before you heal meeee? Ohhh. Ahh. ... I am sorry Primrose. I didnít mean to lose it again. Primrose, I need to get some more sleep. I need to get to bed ... more sleep...to bed...more sleep...to bed. (goes to sleep again. Soft knock on the door by Joseph and Mary who are waiting outside. They wake him. He is startled and unhappy with the interruption). Iím coming. Iím coming. Maybe the boss is right. Maybe I should just leave this door unlocked. (As he opens the door) You must be the ones the boss told me about. Come in.

Joe 
I am Joseph, and my wifeís name is Mary. The innkeeper told us we might stay here tonight.

Ezra 
Yes, (yawning) She told me you were coming.

Joe 
Thanks for letting us spend the night. We wonít take much space. 

Ezra 
Yes, yes. (yawning again) Hereís a lamp. You can have the entire backside of the stable to yourselves. (laughs) That is, if you donít count the camels and donkeys. (Joseph and Mary exit to the back, behind the altar, Joseph holding the lantern and carrying a large bundle, plus helping Mary along.) Good night. Iíll keep the fire going all night. If you should get chilly, you can come out here and warm yourselves.

Joe 
Thank you, sir. Good night. She could have her baby at any time. 

Ezra 
Ya, it looks like that could happen anytime. (They exit behind the altar) Primrose, are you still awake? Primrose, you still awake over there? What am I going to do with that little tyke over there? What am I going to do with that little tyke over there in my bed? We just canít send him out into the world with nowhere to go and no one to care for him. He just canít continue chasing after caravans ... They will throw rocks at him trying to get rid of him. Nobody wants him. And Iím so lonesome. Maybe. Maybe we could take him in. Maybe we could take him in and he could be part of our family. I donít mean to hurt your feelings Primrose. But Iíve got no one to talk to. I mean, I talk to you Primrose, but you never talk to me. You never talk to me. I need someone to talk with.... ... (Whaaaa. Whaaaaa. A baby cries through the microphone.) Oh. Oh. Oh. Oh. 

Joe 
Youíre awake? The babyís just been born. Can we come in closer to the fire? It is so cold back there? 

Ezra 
Of course, of course, I wouldnít mind. (Joseph goes and gets Mary and the baby who come center stage by the fire. Mary is holding the baby.) Iíll build up the fire bigger. Iíll make it bigger. Oooohh, ahhhhhm, ohhhh, What a wonderful new baby. (looking at the baby.) Is it a boy or a girl?

Joe 
Oh, heís a fine boy. Just like the angel said. (Mary smiles.)We named him Jesus. Rather, ...God named him Jesus.

Ezra 
Jesus means savior. But, what do you mean, that God...named him?

Joe 
I know itís hard to believe, with him being born here in a barn and all, but he is truly the Messiah.

Ezra 
O sure. Sure. Every Jewish mother and father thinks their child is the Messiah. I know that Anna and I felt that way, that my children (his mood suddenly and momentarily turns into a painful rage) ... my children ... my children got killed and they didnít even have a chance.

Joe 
But itís true. Heís the Messiah. Youíll see. 

Ezra 
I donít know if itís true or not. But we have to find a place for the baby. What can we do? Where can we put him? Primrose. Primrose? I need to take your manger. Youíve already eaten. You have had enough to eat already, so I am going to use your manger for the new baby. Ok? Here, I will put the manger here, not far from the fire. This will be a good place for the baby. 

Mary 
Thank you. Thatís very nice of you. (Lopsa brings outer garment he has been wrapped in and lays it in the straw). Thank you, son. That was sweet of you. 

Ezra 
No use talking to him. He doesnít understand any of the languages we know. He doesnít understand anything.

Mary 
Everyone understand this ... in any language. (She hugs him, he beams and leans into her, obviously enjoying it.)

Ezra 
Say, Iíve got something I saved. (Ezra goes and gets an ornate box and pulls from it some white cloth and a little boyís garment.) Swaddling cloth, left over from when I buried my family. Perhaps it would do to wrap the baby in it. He needs something warm and soft. ... And here Lopsa, the one garment I saved from my son, Jacob. It might be a bit big, but I think you can wear it. (Mary takes the swaddling cloth and wraps the baby in it, then lays him in the manger. Lopsa is elated with the robe and puts it on. There is a knock at the door) Come in. (Three shepherds, who had been coming down the aisle, begin to come in. Ezra sees that they are shepherds, with shepherd staffs, and is immediately on his feet, pushing them out the door.) Uh. Oh. No you donít. You donít come in. No shepherds are allowed here.

Joe 
But why canít they come in?

Ezra 
Canít you see the sign? This place is off limits to shepherds. (Lopsa is at the door and takes it that he is being shouted at to leave, so he exits.) Get out. Beat it. (The shepherds refuse to go and speak to Joseph around Ezra who is still shouting at them to go.)

Shepherd 1 
But please. We only need to ask a question, and if the answer is ďno,Ē then we will gladly be on our way.

Ezra 
(standing in front of them, preventing them from moving ahead) What is your question? Ask it. Then be on your way.

Shepherd 2 
Is there a new-born baby boy here, and is he wrapped in swaddling clothes?

Ezra 
Why yes, there is. Uh, but how did you know? 

Shepherd 1 
An angel told us. Not just one angel... (They all press forward toward the baby, passing by Ezra who is in a state of shock.)

Shepherd 3 
Many angels. The sky was full of angels.

Shepherd 1 
They were all singing, ďGlory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace , good will to all people.Ē

Shepherd 2 
They told us to go to Bethlehem and this would be a sign to us...we would find the babe wrapped in swaddling cloth and lying in a manger. We stopped at several stables, but no baby. Then we saw the star over this one and sure enough, just like the angel said.

Shepherd 1 
The angel told us: FOR UNTO YOU IS BORN THIS DAY IN THE CITY OF DAVID, A SAVIOR, WHO IS CHRIST THE LORD. He was talking to us shepherds. Then he said that the news was to ALL PEOPLE. He included us shepherds. To ALL people.

Ezra 
No. No. No. It canít be so. You have told your story. Get out. 

Shepherd 3 
(Ignoring Ezra) I brought my best lamb as an offering to the Messiah. (he gives his gift to Joseph, then kneels in front of the manger.) 

Ezra 
(Becoming very upset) How did this ever happen? Shepherds in my stable! O no. Theyíll walk off with everything that is not tied down. A bunch of thieves. (frantically begins putting things away, starting with his ornate box) How disgusting. Shepherds in my stable? Get out of here. 

Shepherd 1 
We came to worship the Messiah. The angel said, ďA savior who is Christ the Lord.Ē (Lopsa comes running down the aisle during this speech, the door flies open and Lopsa runs in, gesturing excitedly.)

Lopsa 
Peen ta la fraken. Peen ta la fraken. (gesturing with hands, pointing to a star high in the sky, and then showing its rays coming down) Peen ta la fraken. (Lopsa takes Ezra by the hand and excitedly leads him outside, up the center aisle into the congregation, pointing up to and seeing the star, shouting, Peen ta la fraken. In a moment, they both come back in very excited.)

Ezra 
A star. Not just a star ... a mysterious star. 

Lopsa
la fraken.

Ezra 
An amazing star. The most brilliant star that youíve ever seen, almost like the sun. With shooting rays coming down and lighting up my stable. Itís amazing. 

Shepherd 1 
We told you. The star guided us here ... otherwise we would be checking out other stables for a baby...wrapped in swaddling cloth.

Shepherd 2 
See, the Messiah has come. (shepherds kneel in worship. Before Ezra kneels, he goes and symbolically pulls down all the signs forbidding shepherds to enter, dropping the signs on the floor. His actions are symbolically powerful. Then he goes and kneels beside the shepherds, putting both arms around two shepherds. He looks up and sees Lopsa standing alone by the door. He motions for Lopsa to come to him and Lopsa comes to squeeze in near Ezra.)

Lopsa 
(as he goes to Ezra) Peen ta la fraken!

Ezra 
en ta la fraken. 

(Lopsa kneels beside Ezra who places an arm around him. Then Lopsa puts his arms around Ezra, who has his other arm around a shepherd. The lights fade out. The play ends. People applaud. The players leave. The organist then quietly begins ĎAway in a Mangerí. The light comes up just a bit, and Ezra takes Primrose back out the center aisle, talking to Primrose about another days work, chattering with the donkey and himself until he is out the center aisle. The organ then swells into the first stanza, the congregation rises and sings the hymn.)



Back to Top