This was originally posted online at the Community of Christ, Scientist
By Cheryl Petersen
The Christmas Company celebrates Christ’s birth, December 25th.
Listed below is the cast of characters, with backstage embellishments.
Herod (37—4 B.C.). Eldest son of Antipater, a civil servant appointed by Julius Caesar, the emperor of Rome. Under his father’s influence, Herod grows up with an intense loyalty to the emperor and is appointed governor of Judea at the age of twenty-eight. Herod displays a capacity to fight brutal battles and cleverly uses diplomacy to climb the ladder of power. He is appointed king of Judea and gains the title, Herod the Great, protecting his territories from enemies and promoting economic and cultural growth in his region, ruled by a central bureaucracy. To guarantee his kingly position, Herod kills his male heirs and his wife, Marianne. Mid-life, personal and domestic problems begin compounding as Herod’s fear outrivals his future ability to help the people. When visited from the east, by Magi, looking for the king of the Jews, Herod, stoked by jealousy, orders all males under the age of two, killed. After his own death, Herod’s will was disputed in Rome and his territory was divided among other leaders.
Joseph. A widowed carpenter who repairs a gate at King Herod’s palace and thinks, “I’m too old to work for uppity-ups with so much drama. I miss having a wife and family.” Being a devote man of God, Joseph visits the temple and breathes in the smell of incense, burned earlier by, Zechariah, a good friend who sits down, listens to Joseph, and writes on a piece of papyrus, “My wife’s cousin, Mary, needs a husband.” Joseph meets Mary, likes her, but feels discombobulated over the fact that Mary is pregnant. But when hand-drilling a peg hole in a future pillar, the world around him fades and Joseph feels wrapped in a dreamy love. He hears a voice that says, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” That night, Joseph tells an understanding Zechariah that he will wed Mary and plans for a quiet ceremony begin.
Zechariah. A descendant of Aaron and priest of the Abijah division, serving in the temple during King Herod’s rule. The elderly couple, Zechariah and Elizabeth, are childless. When burning incense alone, six months prior to Joseph’s mid-life crisis visit to the temple, an angel appears and promises Zechariah, “Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.” (Luke 1:13) Zechariah snarks at the idea of impregnating his wife and looses his ability to speak. Nonetheless, Elizabeth gets pregnant and six months later, Elizabeth’s cousin, Mary, pregnant herself, comes to live with them. Eight days after Elizabeth delivers their child, Zechariah writes on a piece of papyrus, “His name is John.” With those written words, speech returns to Zechariah, and he prophesies audibly that John “Will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins,because of the tender mercy of our God.” (Luke 1:76-78)
John. The son of Zechariah and Elizabeth. John is raised in the wilderness with sobriety and in his late twenties, he begins baptizing others and preaching repentance, earning the title, John the Baptist.
Elizabeth. A descendant of Aaron and barren of child until her pregnancy with John. Six months into her pregnancy, her cousin, Mary, pregnant herself, comes to live behind the temple with her and Zechariah. The women discuss breast feeding, potty training, and God’s promises. Elizabeth blesses Mary’s faith in God to fulfill His promise of a Messiah. After delivering the infant, though elderly, Elizabeth and Zechariah remain spiritually committed to raising John in a sheltered environment.
Mary. The daughter of a peasant and hard worker. A virgin who realizes that there is more to life than toil and flitting joys. When milking the cow, Mary entertains a message from God via the angel Gabriel, who says, “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.” Not quite understanding this message, Mary asks, “How?” Further prayer reveals that the Holy Spirit is the source of the child. Mary answers, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38) Mary goes to live with her cousin, Elizabeth, and becomes betrothed to wed the aged but financially stable Joseph. When big with child, Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem to pay taxes. The town is crowded and noisy. The no-nonsense, farm-girl Mary tells Joseph to find an animal stall for lodging. They settle down. Birth contractions start. Water breaks. Mary yells at Joseph to get her dry clothing and breathes erratically until she gets on her hands and knees and a baby drops from between her legs. She wraps the baby Jesus in cloth (Joseph pulled through by repurposing corn seed sacks) and lays the baby in the empty water trough. She cleans up, helps Joseph prepare a clean bed of straw and they settle down for the coming days. The infant Jesus latches on hungrily and Mary’s nipples callous up. They stay on-site another twelve days, take in visitors, present the helpless baby Jesus in the temple, then obey an angel message to go to Egypt to live for a couple of years. Joseph introduces the toddler Jesus to a hammer and Mary encourages Jesus as a governing manifestation of the Child of a God, fulfilling God’s promised Messiah.
Angel Gabriel. Messenger from God, declaring God’s favor and spiritual sense of life and truth.
Shepherds. Caretakers of sheep, living in the fields, staying awake at night to protect the flock from accidently following each other over a cliff or getting eaten by bears. On the night of Jesus’ birth, the shepherds stop to admire the stars, but the sky becomes luminous, and the stars disappear. The shepherds’ eyes get big as frisbees, but they say nothing until after hearing an angel say, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12) The sky darkens, stars re-appear and sure enough, one star is bigger than all the rest. The shepherd with the longest beard says, “I bet that star is leading us to the baby.” They find Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, give them some bread and sheep’s milk, talk for a while about herding flocks and carpentry, then return to the fields, but tell everyone they meet about the baby, a Saviour.
Simeon. A devout Jew who, when sweeping the porch of the Temple, saw Mary carrying the baby Jesus toward him. And he knew. Simeon knew that an earlier prayer was being answered. The living prayer was presence of the Holy Spirit, promising him that he would not die before seeing the long-awaited Messiah. He followed Mary and Joseph into the temple court and approached to bless Jesus, saying, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace,” bewildering and bedazzling Joseph and Mary.
Anna. The daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher; a widow for fifty-two years and woman who didn’t leave the temple. She watched Simeon follow Joseph and Mary into the temple and put it together what was going on. Anna approached and “gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:38)
Magi. Members of a priestly caste of ancient eastern Persia who were inspired to search for the king of the Jews. They stopped in Jerusalem first and asked around, even asking King Herod, “Where is the king of the Jews?” Getting no answers and feeling as though the people didn’t want to consider new ideas and governing body, the Magi walked on, following a bright star, to find the baby Jesus in the manger. They gave the child, “Gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11) But didn’t stay long because the animal stall was small and smelly.
Jesus. A representative of life, truth, and love. Born to magnify Christ, the true idea of God as divine Spirit, as presence and power itself. Jesus spent the first few years in Egypt then moved with his family to Nazareth. He became a carpenter but at the age of thirty, transitioned into preaching and teaching about God. Jesus’ ability to live and behold the child of God, the image of God, brought about restorations of hope and health.