Rachel's Tears

Maundy Thursday Chapel Service

This chapel service was presented on Maundy Thursday at Unity Christian High School, Hudsonville, Michigan. The service was designed to present a continuation of the Christmas celebration into Holy Week. We wanted students to reflect on the truth of Christmas, that Jesus was born ultimately to die for us. We also wanted students to see the reality of the world into which Jesus was born—a world filled with sin and in desperate need of redemption. The dramatic reading reveals the depth of God’s grace—allowing his only Son to come into a world of darkness and death. This chapel better prepared our community for our Easter celebration of Jesus, the light shining in the darkness.



Room is in darkness, stage lit. Speakers and instrumentalists are all onstage. Speaker 1 is on the far right, speakers 2 and 3 on opposite sides of the screen, which is in the middle. The oboe, flute, and violin are on the left side of the stage. On the screen is a sketch of a bright star in the sky. Note: Speaker 3 would probably be more effective written from a mother’s perspective, but that would not relate as well to high school students.

Oboe plays “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” one time through slowly

Speaker 1: Isaiah 40:3-5

Oboe plays chorus only of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

Speaker 1: Isaiah 9:6

Flute plays “Joy to the World”

Speaker 1: Luke 2:10-14

Violin plays “Silent Night”

Speaker 2: The Christmas story is told and retold every year. Christ’s birth is celebrated with joy. We rejoice in the coming of the Savior of the world. Peace on earth, goodwill to all.

But we’ve cut the story short. We’ve failed to look at the entire story of Christ’s birth. Listen to this story from Matthew of Christ as an infant, perhaps a toddler, but still a child new to this world.

Speaker 1: Matthew 2:13-18

Speaker 2: They are no more — no more! The infant boys of Bethlehem and the surrounding areas are no more—murdered by Herod’s soldiers.

Speaker 3: [speaking animatedly to the audience] Have I told you about my baby brother? He’s so sweet, so cute! He just started to learn how to walk. He holds on to my finger and toddles his way across the floor.

[At first speaker 3 is talking to the audience and ignoring speaker 2; however, as speaking parts continue, speaker 3 is more and more aware of and disturbed by what speaker 2 is saying. A charcoal sketch of a baby drawn by one of the students is projected on the screen.]

Speaker 2: Rachel is weeping; she refuses to be comforted. Her children are no more, killed by cold-blooded soldiers.

Speaker 3: [ignores speaker 2, still speaking to audience] Did I tell you that my brother sleeps with his thumb in his mouth? His hair curls around his ears. He is so precious!

Speaker 2: Angels, where is your peace on earth? Gabriel, where is this Savior of the world? Couldn’t he save innocent babies of Bethlehem? The Prince of Peace? These babies died because of your birth.

Speaker 3: [looks over with concern at speaker 2, then pretends not to hear him and speaks again to the audience]
My brother said his first word, did I tell you? Ball! Well, it didn’t sound quite like “ball,” but I’m sure that’s what he said. Then he smiled with his one-toothed grin. It melted my heart.

Speaker 2: What happened to the silent night? Where is that holy night? There is no peace on earth—only weeping: the gut-wrenching cries of mothers like Rachel who will not be comforted.

[Sketch of Rachel weeping for her children is projected on screen]

Speaker 3: [looks at the screen and then, horrified, at speaker 2] Stop! I don’t want to hear it. Don’t you understand? I love my little brother and I’m not going to let anything happen to him. Ever!

Speaker 2: [looking over at speaker 3, speaks quietly] Neither was Rachel. She had no idea that Herod’s soldiers would be tossing babies into the air and catching them on their spears. She couldn’t stop them.

Speaker 3: [upset] No! You don’t understand! Babies are innocent! How could soldiers be so cruel! This can’t be part of the Christmas story! Who could kill a child? Who could be so evil?

Speaker 2: Nothing and no one could comfort Rachel. She could only scream in horror and weep, and weep.

Speaker 3: [upset] Oh Rachel, how my heart aches for you. [almost whispering] Across the years and years that separate us, I can still hear you weeping.

Speaker 1: Matthew 2:18

Oboe plays “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” once through, stanza only, slowly

[Silhouette sketch of the cross is projected on screen]

Speaker 2: This is the reality of the world that Christ entered. From the perfection of heaven to a crude stable and into an evil world filled with soldiers who didn’t blink an eye at fulfilling Herod’s decree. Do you see how desperately we need a Savior? Do you understand the world into which this perfect Christ-child, our Savior, willingly entered? Can you begin to understand what Jesus gave up for you?

Speaker 1: Isaiah 53:4-6

Speaker 2: This is mercy.

Speaker 3: This is grace.

Speaker 1: This is love, which knows no end.

Solo: “Kyrie Eleison: Lord, Have Mercy”

Speaker 1: Please join me in prayer:

Dear Lord, we cannot even begin to imagine what it must have been like to leave the glories of heaven to come to this earth as a helpless baby in a world of sin and evil. Yet your love and compassion for us is so great that you were willing to sacrifice yourself for each one of us.

We do not deserve your love. Nothing we could do on our own could save us. We so easily fall into sin. We are weak and we lack faith. All we have to do is take a look at the world that you so willingly entered on our behalf and we are humbled.

Open our hearts to respond to your amazing mercy and wonderful grace. In our weakness, open our eyes to see your love.

Bring us into new life through Jesus Christ. In your name we pray, Amen.

As you leave this place, reflect on Christ’s love and sacrifice for you. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. 

Reformed Worship 82 © December 2006, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.