In the Fullness of Time: A Christmas drama
In the Fullness of Time” was the third annual Christmas drama we wrote and produced. This year we decided to present the drama on two consecutive nights: not only for space reasons, but also to give actors a chance to have the satisfaction of performing twice after all their hard work at rehearsals!
Our actors did an excellent job of portraying what the script was trying to say. The range of ages on stage and the surprising gifts we discovered in each other made this a huge treat to watch. We were amazed to see the written words come to life.
Performance time runs 50 to 60 minutes.
“O Come, All Ye Faithful” PsH 340, PH 41, RL 195, TH 208, TWC 173.
“Night of Silence” with “Silent Night! Holy Night!” PsH 344, PH 60, RL 216, TH 210, TWC 164.
[Stage left: Living room. Mother hums as she sews, wraps costumes, and prepares manger scene. Low light.
Grandmother sits in a chair with crossword/magazine/knitting. A decorated Christmas tree (no Santa) has a couple of presents underneath. Enter Children, who gape at the packages.]
Children: Is it time yet?
Grandmother: Goodness no—you know that everything has to be ready before we begin.
Children: But we can’t wait, we’re ready. Why does it have to take so long?
Grandmother: You know what they say, all good things come to those who wait. Of course, I don’t suppose it helps a bit to hear me say that, now does it? [pause] Listen, why don’t I tell you a story to pass the time. Let’s see if that helps.
Children: [disappointed] O-kaay.
Grandmother: Let me see now . . . oh, I know just the story. Once upon a time there were these sea-faring folk—well, they weren’t really seafaring folk. I mean . . . they hadn’t started out that way. I think they started out as farmers, caring for animals, or maybe it was carpentry. Well anyway, one day they had the most incredible experience. . . .
[Fade out and lights up center front where Noah is sleeping.]
Note: Each “story” is presented in front of or opposite the living room scene, depending on stage set-up; actors usually carry in their own props or backdrops.
Voice of God: [offstage; thunderous and distant] Noah, Noah.
Noah: Hmmfathmmthmm. [turns over]
Voice: [louder] Noah!
Noah: [half asleep] I’ll be there in a minute, go ahead and start without me.
Noah: [jumps up, looks around wild-eyed, grabs stick, ready to fight] Who’s there? Come on out and fight like a man.
Voice: I don’t think you know what you are asking.
Noah: Who are you? Where are you?
Voice: I am the Lord God, and I am with you . . . always.
Noah: [collapsing into kneel] What do you want from me?
Voice: I want you to build a great big boat.
Noah: Yes Lord. [confused] A big boat? But I don’t know anything about boats. And why? Right here? Now?
Voice: I have seen the mess people have made of their lives and of the world. It hurts me, Noah. This world could be such a wonderful place. I am going to wash it clean with a flood of water. I am going to start fresh with your family and the animals you take with you in the boat.
Noah: Wow, that sounds exciting, and scary, and risky, and . . . strange.
Voice: Trust me, Noah. I will be with you.
[Lights fade to choir. Choir sings “Wait for the Lord” (3x) with organ & flute.]
Child 1: Did he do it?
Grandmother: He sure did. He built the boat and loaded the animals and his family, and then they waited.
Child 2: What happened?
Grandmother: They waited. Then it started to rain, and the boat started to float. It rained and rained and rained.
Child 1: How long?
Grandmother: Forty days and forty nights.
Child 3: That’s worse than the time we went camping and it rained the whole weekend!
Child 2: But at least we didn’t have any animals along.
Child 3: Well . . . Dad was snoring like a grizzly bear.
Child 1: Speaking of Dad, when is he going to get home so we can start?
[Center front: Noah and Children (N1 and N2) enter, holding ark in front of them.]
Noah: Look, kids, it stopped raining.
Child N1: Are we almost there yet?
Noah: We have to wait for the earth to dry up.
Child N2: Tell the elephant to move over, he’s on my side.
Child N1: The monkey is picking at me.
Noah: Okay, let’s be patient. Can’t be long now.
[Choir and congregation sing “Wait for the Lord” (3x with organ & flute). Choir sings first time, congregation joins on the repetitions.]
Child 1: That must have been an awful long wait.
Child 3: Imagine how bad it must have smelled.
Grandmother: But I am sure it was all worth it when they finally opened the door on a clean, fresh world.
Child 2: Great story, but is it time yet?
Child 1: [at window] Look at the snow piling up.
Child 3: I hope it doesn’t snow for forty days straight—now that would be a flood.
Child 1: Look how white and clean everything is.
Grandmother: Well, I’m sure the snow will delay things a little. Why don’t you gather around for another story?
Child 2: You mean it isn’t time yet?
Grandmother: I’m afraid not. Be patient, and I’ll tell you a story of a couple of people who had to be very patient. They had received a promise, but they had to wait for it to come.
Child 3: Like when I sent away for the new computer game in the mail and it took like forever to arrive?
Grandmother: Something like that . . . but what they were waiting for was a little more special than a computer game.
[Choir sings “My Soul in Stillness Waits,” refrain; stanzas 1 and 3, solo. Piano continues playing into next scene, perhaps once through the refrain.]
[Tent for this scene is set up from the beginning, off to the side. Abraham and Sarah sit in front of tent; Sarah is sniffling, crying.]
Abraham: What’s the matter, dear?
Sarah: I was just thinking about all those years of hoping to have a baby. The times we thought I might be pregnant. The waiting and wondering. Getting excited, and then getting depressed. It still hurts when I remember. Sometimes I just want to scream: God, why did you give us bodies that can’t produce children? Why did you get our hopes up with words of promise? [shakes fist at heaven] Why? Why? Why?
Abraham: [sighs] It has been hard, hasn’t it? And yet, something inside me keeps on thinking—maybe we will have a child yet. As crazy as it sounds, I can’t get away from that feeling.
Sarah: Crazy is right. You’re lucky you’re old enough so people expect you to be senile, otherwise that kind of talk might get you locked up. [pause] This barren old body is tired, and this old mind is cried out, so I’m going to bed.
Abraham: Sweet dreams.
Sarah: I guess since you have your dreams while you’re wide awake, you don’t need to come to take a nap.
[A visitor stands off in the distance. Startled, Abraham gets up and walks over.]
Abraham: [with obvious awe, stammers] Pl-please, if you will, please honor me with the gift of your presence at my tent.
Visitor: Thank you. [pause] Abraham, I have good news for you.
Abraham: I can only welcome good news.
Visitor: You and Sarah are going to have a baby.
[Abraham’s jaw drops; Sarah, silhouetted in the tent, obviously listening in, breaks out in laughter.]
Visitor: [not amused] And you will name him “Laughter.”
Abraham: We are very sorry, we mean no disrespect, but you do realize how old we are. This news is almost enough to stop my heart.
Sarah, did you hear that? After all these years, we are going to have a baby.
I could get up and dance a jig. [tries] Nope, I guess I couldn’t. A baby, we are going to have a baby. This I’ll have to see.
[Music begins; choir sings “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”]
Child 1: So, did they have the baby?
Grandmother: Yes they did—one year later Abraham and Sarah had a bouncing baby boy.
Child 3: Wow, that would be like you and Grandpa having another baby!
Grandmother: Well, we’re not quite that old—Abraham and Sarah were over ninety! But you are right, we don’t expect to have children at our age either. They had to wait a long time, but what God had promised came true.
Child 2: Speaking of waiting, is it time yet?
Grandmother: Your father just walked in, so it must be getting close.
Child 1: Daddy, Daddy, is it time?
Father: Not yet. Be patient, the time will come. Right now your mother is just finishing a few things. What have you been doing?
Child 3: Grandma has been telling us about Noah waiting for the flood to dry up and about Abraham and Sarah waiting for a child.
Father: Waiting stories, eh? Good idea. How about if I tell one too?
Child 2: [whining] You mean there’s enough time for another whole story?
Father: Probably. Either way, it will make time pass faster.
Child 2: All right.
Father: Let me see now . . . there was this family—well, it was more than a family, it was an extended family—and they were traveling together.
Child 3: Were they going to a family reunion?
Father: No, they already lived together.
Child 1: They must have had a big house.
Father: Actually, they lived in tents. They had been travelling for years.
Child 2: Years?! How could they stand living in tents for years?
[Desert child and Desert parent slowly walk on stage; “King of Kings” is played slowly until dialogue begins.]
Desert child: We’ve been walking for years. I’m so sick of living in tents, I can hardly stand it. Every day we pack up, walk all day, set up camp, go to sleep, wake up, pack up—I’ve had it!
Desert parent: Now, now—don’t exaggerate. We don’t do that every day.
Desert child: Right, sometimes we get to stop and have a war because someone’s attacking us—that’s always a real treat.
Desert parent: But God has been protecting us all along—just as God promised. We always have enough to eat.
Desert child: Don’t get me started on the food. Every day it’s manna bread. Manna mush for breakfast, manna cakes for lunch, and manna stew for supper. I’m amazed nobody has figured out a way to make manna juice.
Desert parent: You need to keep your eyes focused ahead on where we are going. Remember? The promised land—a land flowing with milk and honey.
Desert child: Mmmm—honey!
Desert parent: A land of peace and plenty.
Desert child: Are we almost there? I can’t wait.
Desert parent: I know it seems like forever, but we learn something as we wait.
Desert child: Like what?
Desert parent: Well, patience, for starters. And we learn what really counts—the basics like family and safety—and how God can supply these things even out here in the wilderness. I can see how you might be impatient with the manna and the wars and the wait. But imagine what it would be like to face those things without God on our side.
Desert child: I know. But I still wish we didn’t have to wait so long.
[Congregation sings “Those Who Wait upon the Lord.”]
Child 2: I know the stories make time go by, but I sure wish we didn’t have to wait so long.
Child 3: How long did they live like that?
Father: Forty years.
Child 2: We don’t have to wait forty years, do we?
Father: No, I don’t think you’ve even been waiting forty minutes!
Mother: [enters] Is everyone ready? It’s time!
Child 1: It’s time!
Child 2: It’s time!
Child 3: It’s time!
Father: Everything is ready?
Mother: We are fully prepared. It is time.
[Father gets presents from tree and hands them to children, mother, grandmother, and self. They open them simultaneously to find costumes and script for the Christmas story. As they open gifts and put on costumes, piano plays “Silent Night.”]
Child 1: I’m a shepherd!
Child 2: I’m Mary!
Child 3: I’m Joseph!
Mother: I’m an angel!
Father: I’m John the Baptist!
Grandmother: I’m the narrator! Is everyone ready? [all finish adjusting costumes] Places, everyone.
[John the Baptist stays right; others go center; Sarah, Noah, Noah’s children, and desert parent and child are watching from stage left in dim light.]
Angel: Greetings, highly favored one. The Lord God is with you.
Mary: Oh—who are you? What does this greeting mean?
Angel: Do not be afraid, Mary. God is going to bless you. You are going to have a child. You shall call him Jesus. He is the promised one, the expected one, the prince of peace.
Mary: Me? Pregnant? How can this be? I don’t have a husband. I can’t have a child.
Angel: God will make it so by the power of the Holy Spirit. The child will be called the Son of God Most High. Nothing is impossible for God. And God is with you.
Mary: I am God’s servant. May I be so blessed as you have said.
[Soloist sings “Breath of Heaven.”]
John: Prepare the way of the Lord, straighten up your ways for the coming one.
Sarah: But Abraham’s children, they have the promise.
John: God could make children for Abraham from stones. God wants your heart to soften that you might receive God’s Son, your king.
Desert child: But we have the promised land, the Holy City, the temple of the Lord.
John: You are planted in the land, but are you bearing fruit that shows you are rooted in God?
[Choir sings “In the Depth of Winter’s Darkness.”]
Narrator: At that time, Emperor Caesar called for a count of all the people in the world. People everywhere went to their home town to be counted. Joseph took Mary to Bethlehem, because he was of the family of David, the great king of Abraham’s offspring.
While they were there the time came—the most anticipated moment of history—and it almost slipped by unnoticed.
Joseph: Oh, Mary, I’m sorry we have to stay here in the stable. Maybe I should go see if one of my relatives has a bed for you in a house.
Mary: No-ohhh. Joseph, stay with me.
Joseph: What Mary, is it time?
Mary: I think it is time.
Narrator: And the time came for her to be delivered. [pause] At this time, there were shepherds watching their flocks as usual. And the time came for them to be delivered.
Shepherd: Ahh! [falls down]
Angel: Do not be afraid, my news is good for you and everyone everywhere. At this time the promised child is born. He will deliver you. Go, seek him out. He is wrapped up and lying in a manger.
[Choir sings “Jus’ a Little Farther to Go.”]
Shepherd: [whispering] This must be the place. [enters] Is this the child, the promised one?
Joseph: This is Jesus. [pause, as shepherd worships]
Shepherd: It’s time for me to go. I must tell the others. I will tell everyone I meet. Now is the time of God’s love—God sent his Son into the world that we might believe in him and be set free.
Sarah: Surely this is the son I was promised. Through him all nations will be blessed.
Desert parent: Surely this is the prince of peace who will turn the world into the promised land.
Noah: Surely this is the promised one who will wash away the sin of the world with a flood of love poured out for many.
Child N1: I love it when it’s time to tell that story.
Our planning team met in September (that was a little late; August would be preferable) to discuss theme, format, roles, deadlines, and so on. After reviewing our feedback notes from the previous year, we enlisted Pastor Erick to write the drama, as he was on sabbatical and felt most connected to our theme of “In the Fullness of Time.”
As music director, I chose appropriate anthems, choruses, instrumentalists, and so on.
By October, we had established our main categories of responsibility:
- Drama Director
- Choir Director
- Technical Support: Lighting, Audio, Slides
- Set Design/Props
- Promotion/Advertising (this is a big outreach event for us)
- Enlisting volunteers: actors, clean-up help, and so on; letting the congregation know the what, how, and why of our drama.
Rehearsals began the first week of November for a mid-December production.
Sets were kept simple: one or two obvious props for the “waiting” stories were carried on stage by the actors who used them (with the exception of the tent in scene 6). The living room set (described in scene 1) was permanent. It should include a “window” to look out of (scene 5).
Lighting was dimmed and brightened as appropriate; see suggestions in the drama.
We used bright, bold colors for costumes in the “waiting” stories to suggest the imaginative, child-like feeling of telling a story.
For our production, large, sewn backdrops were pulled across a wire system (like curtains) for each scene. These could also be painted on paper and draped over room dividers. Depending on your resources, you can make these as complex or as simple as you wish.
Characters (in order of appearance)
Numbers in parentheses are scene numbers in which character appears.
The first named characters are a family; in scene 10, each takes on a different role as they act out the Christmas story.
Mother: a woman in her late twenties to mid forties (1, 9, 10); scene 10: Angel
Grandmother: older woman (1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10); scene 10: Narrator
Child 1: youngest child, boy or girl (1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10); scene 10: Shepherd
Child 2: girl a bit older (1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10);
scene 10: Mary
Child 3: teenage boy (1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10); scene 10: Joseph
Father: around same age as Mother (1, 7, 9, 10); scene 10: John the Baptist
Voice of God: off stage (2)
Noah: middle-aged to older man (2, 4, 10)
Child N1: younger child, boy or girl (4)
Child N2: older child, boy or girl (4)
Abraham: elderly man (6)
Sarah: elderly woman (6, 10)
Visitor: adult (6)
Desert child: boy or girl (8, 10)
Desert parent: man or woman (8, 10)
Many of the songs sung by the choir could also be sung by the congregation. For our production, all texts for congregational singing were projected on slides.
“Night of Silence” by Daniel Kantor Gather, 2nd ed., 261 (Congregation sang first stanza of “Silent Night” while choir sang third stanza of “Night of Silence.”)
“Wait for the Lord” SNC 96 (refrain with descants)
“My Soul in Stillness Waits” SNC 95
“King of Kings and Lord of Lords” SFL 16, TWC 110 (Sung in a round with percussion and clapping.)
“Those Who Wait upon the Lord” SFL 215
“Breath of Heaven” by Amy Grant (Home for Christmas. Hal Leonard Publishing Corp. ISBN 0-7935-2825-9. Piano/Vocal/Guitar) (Sung by a soloist.)
“In the Depth of Winter’s Darkness” by Joy Patterson (RW 41)
“Jus’ a Little Farther to Go,” Jamaican, arr. Conway Bolt (Chorister’s Guild, 2834 W. Kingsley Rd., Garland, TX 75041. 972-271-1521. www.choristersguild.org) (With maracas and claves.)
“What Can We Bring” by Mark Patterson (Chorister’s Guild) (Sung by children’s choir.)