Why Leadings?

Not to lead, but to be led            -- by the Holy Spirit.

See Leader, Servant, or Slave? in the section below, "Walking the Walk".

Jack in Denali National Park, 2012.

God's Wrath

Why was Sodom destroyed? Ezekiel tells us in chapter 16, verse 49: "This was the sin of your sister, Sodom: Pride, full-ness of bread, and abundance of idleness. Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."

That's also why Jerusalem was destroyed.

And now, with greed as our national virtue, what hope is there for the United States of America? We are afflicted by imperialistic pride, obesity, and entertainment addiction, and we are all called to do our part to "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy".

"Strengthen the hand" is the King James wording. Modern translations say "help the poor and needy." And there's a world of difference between the two. Helping the poor = as little as throwing some cash in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas time. That's charity. It's doing for, not doing with.

My Grandmother was right about charity. On a below-zero day, she went out on the back porch with a skillet to throw hot grease on the back-yard snow. She shivered as she re-entered the kitchen and said, "Wooooh, colder than charity."

Strengthening the hand is much different. We get personally involved with another person who needs help, and we work with her or him to get the needed help. That's risky. You're vulnerable. It takes prayer, time and patience. You need knowledge and wisdom from the LORD. There are great rewards, however. You get a brother or sister.

Strengthening the hand is great work for our churches -- which we ignore far more often than we perform. Why? Because we're afflicted with the Ameri-can curse of individualism. Christians are to be a tribe -- a tribe that takes care of each other. In Galatians 6:16, Paul calls us "the Israel of God" -- the new 13th tribe.

Jesus said, "The poor you shall always have with you." He didn't mean that as a curse -- the notion that the poor are an inevi-table nuisance and expense, to be hidden in the slums. Rather, He was saying, "You shall always be among the poor."

When you strengthen hands, you fulfill Deuteronomy 15:4-5: "However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God . . ." It's a glorious responsibility and promise.

And how do prosperous Americans fulfill that promise? Generally, by making sure they have no contact with people who are poor -- and we have been that way from our beginnings in the 17th century. Early villages in Massachusetts solved the problem by out-lawing poor people. Today, we deal with the same problem by confining the poor in urban reservations, our slums.

As the Supreme Court Bailiff says at the beginning of each session, "God save the United States of America..." 

Thursday
Dec012016

Epidemic of Angels

 

SDG                                                                                                                                       Version 65

Introduction:  Welcome to Bethlehem in 6 B.C. At the end of this play are the accounts by Luke and Matthew of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. You are about to experience a play which is a back story. What events might have happened that would result in the reports by Matthew and Luke?

The play tries to be entirely faithful to Scripture, while denying many American Christmas practices. The play elaborates the Biblical accounts. For example, Mary says she was carding wool when the angel Gabriel appeared. The Gospel says nothing about what Mary was doing at the time, but carding wool is a reasonable assumption. You will find that the play is full of similar elaborations. So, the play is a challenge to each of you. Can you discover anything in the play which is contrary to the writings of Matthew and Luke?

____________

NARRATOR:  Welcome to our reading of Epidemic of Angels. This is a play about the birth of Jesus, the Messiah. That baby was the biggest earthquake ever to hit Bethlehem. The aftershocks crushed us—and then made us grow in ways we could not have imagined. I'll let the characters introduce themselves.

MARY:  I'm Mary. I'm a teenager. Last night I gave birth to Jesus, the Anointed One. We're from Nazareth.

JOSEPH:  I'm Joseph, 32 years old. Mary and I are ten months into our engagement year. I'll raise Jesus, but he's not my son. His father is the Almighty.

NATAN:  I'm Na-TAN, a shepherd. This is my grandson—

SHIMON:   She-MOAN. I'm a teen-age shepherd.

MESHECH:  MAY-shick here. I'm the Inkeeper in Bethlehem.  I'm also the top man in this town.. It was a clump of mud hovels when I arrived eleven years ago. I've made it into quite a little enterprize. It's going to be a valuable property for my son, Moshe. (Mo-SHAY)  He's six months old. I'm a widower.

HEFZIBAH:  Hef-ZEE-bah. I'm Moshe's nurse. I'm also Meshech's slave.

DAN:  Dan. I want to marry Hefzibah. I'm also Meshech's slave.

SETH:  I'm Seth, a teen. Also his slave—and I hate it.

NAKES:  I am a Persian, in command of the thirty-two Scythian (SITH-ee-an) warriors who brought the four Magi to Judea. My name is KNOCK-us.

NARRATOR:  The whole play happens behind the Bethlehem Inn. The back wall of the Inn has a feed trough for donkeys.

As the play opens, Joseph is asleep. Mary is nursing Jesus. When she's done, she craves sleep, but she's afraid she'll roll over on her baby and smother him. She sees the feed trough over her head, so she pulls herself up and puts him in the hay. She drops to the ground and falls asleep.

Then the shepherds, Shimon and Natan, enter. Shimon runs to the feed tough. He leans over Mary to see the baby, and Mary wakes up.

MARY:  Hey, you! Get away from my baby!

SHIMON:  Sorry, ma’am.

NATAN:  No harm meant. 

MARY:  No harm!!?? You’re trying to steal my baby.

JOSEPH:  What’re you doin’ here? Get out!

SHIMON:  But, just wanted to see baby.

NATAN:  Yes. Messenger said to come.

JOSEPH:  What messenger? Who told you to come?

MARY:  Was it that innkeeper?

SHIMON:  No . . . no . . . friends told us.

JOSEPH:  Don’t lie. Nobody would send—

SHIMON:  But true. Many, many—your friends. Ours.

JOSEPH:  Not possible. We don’t know anyone around here.

MARY:  (Yawn)  Maybe they’re talking about angels.

SHIMON:  Yup. Angels! Tell ‘em, Grandpa.

MARY:  Angels! You saw angels?!!

NATAN:  Yes, ma’am.

MARY:  What’d they say?

SHIMON:  “Glory to Most High. His peace to earth. Blessings for all.”

NATAN:  Not how it started .

SHIMON:  Tell 'em, Grandpa.

NATAN:  Angel said, “Don’t be scared. See! I’ve got good news—great joy for you. Joy for everyone. Today, a baby—born for you in Bethlehem. He’ll save you. He’s the Anointed—"

MARY:  Oh! Ooh! That’s wonderful. Oh, I’m sorry. I mean, I wasn’t trying to—

NATAN:  Sorry ma'am! We not mean to scare you –

MARY:  Oh, but you did scare me. I thought you were trying to steal my son.

SHIMON:  No, ma’am. Just shepherds.

JOSEPH:  What else did the angels say?

NATAN:  Strange. Angel told us, “Go to David’s town. A sign—baby wrapped in rags—baby in a feed trough.”

MARY:  And so?

SHIMON:  We talked. My pa, Eli, (Ah-LEE) took the sheep. We came here.

MARY:  Well, soon as he can come here, you send your pa too.

SHIMON:  Thanks, ma’am. We will.  (Beat. I.e. change the subject)  Ma’am—

MARY:  Hey, I’m no older than you. Call me Mary.

SHIMON:  Alright. You had the baby here?

MARY:  Umm-hum.

SHIMON:  Terrible. Why not the Inn? Meshech wouldn’t rent to you?

JOSEPH:  He couldn't. Stalls were filled—with donkey drivers and men here for the census. Also—

MARY:  —I wouldn’t stay in that place. It’d be like having a baby in the town square.

SHIMON:  Ox shed’s down the hill.

JOSEPH:  We know. Meshech told us—

MARY:  —My water broke at the Inn, and the pain became strong here. I couldn’t go any farther.

SHIMON:  But weren’t –

MARY:  —We were fine. I wouldn't have picked this place for birthing, but— (To the SHEPHERDS:)  You know, it’s funny, but you wouldn’t have found Jesus if you—  (To JOSEPH:)  woke up when I shook you.

JOSEPH:  So?—

MARY:  —After feeding Jesus, I was exhausted. I was afraid I'd roll over and squash him in my sleep.  (To JOSEPH:)  I shook you. I wanted you to take the baby. You grunted and rolled over—

NATAN:  —Husbands’re that way. They choose not to wake—

MARY:  —so, I got on my knees, wrapped him in these rags, and put him in the hay. I was so tired. I thought I was going to pass out.  (To the SHEPHERDS:) That’s why Jesus was in the hay when you came.

SHIMON:  Like angel said—

NATAN:  —The Almighty knew.  (Beat)  Now, how’ll we tell others?

SHIMON:  Who’d listen?

NATAN:  Dunno. Nobody pays us attention.           

JOSEPH:  Let the Most High worry about that. He sent the angels. He knows what He's doing.

MARY:  You’re excited about the birth. And so am I. But I also worry.

SHIMON:  Why worry? Angels say your Son's the Anointed One. To rescue us.

MARY:  Gabriel told me that Jesus will get the throne of his father, David. There'll be no end to his kingdom.

JOSEPH:  Herod won’t like this.

NATAN:  I s’pose Rome won’t eiter.

JOSEPH:  Yes. Jesus is just a baby. He has no position. No power. Yet he’s supposed to become King of Israel and throw out the Romans?!

NATAN:  He’s our hope.

MARY:  Many will see Jesus as dangerous. Will they try to kill him?

JOSEPH:  We can’t protect him.

MARY:  His Father has to protect him. 

SHIMON:  But you’re the father.

JOSEPH:  No, the Almighty is his father.

SHIMON:  Really?

MARY:  Yes, really.

SHIMON:  . . . You’re kidding.

MARY:  No. the Almighty is his father.

SHIMON:  (SHIMON doesn’t know whether to believe her.)  Hummm.

NATAN:  No worries now. When people rise up, powers will tremble.

SHIMON:  Meantime, we’ll pray.

MARY:  Thanks. And now. Please. No more talking. I’m exhausted.

NATAN:  Right, m’am. We’re too excited. Unkind to you.

SHIMON:  Sorry.

NATAN:  Thank you, Mary, thank you.

JOSEPH:  May the Almighty bless you on your way.

NATAN:  And you too.

NARRATOR:  Meshech (MASH-ick), the Innkeeper, strides in.

MESHECH:  Hey, Natan. Come here, thief.

NATAN:  Not thief, sir. Honest shepherd.

MESHECH:  Hah. There are no honest shepherds.

SHIMON:  No, sir. We honest.

MESHECH:  Nonsense. What’d you steal this time?

NATAN:  Nothing, sir. We came to see the baby.

MESHECH:  Baby?

NATAN:  New baby—over there.

MESHECH:  Ugh, the Galileans.  (MESHECH says it like, “Poor white trash." (To the SHEPHERDS:)  You came to see the baby? Sure you did. Like always, you came to steal.

NATAN:  Not thief, sir.

MESHECH:  Why were you lurking 'round town at night?

NATAN:  Messengers sent us.

MESHECH:  What messengers? I didn’t send any messengers.

MARY:  (Sleepy voice)  Can you please talk somewhere else? I’m trying to sleep. . . Angels told them about my baby.

MESHECH:  Angels!!!?? . . . Angels came to shepherds??!!! . . . (MESHECH shakes with laughter.)  To goats maybe. Never to shepherds.  (MESHECH roars with laughter. If possible, he laughs until tears run down his cheeks.) Angels?? You??   (He goes into another round of laughter.)

SHIMON:  Sir, can we come over here? This Mother’s tired. Let's not disturb her.

MESHECH:  Think you’re clever, huh? Using “angels” as an excuse to lurk and steal.

SHIMON:  Angels told us about Jesus, Anointed One.

MESHECH:  Then, where are the others?

SHIMON:  Other angels?

MESHECH:  No, fool, other people.

SHIMON:  What—?

MESHECH:  —Who else saw angels? If the sky was full of angels, this town would buzz.

JOSEPH:  Nine months ago, the angel Gabriel appeared to my fiancée, and—

MESHECH:  —You’re not married?

JOSEPH:  Not completely . . . two months yet.

MESHECH:  I’ve heard that line before.

JOSEPH:  The angel, Gabriel, appeared to Mary. Another angel appeared to me. Each said the child would be the promised Anointed One.

MESHECH:  You’ve coordinated your stories. That’ll fool some people.

JOSEPH:  But, you have to believe—

MESHECH:  No. No. NoNoNo. I’ll tell you what’s impossible to believe—that the baby behind my Inn will free us from Rome.

NATAN:  Why not? King David was a shepherd.

JOSEPH:  And the Maccabees were Levites from a small town.

MESHECH:  No. NoNo. This makes no sense. The Most High would not send the Anointed One to a Galilean girl. He would not tell shepherds. And the Anointed would not be born behind my Inn. You’re all running a scam.  (Beat. MESHECH shouts.)  Dan. Seth.  (Beat)  Return what you stole, Natan, and you’ll only get a beating.

DAN:  What, sir?

SETH:  Where’s the baby?

MESHECH:  The baby?!

SETH:  Yes. Jesus—the Anointed One.

MESHECH:  The Anointed One? How do you know—?

SETH:  —We heard through the window.

DAN:  Seth, kneel. This is the new king.

SETH:  Jesus, you're wonderful. You’re going to free us from Rome.

DAN:  The Anointed One. You're here. Thank You. Thank You, Holy One.

SETH:  King Jesus, we’re ready to follow you.

MARY:  You two are the first to kneel. Thank you.

MESHECH:  You dolts, I’ll teach you to run off.  (Beat)  Heeyyyy. If you two will believe this silly story on the say-so of two illiterate shepherds, then maybe. . . maybe we’ve got something here.

JOSEPH:  I assure you, sir, the shepherds are speaking the truth.

MESHECH:  Makes no difference. What matters is people believeing the four of you. Everyone in Bethlehem knows Micah’s prophecy: "But you, Bethlehem , though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel.”

NATAN:  Yes, that’s—

MESHECH:   —Think of the possibilities—  (Beat)  What did the angels sing?

SHIMON:  They didn't sing. They spoke. Was beauti—

MESHECH:  —That proves you're lying. Any fool knows that angels sing.

NATAN:  Nossir. Spoke—

MESHECH:  —No matter. We'll get sweet songs about angels singing at Bethlehem.  (Beat)  Joseph, people crave the Anointed One. They want him. They’re waiting. They’re ready. This baby’ll do as well as any other.

JOSEPH:  David was his ancestor, both through my family and his Mother’s.

MESHECH:  Even better. Tourists flooding Bethlehem—they’ll make me rich. I’ll put a brass plaque where the Anointed One was born. I’ll add a wing to the Inn, this time with rooms, and I’ll build a horse stable—

JOSEPH:  But, I don’t think that—

MESHECH:  —And souvenirs. Tourists will want souvenirs to show they’ve been to Bethlehem—birthplace of the Anointed One. I’ll build a shop across the street. I can hire the whole town to make fake jewelry and candles and cheap junk—

JOSEPH:  But—

MESHECH:  —Did you know that King Herod knows me by name? When it’s time to cut the ribbon for the new wing, I’ll invite him to the ded—  (Beat)  Oh no, King Herod.

NARRATOR:  MAY-shick doubles over in pain, and then stumbles into the Inn.

NATAN:  What botherin' him?

JOSEPH:  Apparently, he remembered that the King is crazy.

SHIMON:  How so?

JOSEPH:  Herod executed his Maccabee wife and sons—because he thought they were stealing the throne.

NATAN:  And?

JOSEPH:  MAY-shick just realized he’s a dead man. Herod will think he's a conspirator.

NATAN:  But what if—

JOSEPH:  When MAY-shick reacted, I grasped the fact that Jesus committed treason by being born.

NATAN;  And penalty for treason—death.

JOSEPH:  This town is dangerous—too near Jerusalem. We’ll make a quick trip to the Temple for Jesus’s circumcision and dedication. Then we’re gone. Just as soon as Mary and the Baby can travel safely.  (Beat)  Natan, I need to feed my donkeys, but I still have questions about your angels. Would you join me?

NATAN:  ‘Course.  (To SHIMON:)  Stay here, Shimon. Take care of Mary.

NARRATOR:  Joseph and Natan leave. Shimon dozes against the wall of the Inn. He does not see or hear when Meshech hands Dan a scroll.

MESHECH:  . . . and make sure this scroll goes to King Herod himself. Tell the King that the scroll has news of a threat to his life and his kingdom. Got that?

DAN:  Yessir.

MESHECH:  Run! . . . (Beat)  And now we'll see Miss Mary about this little King. They have to be a long way from the Inn when Herod's goons arrive. . . . Missy . . . Missy, are you awake?

MARY:  (Sleepy voice)  Please go away. I need sleep.

MESHECH:  We need to talk. It’ll only take a moment. Are you awake?

MARY:  (With hostility)  Oooooh, I am now.

MESHECH:  It was terrible that you had to be out here for the birthing. If I had only realized that your son—

MARY:  What?

MESHECH:  Well, now we know, we can make changes. I have a house on the edge of town. You can have it rent free.

MARY:  You’re being nice. Why?

MESHECH:  Why shouldn’t I be generous to the Anointed One and his mother?

MARY:  Why? Til now, you’ve only been rude. And, you don’t believe—

MESHECH:  —That’s changed. Your husband . . . your man . . . is a carpenter?

MARY:  Uh-huh.

MESHECH:  Well, I’m sure he can make that house shine with a couple of days work. You can move there just as soon as you’re ready.

MARY:  Please talk to Joseph about the house—not me.

MESHECH:  It’s not far, and I’ll have my men carry the baby and you—just like a princess.

MARY:  Ohhhh. That’s silly.

MESHECH:  Generosity, ma’m. Your son is changing things here in Bethlehem.

MARY:  No, really. Why do you want to give us a house?

MESHECH:  Wy, because you deserve it as mother of the Anointed One.

MARY:  I heard you talk. You don’t believe my son is the Anointed One.

MESHECH:  What’s important is that others will believe it. You should have a nice home. You can keep your baby warm—and receive visitors.  (Beat)  Alright. I’ll send my slave, Hefzibah. She nurses my baby son, Moshe. (Mo-SHAY) Afternoons, she can stay with you. She'll take care of both babies, so you can get some rest.

MARY:  Wy, thank you. You're being helpful, but—

MESHECH:  —You’re welcome. And it’s not really safe for you to be here—behind the Inn. You need a house.

MARY:  (Beat)  You know, you don’t have to be afraid.

MESHECH:  Who’s afraid?

MARY:  Aren’t you?

MESHECH:  No. NoNoNoNo. No.

MARY:  I can understand why. Jesus, my son, is scary. He’s just a baby boy, but he is also the promised Anointed One.

MESHECH:  That’s scary for you?

MARY:  Of course. Every mother wants her son to grow up healthy and happy. But what does it mean to be the Anointed One? It’ll be dangerous.

MESHECH:  No doubt.

MARY:  Y'all think Jesus will liberate us from Rome. The Almighty may have other plans.

MESHECH:  What could be greater than our liberation from Rome?

MARY:  Liberation from ourselves.

MESHECH:  What?

MARY:  Don’t you feel empty inside?

MESHECH:  Why should I feel empty? I have a fine baby son. And I’m the first man in Bethlehem. I own eighteen properties.

MARY:  And your wife?

MESHECH:  She’s dead. . . Died when Moshe was born. . . Bled to death in my arms.

MARY:  Oh, I’m so sorry. You poor man. Has the loneliness eased?

MESHECH:  Not much. Pain knifes me every day.  (Beat)  How’d you know I feel empty?

MARY:  I dunno. I just knew.

MESHECH:  So what can you do about it?

MARY:  Nothin. But, maybe my son can.

MESHECH:  Ridiculous.

MARY:  Yes, it is ridiculous. But, try it. Try trusting that my son, Jesus, is really the Anointed One.

MESHECH:  . . . I don’t know how to do that.

MARY:  Mmmmmm. Maybe it'll help if I tell you my story.

MESHECH:  First tell me about Joseph. He tells me he’s not your husband.

MARY:  He’s my betrothed husband. We'll complete our marriage in two months

MESHECH:  But he’s the baby’s father.

MARY:  He’s taking the responsibilities of the father.

MESHECH:  I mean, he is the father.

MARY:  No.

MESHECH:  Who?

MARY:  The Most High.

MESHECH:  Of course, He’s the Father of us all.

MARY:  No, the Most High is Jesus's blood father.

MESHECH:  Nonsense.

MARY:  I know. Nobody was more surprised than me—

MESHECH:  How . . . ?

MARY:  Nine months ago, the angel Gabriel showed up while I was carding wool in Nazareth. I wasn’t praying at the time—just working. Suddenly, this huge, bright creature filled the room. I stared and trembled. I couldn’t say a word. He said, “Rejoice, favored woman. Elohim is with you. You are blessed among all women!”

MESHECH:  But—

MARY:  —I was scared and confused. The angel said, “Don’t be frightened, Mary. The Almighty is blessing you.”

MESHECH:  How?

MARY:  That was the amazing part. Gabriel said, “You will become pregnant by the Holy Spirit and give birth to a son. You shall call him ‘Jesus’.”

MESHECH:  Jesus The same name as the patriarch Joshua. Ja-SHU-a. It means “Jah saves.”

MARY:  Really?

MESHECH:  Yes.

MARY:  Hmmm. Gabriel told more: “He'll be great. He'll be called the son of the Most High. The Almighty will give him the throne of his father, David.”

MESHECH:  See, this baby is supposed to become king by freeing us from Rome.

MARY:  Gabriel told me about a different Kingdom. He said that Jesus would reign over the house of David forever. His Kingdom will never end.

MESHECH:  What does that mean?

MARY:  Dunno. But that’s what Gabriel said.

MESHECH:  Didn’t you ask—

MARY:  Of course, I was shaking. I had lots of questions. I said, “But how can I have a baby? I'm a virgin.”

MESHECH:  My question. And the angel

MARY:  Then it got weird. Gabriel said, “The Holy Spirit will overcome you. The power of the Most High will overshadow you. The baby born to you will be holy, and he will be called the son of the Almighty.”

MESHECH:  Weird indeed. You think this baby is literally son of the Almighty? That the Almighty is the Father?

MARY:  Yes, I do. I not only think it, I know it.

MESHECH:  I've heard about several girls who claimed that the Almighty got them pregnant.

MARY:  But, this time it’s true.

MESHECH:  Sure. Sure. Alright, I’ll play your game. Why would the Almighty pick you?

MARY:  I don’t know. I didn’t ask for it.

MESHECH:  Uh-huh. Why didn’t he pick my son?

NARRATOR:  Hef-ZI-bah comes around the corner of the Inn. She is carrying Moshe. (Mo-SHAY)

HEFZIBAH:  Sir.

MESHECH:  Not now!  (Beat)  Mary, did you ever tell the Almighty that you were willing to do anything he wanted you to do, go anywhere he wanted you to go?

MARY:  Oh, yes, I’ve done that.

MESHECH:  Well, looks like maybe He answered you.

MARY:  Why are we so surprised when our prayers are answered?

HEFZIBAH:  Sir.

MESHECH:  I said, “Not now.”

MARY:  Is this your son?

NARRATOR:  Meshech turns and for the first time looks at Hefzibah.

MESHECH:  Yes.

HEFZIBAH:  Sir, your son has his first tooth.

MARY:  How wonderful. He's a handsome boy.

HEFZIBAH:  Oh, yes ma’am. May I see the Anointed One?

MARY:  Yes, here.

NARRATOR:  The two women exchange babies.

HEFZIBAH:  He's beautiful.

MARY:  I think so too,

MESHECH:  I don't see nothin' special 'bout him. Looks like any other newborn. (Beat)  Hefzibah, how'd you know about this Anointed?

HEFZIBAH:  Dan told me.

MESHECH:  And you believed him?

HEFZIBAH:  Why not, sir?

NARRATOR:  Shimon enters and sits. He ignores Mary and Meshech. Shimon takes out his knife and whittles. Still weary, he dozes off.

MESHECH:  Where were we, Mary? Oh yes. This angel told you about Jesus, and then he disappeared?

MARY:  Oh no, there’s more. Gabriel said that my cousin, Elizabeth, had become pregnant in her old age. He said, “Neighbors called her barren, but she is already in her sixth month. Nothing is impossible with the Almighty.”

MESHECH:  Why did Gabriel tell you about your cousin?

MARY:  To convince me, I suppose. When Gabriel spoke, I had doubts, but they left. I told the angel, “I’m the Lord’s servant. I’ll accept whatever He wants. May everything you say come true.” Then he vanished.

MESHECH:  And your cousin, Elizabeth?

MARY:  —I saw her two weeks later. She and her husband, Zechariah, at Ai.  (Ah-EE)

MESHECH:  (MESHECH becomes highly aggitated.)  John’s parents?

MARY:  Wy yes. Do you—

MESHECH:  —Zach and Liz! I’ve known them all my life. Ai is an hour away. Zach couldn’t speak for nine months until the baby was born! I was there. I saw Zach write on the tablet, “His name is John.” I heard him speak. Gabriel told you about them?

MARY:  Yes.

MESHECH:  So Jesus and John are cousins?

MARY:  Yes.

MESHECH:   Of course.  (He snaps his finger.)  I knew I’d seen you before. You were that little mouse in the corner, helping Elizabeth.

MARY:  Yes. I saw you, but didn’t think you noticed me.

MESHECH:  All of us here know about John’s birth. So you and the shepherds have been telling the truth all along—

MARY:  Of course—

MESHECH:  Jesus really is the Anointed One!

MARY:  Yes, it’s what we’ve been telling—

MESHECH:  —I thought you rehearsed your story—and were conning me.

MARY:  No, we never saw these shepherds before.

MESHECH:  I couldn’t believe it.  (Beat)  Oh. Oh. Oh. I’ve killed the Anointed One! I sent Dan to the King. I've killed the hope of Israel.

NARRATOR:  Shimon hears Meshech, but misunderstands him. Shimon jumps up, sheathes his knife and runs to Mary.

SETH:  Mary, you alright?

MARY:  Yes. But I’m tired. It’s Meshech who has the problem. He just yelled something about killing the Anointed One.

SHIMON:  Jesus?

MARY:  Yes. Please get me some water.

SHIMON:  Right away, Mary.

HEFZIBAH:  Thank you, ma’am, for letting me see Jesus.

MARY:  You’re welcome. Thank you for letting me see Moshe.

NARRATOR:  The two women again exchange babies..

MARY:  But why do you call me, ma’am?

HEFZIBAH:  The mother of the Anointed One must be a great lady.

MARY:  Oh, no. I’m just a girl from Nazareth.           

HEFZIBAH:  A great lady, all the same.

MARY:  (Mary is puzzled and speaks to Jesus, who is cradled in her arm.)  What does she know? Yes, you’re the Anointed One, but how does that make me different? Yes, I’m your mother. But, I’m also still plain ol’ Mary from Nazareth. An orphan. An outcast, until I was engaged to Joseph. And now, I'm pregnant and unmarried, so I'm still an outcast.

NARRATOR:  Meshech and Seth enter upstage. Mary listens to them.

MESHECH:  Seth, catch Dan. I gave him a letter for King Herod. Bring Dan and the scroll back here.

SETH:  Yessir.

MESHECH:  Right. Now go. Run.

NARRATOR:  Shimon enters with a gourd of water for Mary. He sees Meshech telling Seth to run.

MESHECH:  Run as if our lives depended on it—  (To himself)  because they do.

SHIMON:  Here’s water, Mary.  (Beat)  SHIMON shouts.)  Grandpa!

NARRATOR:  Natan and Joseph hurry to the Inn.

SHIMON:  (SHIMON whispers.)  Meshech tries to kill Jesus.

NATAN:  What?                        JOSEPH:  How do you know?

SHIMON:  Saw Meshech send Seth to Jerusalem–

JOSEPH:  —to tell King Herod?

SHIMON:  Yes.

NATAN:  Come on!

JOSEPH:  Not that way! Let’s get the donkeys.

SHIMON:  I get Seth.

NARRATOR:  Shimon pulls out his knife and runs past Mary. She reaches out her leg and trips him. He sprawls full length on the ground. The knife skids out of his hand.

MARY:  Where’re you going?

SHIMON:  To get Seth. Kill him. Then Meshech.

NARRATOR:  Shimon scrambles to his knees and gets ready to start running again.

MARY:  Stop. Come here and sit down. . . .Listen.

SHIMON:  You didn’t see—

MARY:  Oh, but I did see. You think the innkeeper wants to kill my baby.

SHIMON:  Saw it. He sent Seth to King Herod.

MARY:  No. Meshech is with us.

SHIMON:  But I saw it –

MARY:  You saw Meshech send the second messenger to stop Dan, the first messenger--

SHIMON:  But—

MARY:  And you wanted to play the Almighty and make everything right.

SHIMON:  Yes, you see—

MARY:  No need. Your Grandfather is right. The Most High looks after His Son.

SHIMON:  Can’t trust Meshech.

MARY:  True. Very true. Or, it was.

SHIMON:  Was?

MARY:  Yes, now we’ll see if he changes.

SHIMON:  I know Meshech. He never change.

MARY:  (With hope)  We . . . will . . . see.

____________

NARRATOR:  (A brief pause)  A month passes. We see Joseph and Mary sitting on a long bench beside the Inn. It's a cool, but sunny day. Meshech enters.

MESHECH:  Dan. Dan. . . .Where is that fool?

DAN:  Here sir.

MESHECH:  Go up in the hills. Find Eli (Ah-LEE) or Natan. I have to buy their whole flock.  (Beat. To himself)  Thirty-seven Persians! It's like being invaded by locusts.  (Beat)  What a mess.

SETH:  Sir, no water.

MESHECH:  What?

SETH:  No water in the pipe. The spring must--

MESHECH:  I don’t want problems. I want solutions. Fix it.

SETH:  Yessir.

MESHECH:  Run!  (Beat)  So, Little Lady, what’re you doing here?

MARY:  Warming ourselves in sunshine.

JOSEPH:  It’s chilly.

MESHECH:  Yes 'tis.

MARY:  This sunny spot is good place to pray.

MESHECH:  Pray? What about?

MARY:  Our baby. The Persians. Our journey. Our neighbors in Nazareth. Your problems. Among other things.

MESHECH:  My problems? That’s ridiculous. You don’t solve practical matters by prayer. It takes hard work—and good sense.

MARY:  (Brightly.)  We'll . . .see.

MESHECH:  No, you’ll see.

HEFZIBAH:  Sir, the shed’s on fire.

MESHECH:And we’ve got no water!  (MESHECH loses control.)  Oh, Almighty One, why me? Why does it all happen to me? Why? Why?

SETH:  Sir, we’ve got water.

MESHECH:  Where?

SETH:  Cistern.

MESHECH:  What? How?

SETH:  I fixed—

MESHECH:  Doesn’t matter! Get the kitchen crew. Put out the shed fire.

SETH:  Right.

MESHECH:  Make a line. Pass buckets.

DAN:  Sir, I couldn't spot either Natan or his flocks. I went to the second row of hills.

MESHECH:  Aaagh!  (Beat)  Shed’s on fire. Get in the bucket line.

DAN:  Yessir.

MESHECH:  Why am I surrounded by idiots?  (Beat)  See, Little Lady, that’s what it takes—practical efficiency. It takes thought and hard work to get results. I didn’t build my little empire with prayer. It took time and effort.

JOSEPH:  Ya know, Meshech, you don’t have to work so har

MESHECH:  Why not?

JOSEPH:  Our Father wants us to turn our troubles over to Him so He can deal with them.

MESHECH:  That’s impractical.

MARY:  No, very practical. It’s the only sensible way to live . . . My son has been teaching me about that.

MESHECH:  All babies teach their parents.

MARY:  True.

MESHECH:  When you’re grown up, you’ll learn to work hard.

MARY:  Is your work harder than giving birth?

MESHECH:  Humm. Good answer.

JOSEPH:  Meshech, why don’t you try praying as if everything depends on the Almighty, and then, you can work as if everything depends on you. Much easier.

MESHECH:  You won’t get much done that way.

MARY:  As I said, we’ll wait and see.

SETH:  (Wearily)  Well, sir, the fire’s out.

MESHECH:  Good.

SETH:  But, we’ve got wet hay. Ruined, I guess.

MESHECH:  Did you save the shed?

SETH:  Most of it.

MESHECH:  How’d you get water?

SETH:  Going up hill to the spring. I saw one of the pipes out of place.

MESHECH:  And?

SETH:  I put the pipe back. We have water.

MESHECH:  Simple as that?

SETH:  Simple as that.

MESHECH:  Hey, all my problems are solved. All except food. We need sheep—for that mob of hungry Persians. Now, go find Eli and tell—  (Beat)  Hey. . . Thief. . . .Natan. I want to buy your sheep—the whole flock.

NATAN:  All?

MESHECH:  Yes, all.

NATAN:  Except ram and ten ewes for us. MAY-shick, we only accept fair price.

MESHECH:  Alright, Natan. Come into my home for some wine, and we’ll agree on a price.

NATAN:  Thank you.

MARY:  Meshech, again I ask: Why are we so surprised when our prayers are answered?

MESHECH:  What’s that, Little Lady?

MARY:  Your problems are solved. And who solved them?

MESHECH:  Why, I did.

MARY:  Oh? Did you bring the water? Did you bring Natan to town?

MESHECH:  Well, no, but . . .

MARY:  (MARY says nothing.)

MESHECH:  You think . . .

MARY:  Yes, the Almighty blesses you abundantly, and—

MESHECH:  I don’t have the sense to realize it. Is that what you were going to say?

MARY:  You said it better.

MESHECH:  When I’m crazy busy, details tie me up.

JOSEPH:  Try sitting quietly against a sunny wall with the Most High. It’s a good place to get untied.

MESHECH:  So you two organized my day?

JOSEPH:  No, the Most High did. Through prayer, you can do the same.

MESHECH:  Oh, sure.

NARRATOR:  Meshech follows Natan into the Inn.

MARY:  Thank You, O Holy One.

SETH:  The Almighty must think highly of you, Mary.

MARY:  I doubt it.

SETH:  He answers your prayers. Does miracles for you.

MARY:  He’ll do that for you or anyone who serves Him.

SETH:  Not for me.

MARY:  Why not?

SETH:   I’m a slave.

MARY:  We’re all slaves.

SETH:  No.

MARY:  Yes.

SETH:  How can you say that?

MARY:  You can be the slave of your cravings or the slave of the Almighty. Apparently, that’s the only choice we get.

SETH:  Easy for you to talk. You’re not Meshech’s slave.

JOSEPH:  As a slave of the Almighty, you’d be liberated.

SETH:  From slavery?

JOSEPH:  Yes, I think so. What if Meshech’s orders were your wishes?

SETH:  That’s self-deception. Meshech preaches the same lie.

MARY:  Have you tried it?

SETH:  No, I won’t give in to oppression. Why should I? Meshech and the Romans both brutalize me. A year ago, I passed two Roman soldiers. Stupidly, I looked at them and grinned. The legionnaire rammed the butt of his spear in my belly. He almost killed me. I couldn't get out of bed for a month. Until we get rid of the Romans, Judah will be a manure pit.

JOSEPH:  Agreed.

SETH:  And Meshech is no better. Last month, he whipped me—ten lashes—because I tripped and broke a jug of milk. And, I couldn't help it. I was carrying the jug and couldn't see the root in my path.

JOSEPH:  I suppose you've considered running away?

SETH:  Every day.

JOSEPH:  We've been talking about your liberation by becoming a slave of the Most High.

MARY:  Which leads to freedom.

SETH:  From slavery?

MARY:  From ourselves.

SETH:  Talk to me about freedom from real slavery. Maybe then I’ll listen.

MARY:  Real slavery isn’t—

SETH:  Look, if you’d been slaves, maybe then I could hear you. You don’t know what oppression is.

MARY AND SETH:  (Their dialogue for the rest of this scene goes very fast.)

MARY:  (MARY explodes.)  And you don’t know what I’ve been through these last two months. A beating a day would have been better.

SETH:  (SETH pulls back.)  Uph, sorry. I didn’t realize –

MARY:  You think you’re the only one who has it bad?!

SETH:  Well, no –

MARY:  How’d you like it if no one would speak to you? Everyone walked away from you? No one would help you if you fell? They stopped you from going to synagogue? And you knew they really wanted to stone you.

SETH:  Happen to you?

MARY:  Every day.

SETH:  Where?

MARY:  In Nazareth.

SETH:  But why? You’re a good per—

MARY:  —Cause I was the town . . . I was –

JOSEPH:  Cause they thought she was a fallen woman.

SETH:  (He understands.)  Oh, pregnancy.

JOSEPH:  She tried to tell them the Almighty was the father—

MARY:  —No one believed me—

JOSEPH:  Including me. I was angry. Humiliated—

MARY:  —We were engaged in April. I was away for five months—seeing my cousin, Elizabeth in Ai.

JOSEPH:  And when she returned—

MARY:  —I was “great with child." My belly was out to here.

JOSEPH:  Every one assumed—adultery in Ai. The local rumor was that she was raped by a Roman.

MARY:  I tried to explain—

JOSEPH:  —Every day, neighbors told me to accuse her and have her stoned.

MARY:  That’s the Law.

SETH:  Cruel for you. But, you weren’t stoned . . .

MARY:  No. Kindness saved me. First, my dear Joseph decided he would not accuse me. He was going to divorce me quietly.

JOSEPH:  Then an angel spoke to me in a dream. The Most High had to send an angel before I could believe her.  (To MARY:)  I still can’t forgive myself for—

MARY:  Do.

SETH:  (To MARY:)  Alright, you’ve made your point. There’s worse things than slavery, but you’re still angry. Doesn’t sound like you’re liberated.

MARY:  True. But being away from Nazareth helps. Now I can forgive and forget.

SETH:  Oh, now I understand why you're here. Nothing made sense before.

JOSEPH:  Meaning?

SETH:  Only males are in the Roman census. Nobody else brought a woman from out of town.

JOSEPH:  Right.

SETH:  And no sensible person would bring a woman on a four-day donkey ride when she's about to give birth.

JOSEPH:  True.

SETH:  You're a good man, Joseph. If you'd have left her in Nazareth, her neighbors would have stoned her.

JOSEPH:  Correct. You're shrewd, Seth. You figured out why we're here.

NARRATOR:  MAY-shick and Na-TAN come out of the Inn.

MESHECH:  Well, Natan, you’ve made a good bargain—114 sheep. Have them here before sundown.

NATAN:  We will—if flock is near.

MESHECH:  (MESHECH shouts after NATAN.)  Get them here before sundown and you’ll get the whole price.  (To himself:)  What a deal. With the Persians, I can triple my money.  (MESHECH tells SETH:)  Hey Seth, these people are entitled to loaf. You’re not. Bring six buckets of water to the kitchen.

SETH:  Right away, sir.

MESHECH:  Amazing. I’ve never seen him sprint before.  (Beat)  You gonna sit here all day, Joseph?

JOSEPH:  No. We need to eat.

MESHECH:  But first, we need to talk. . . .You’ve done excellent work on the house.

JOSEPH:  Thank you.

MESHECH:  But now I have a problem.

JOSEPH:  Oh?

MESHECH:  The house is now rentable. If you weren’t here, I could rent it for a good amount, and—

MARY:  But you gave us the house rent-free in return for Joseph’s work.

MESHECH:  True. Joseph, you made that dump shine. I appreciate it, But now—

JOSEPH:  —you want to charge us rent.

MESHECH:  Yes. Yes, I must.

JOSEPH:  You’re going back on your word.

MESHECH:  But I can’t give you the house rent-free forever—

JOSEPH:  You won’t. We’ll leave as soon as it’s safe for my wife and Son to travel.

MESHECH:  I can’t wait that—

MARY:  —Oh, this is unfair.

MESHECH:  Well, consider this—

DAN:  Sir, visitors from Jerusalem. The Temple tax—

MESHECH:  Those leaches! At least I can reason with Zacchaeus.  (To JOSEPH)  I’ll get back to you about the house.

NARRATOR:  Meshech leaves. Dan lies on the bench for a nap. Hefzibah tiptoes in and waits for Mary and Joseph to leave. Hefzibah keeps her hands cupped because she carries several coins.

MARY:  I feel sorry for Meshech.

JOSEPH:  So do I. He has the regular landlord disease.

MARY:  Greed?

JOSEPH:  And overwork.

MARY:  Now he wants rent—in spite of trusting that Jesus is the Anointed One.

JOSEPH:  Trusting in Jesus doesn’t make him an angel—  (JOSEPH snaps his fingers.)  —like that.

NARRATOR:  Mary and Joseph leave.

HEFZIBAH:  Psst. Psst. Dan. . . . Dan!

DAN:  Aaagh! Why'd you wake me?

HEFZIBAH:  Because I have something to show you.

DAN:  I need a nap.

HEFZIBAH:  Look at this.  (HEFZIBAH slowly opens her hands.)

DAN:  Wow. Are the coins real?

HEFZIBAH:  Yes. Mary gave them to me.

DAN:  Where’d she—

HEFZIBAH:  The Magi.  (Beat)  Do you think there’s enough to buy you out of slavery?

DAN:  I dunno. But we'll buy you out, not me.

HEFZIBAH:  No. Get free. Get a job. Buy my freedom, and then we can get married.

DAN:  That’s wise. It should work. I’ll ask Meshech how much he wants for my freedom.

HEFZIBAH:  Do it today.

DAN:  I will. Tell no one. If Meshech learns you're rich, my price will triple.

MESHECH:  Alright, you two, I’ve warned you about romancing when there’s work to be done. Back to work. Hefzibah, I need—

NARRATOR:  Nakes strides in. He, not the Wise Men, is Meshech's customer.

NAKES:  Innkeeper!

MESHECH:  Yes, m’Lord Nakes?

NAKES:  Where are the goats?

MESHECH:  You’ve eaten them all, but I’ve just purchased a flock of 114 sheep.

NAKES:  Are they here?

MESHECH:  Still in the field. I expect them by sundown.

NAKES:  What do we eat til then?

MESHECH:  Figs . . . dates—  (MESHECH shouts:)  Dan, get three baskets of figs and two baskets of dates. Take them to the Persians.

DAN:  Yessir.

NAKES:  Why not three and three?

MESHECH:  Three and two is all we have.

NAKES:  You’re an innkeeper. Don’t run out of—

MESHECH:  Natan!

NATAN:  All here, Meshech. 114 sheep.

MESHECH:  (To NAKES:)  Pardon, m’Lord. The sheep are here.  (MESHECH shouts.)  Dan. Dan.

NATAN:  Sheep are in your pen. At foot of the hill.

DAN:  Yessir?

MESHECH:  Go with Natan.

NARRATOR:  As Dan goes past, Meshech grabs his arm.

MESHECH:  Dan. Make sure there are 114 sheep. Cull the sick. Report back.

DAN:  Yessir.

NAKES:  As I was saying –

MESHECH:  Yes, m’Lord.

NAKES:  You’re an innkeeper. Don’t run out of supplies.

MESHECH:  Yes, m’Lord. But forty-eight camels and thirty-seven Persians strain this village. And you arrived unannounced last night.

NAKES:  We’re a gift . . . from the Wise God.

MESHECH:  Oh, definitely.

NAKES:  Hmmmmm. The professors think well of Bethlehem.

MESHECH:  Yes?

NAKES:  Strange town.

MESHECH:  How so?

NAKES:  The Magi came to see a great prince. But they stooped to enter a mud hut. The baby—a child of peasants.

MESHECH:  A carpenter and his wife.

NAKES:  Peasants.

MESHECH:  Yes, peasants.  (Beat)  Nakes, why thirty-seven riders to carry just three gifts?

NAKES:  Protection. We needed fifty.

MESHECH:  So many for so little?

NAKES:  Thirty days’ ride. Bandits all the way.

MESHECH:  We are honored by the presence of the four wise men from Persia.

NAKES:  There should have been nine.

MESHECH:  Nine?

NAKES:  Two were sick. Three couldn’t get funding. Four came.

MESHECH:  And have blessed us.

NAKES:  They’re great scholars and teachers. Magi. Prophets. Zoroas'trian priests.

MESHECH:  You honor our humble village.

NAKES:  Meshech, cut the flattery. You’re thrilled by cash. Nothing more.

MESHECH:  Well, of course, I—

NAKES:  The Magi are a nuisance. I’d rather herd six year-olds—or chickens.

MESHECH:  Awgh, how can you say that?

NAKES:  Everything interests them. They make detours. They study plants, small animals, strange rocks. A waste of time—and dangerous When they linger, bandits can attack.

MESHECH:  So, how did they know they should come to Bethlehem?

NAKES:  In Susa, they felt their power draining away. They knew a great event had happened. And, they followed the star.

MESHECH:  Which star? The only star you can follow is the star that’s north. Others—

NAKES:  —swing around during the night sky. I know.

MESHECH:  And no star—

NAKES:  —is over a town. Also, it wasn’t a star. It was the cluster of planets—

MESHECH:  —the three together in the evening sky?

NAKES:  Yes.

MESHECH:  You couldn’t possibly follow them. They’re wanderers—out of sight for most of the night.

NAKES:  You’re too literal, Meshech. The planets led the Magi. They saw this new thing in the sky, while they were in the East. They believed it showed a great event here in the West. From their scrolls, they interpreted the event as the birth of a Jewish king.

MESHECH:  How'd you arrive in Bethlehem?

NAKES:  We didn’t. We arrived in Jerusalem. The Magi had an audience with King Herod, and—

MESHECH:  The King! Oh, I’m a dead man.

NAKES:  Huh?

MESHECH:  This baby king is dangerous. He's a threat to Herod's throne.

NAKES:  Of course. But why is that a threat to you?

MESHECH:  The King will think I’m a conspirator.

NAKES:  No problem. Kill the baby and send him to the King.

MESHECH:  You’re from Persia. You don't understand. I can’t kill the baby.

NAKES:  Too soft-hearted.

MESHECH:  No. Too reverent. The baby is the hope of Israel. He's going to free us from Rome.

NAKES:  Too soft-headed.

MESHECH:  Perhaps, but for death, better me than the baby.

NAKES:  Humph. You’re too worried about yourself to hear the miracle of the star.

MESHECH:  Miracle?

NAKES:  Yes. We left Herod’s court yesterday afternoon. It was dusk when we climbed the hill to Bethlehem. Looking up at the town, the planets were right over the hut. We knew where to look. So, we did follow the star.

MESHECH:  Amazing. So, that’s why the Magi were excited.

NAKES:  And why they kept me up most of the night with jubilation and arguments. They're a flock of chickens.

MESHECH:  But, if they weren’t scholars, they wouldn’t have understood the star.

NAKES:  Last night, they also argued about Herod. The King said he to wants worship the baby. . . .The King lies.

MESHECH:  Oh?

NAKES:  The king lies. . . .A Persian cannot lie.

MESHECH:  Really? I don’t think I could get through the morning without—

NAKES:  You’re right. If the baby Jesus is to be King of the Jews, King Herod will try to kill him.

MESHECH:  Yes.  (Beat)  And what do you think about the baby, m’Lord Nakes?

DAN:  Sir!

MESHECH:  (To NAKES:)  Pardon, m’Lord. I must check the sheep.  (To DAN:)  Well?

DAN:  The count was correct. 114. But, two were sickly. I gave them back to Natan.

MESHECH:  Well done.  (Beat)  Natan, is the flock secured?

NATAN:  Yes, m’Lord.

MESHECH:  Good work. 114, minus two sick. 112. You’ve earned your pay—minus two.

NATAN:  May the Most High bless you.

MESHECH:  You helped greatly, Natan. I won’t forget it.

NATAN:  Shalom.

MESHECH:  (To NAKES:)  Your sheep are here. Lamb for the Magi. Mutton for your men.

NAKES:  Send us ten animals a day.  (Beat)  I'd like to speak to your man. Dan, are you the one who tried to tell King Herod about the birth of the Anointed One?

DAN:  Yessir. But the guards laughed at me. They wouldn't let me—

NAKES:  We're grateful to you. At first the guards laughed at us too. But then a guard remembered your visit. They realized our message might be important, so they ushered us into the throne room for an audience with King Herod. Thank you.

DAN:  (Surprised)  You're welcome.

MESHECH:  Before the sheep arrived, we were speaking of the baby. I asked what you thought of him.

NAKES:  Your Jewish God puzzles me.

MESHECH:  Me too. Often.

NAKES:  Your God claims to be the only god.

MESHECH:  Yes.

NAKES:  How could he father a baby?

MESHECH:  The mother explained that to me. He was—

NAKES:  And why?

MESHECH:  . . . to liberate us from Rome.

NAKES:  (Nakes makes a dry spitting sound.)  I spit on your politics.

MESHECH:  Well, the mother thinks he was born to free us from ourselves.

NAKES:  That matters. I want that freedom. How does the baby do it?

MESHECH:  I dunno.

NAKES:  You’re a poor supplier, Innkeeper. You seldom have what we need.

MESHECH:  I’m a realist, Nakes. I can only deal with what I see, hear and know.

NAKES:  Not good enough. Already in Judea, I’ve learned much. To be a realist in Israel, you have to believe in miracles.

MESHECH:  I’ll remember that.

NAKES:  Do.

NARRATOR:  Nakes leaves, and Dan arrives with a sack of coins, which he hands to MAY-shick.

DAN:  MAY-shick, here's the price we agreed on for my freedom.

MESHECH:  (MESHECH shakes the bag.)  Feels about right.

DAN:  Aren't you going to count it?

MESHECH:  No need. I'll takes whatever's here. . . . Oh, you poor clod. Don't you know that a slave can't buy himself out of slavery?

DAN:  (Sputters)  But you promised!?

MESHECH:  Meaningless. Whatever you have is mine. You're still a slave.

DAN:  (DAN shrieks.)

NARRATOR:  Dan leaves.  Hep-ZEE-Bah tries to console him, but cannot stop his sobs.

MESHECH:  Dan's pathetic. He was all joy about being free. And then I squashed his hopes. (MESHECH shakes the bag again and chuckles.)  A good day's bonus.

___________

NARRATOR:  (Brief pause)  It's now early morning, the next day.

MESHECH:  Well, Seth, time for some domestic tranquility. . . .Yesterday was too much—fire, no water, no sheep, Nakes and his demands. On this fine day—

NAKES:  What was that about Nakes?

MESHECH:  Uh, m’Lord. .  . I was just saying that . . . that it was a pleasure to meet your needs.

NAKES:  You’re an obvious liar, Meshech. Change your ways. Tell the truth.

MESHECH:  That would take practice, m’Lord—

NAKES:  No. Just do it. If you can’t tell the truth, keep quiet.

NARRATOR:  Dan runs in.

DAN:  M’Lord Nakes, I have a message from the Magus Mazda.

MESHECH:  What is it?

DAN:  He told me to tell Nakes. Privately.

MESHECH:  So tell me. I’ll tell him.

NAKES:  You heard him, Meshech. Privately. .  . .Leave.

MESHECH:  As m’Lord wishes. 

NAKES:  The message?!

DAN:  The Magi are leaving.

NAKES:  No. We leave in six days.

DAN:  No. Today. They told me that Magus Mazda had a dream last night. An angel warned him. They’re leaving.

NAKES:  Now?

DAN:  Now. He says the angel warned him not to go back to Jerusalem, but to go another way. He told the other Magi that—

NAKES:  Aaaugggh! Typical. Those Magi think I can get us ready for a month-long-trip in an hour. Haugh! It’s herding chickens.

DAN:  (DAN cringes.)

NAKES:  Oh, Dan, I’m not angry with you.  (NAKES ponders and speaks to himself.)  We go up the east bank of the Jordan. The problems are food—two lame camels—pursuit by Herod’s troops.  (Beat)  Dan, may the Wise God bless you, my son.

DAN:  Thank you, m’Lord.

NARRATOR:  As Nakes leaves, Meshech rushes into the yard.

MESHECH:  What was the message?

DAN:  The Persians are leaving.

MESHECH:  Don’t make jokes.

DAN:  No joke. They’re leaving now.

MESHECH:  Why?

DAN:  An angel warned Mazda in a—

MESHECH:  No. They’re going to be here til the end of the week.

DAN:  Don’t ask me. Ask them.

MESHECH:  Of course. They owe me money.

NARRATOR:  Meshech and Dan leave. Seth stays, and we hear his prayer.

SETH:  O Mighty One, I want to be free. I don’t want to be a slave—a slave to myself or to Meshech or to Rome. I don’t  know how you’ll free me, but I believe you can. Yes, Almighty, please liberate me. Liberate us. Yah.

NARRATOR:  Dan rushes in.

DAN:  The Galileans left last night.

SETH:  Why?

DAN:  An angel warned them.

SETH:  How do you know?

DAN:  Mary told Hefzibah.

SETH:  And Hefzibah tells you everything.

NARRATOR:  Nakes and Meshech return.

MESHECH:  . . . so you’re leaving, Nakes. I’m stuck with 102 sheep. Pay for them too.

NAKES:  No, Innkeeper. We don’t eat them; we don’t buy them.

MESHECH:  What’ll I do with a flock of sheep?

NAKES:  Your worry not ours. Farewell—

MESHECH:  Take the flock with you—

NAKES:  We can't. They'd slow us down—

MESHECH:  What's your rush?

NAKES:  I have a squad of thirty-two. If Herod chooses, his army can turn us into desert dust. Our only hope—

MESHECH:  I understand. But, about payment for the figs and dates—

NAKES:  Don’t weary me. We leave you a wealthy man.

MESHECH:  But—

NAKES:  Thank the Wise God for your blessings.

MESHECH:  I do, m’Lord. I also thank you.

NARRATOR:  Nakes leaves.

DAN:  Sir.  (MESHECH doesn’t hear Dan.)  Sir?

MESHECH:  Eh? What?

DAN:  The Galileans are gone.

MESHECH:  Gone? Where?

SETH:  Dunno.

DAN:  Me either.

MESHECH:  Aghhh! There’s no gratitude any more. I give those Galileans a house—and even a lady’s maid—and they run off in the night. And you fools never know what’s going on.  (MESHECH shouts.)  Hef-ZEE-bah! ZI-bah!

HEFZIBAH:  Yessir?

MESHECH:  You saw the Galileans leave?

HEFZIBAH:  Yessir.

MESHECH:  Which way?

HEFZIBAH:  South. On the road to Hebron and Beersheba.

MESHECH:  Why south? They’re from up north.

HEFZIBAH:  I guess they’re going to Egypt.

MESHECH:  Why?

HEFZIBAH:  Joseph had another dream—

MESHECH:  And?

HEFZIBAH:  An angel warned him that Herod wants to kill Jesus.

MESHECH:  Another angel! We’re having an epidemic of angels. . . .O Holy One, why don’t you ever send an angel to help me?  (Beat)  And those Galileans left without paying rent!

HEFZIBAH:  Sir, I know you're pained by losing this money—

MESHECH:  —Pained? I'm in agony.

HEFZIBAH:  But if you stop and think—

MESHECH:  —no time—

HEFZIBAH:  —the angels also have a message for us.

MESHECH:  (With contempt)  What?

HEFZIBAH:  That they'd be in great danger if they stayed. Are we—?

MESHECH:  KOZ!!!

SETH:  What's a Koz?

MESHECH:  Koz directs Herod's death squad. He kills anyone that threatens the King. He's so vile that his title is AB-uh-DUN—the Destroyer. His men are thugs. And they're coming to Bethlehem—

HEFZIBAH:  —to kill baby Jesus.

NARRATOR:  Shimon enters.

MESHECH:  Hey, thief, what're you doing here?

SHIMON:  Here to buy salt and flour.

MESHECH:  Make sure you're out of town before sundown.

SETH:  Sir, why are you worried about us? Jesus and his folks are gone, and we haven't done anything.

MESHECH:  You're an idiot. Koz can kill anyone in sight.  (Beat)  You've gotta get out of here. Under torture, you'd blab Jesus' route.

(MESHECH switches from thought to action.)  Hef-ZEE-bah, pack for you and Moshe. Dan and Seth, warn our neighbors about Koz.

NARRATOR:  Hef-ZEE-bah, Dan, Seth, and MAY-shick all leave. Shimon stays to vent his anger.

SHIMON:  MAY-shick, you a crazy man. Why help you? You think I'm scum. You think all shepherds scum. You rob us—pay half what flock is worth. Then you call me thief. You the thief. Thief. You buy and sell people. To you, we all animals. You not person—you money sack. Almighty One, pay him—

NARRATOR:  Shimon flops on  the ground in amazement as the Almighty speaks to him.

SHIMON:  (Audience hears SHIMON.)                          THE LORD:  (Only Shimon hears the LORD.)                            

                                                                                                                                                 Shimon.

What's that, O Holy One?

(SHIMON listens.)                                                                                                    I have chosen Moshe.

What about Moshe?

(He listens.)                                                                                              MAY-shick will not raise Moshe.

Think so too. But then, where Moshe stay?

(He listens.)                                                                                                                             With you.

Oh, no. Noooo. Won't work.

(He listens some more.)                                                Your family will care for Moshe until Herod dies.

Oh, MAY-shick never agree.

(He listens.)                                                                                                                       HE . . . WILL.

SHIMON:  Alright. I’ll ask MAY-Shick. But, I don’t –

NARRATOR:  MAY-shick and Hef-ZEE-bah return. Hef-ZEE-bah carries Moshe.

MAY-SHICK:  This town is too dangerous for you three. Koz is a master of torture.

HEFZIBAH:  Why would he go after us?

MESHECH:  Neighbors will blab. They'll say you know where Jesus went. You three have to scatter. To protect yourselves—and Jesus.

HEFZIBAH:  But we're slaves—

MESHECH:  No problem. I'm going to free you. I might as well free you and Seth too—

HEFZIBAH:  Oh, sir, thank you. Thank you.

MESHECH:  Alright. I want you and Dan to take Moshe to Liz in Ai.

HEPHZIBAH:  It will be our joy.

SHIMON:  Sir.

MESHECH:  You're still here?

SHIMON:  Yes. Does Koz have a man in every town in Israel?

MESHECH:  Very likely. I'm his contact here.

SHIMON:  Ai—small town. People notice. People talk. In a week, Koz know about Moshe. Koz will get Moshe. Koz knows that capture of Moshe is best way to torture you—to find out about King Jesus.

MESHECH:  (MESHECH realizes that SHIMON is speaking wisdom.) So, wise man what do you suggest?

SHIMON:  What if . . . what if Moshe goes with us?

MESHECH:  Who’s “us”?

SHIMON:  Shepherds. My family—mother, father, grandfather.

MESHECH:  No.

SHIMON:  We're not in census. Nobody knows shepherds.

MESHECH:  So?

SHIMON:  Nobody sees shepherd child. They think we breed like rats.

MESHECH:  You mean well, but—

SHIMON:  My baby brother died last month. Moshe’d comfort my mother.

MESHECH:  But it wouldn’t comfort me—

SHIMON:  No comfort to know he lives?

MESHECH:  But I have great hopes for Moshe. I want him educated, with position, respect.

SHIMON:  Did you start with money, education, respect?

MESHECH:  No. I grew up poor.

SHIMON:  You made it. He can too.  (Beat)  What troubles you? We outcasts?

MESHECH:  Well—

SHIMON:  Yes, we outcasts. We good for your son. We protection. If Moshe is with rich people, Koz will find out. Koz can capture or kill him.

MESHECH:  Your offer is tempting.  (Beat)  But what’s in this for you?

SHIMON:  A MITZ-vah, a blessing for us. We help Jesus—by keeping Moshe.

MESHECH:  You’re going to sell Moshe, aren’t you?

SHIMON:  No! Sell sheep and goats. Not people. Shame. You think we same as you?

MESHECH:  I don’t know what to think. I'll ponder this a while.

NARRATOR:  MAY-shick wanders off by himself. We hear his thoughts—and his prayer.

MESHECH:  Koz will get into town any time now. I'll rush to him and say how glad I am that he finally made it. I can say, "But the Galileeans have taken their brat and have gone home—up north to Nazareth in the Galilee. They left in the middle of the night. I don't know whether they took the east or the west bank of the Jordan. If you ride after them, you can catch them today or tomorrow."

That'll send them two days in the wrong direction—and give Jesus and his parents a five or six-day head start.

Like Nakes, Koz thinks I only think about money. He won't look for me among a men's holy order in the desert. So, after misleading Koz, I'll leave town on the road to Jerusalem, double back, and go to the Dead Sea. I'll join the Essenes. (ESS-eenes.)  They don't use money. I'll spend whole days praising the Almighty. (MESHECH shrugs.) Oh well, I suppose I can get used to it.

Almighty One, I don't often ask your advice. Is this a good plan?  (MESHECH listens a short while.)  No answer. I'll take that as a yes.

It does make sense for Moshe to stay with the shepherds. And it leaves my options open. After Herod dies, I can get Moshe. If I'm content with the Essenes, (ESS-eenes) Moshe and I can both join. Or, I can leave and we can both start over with the stash I buried in Ai. (Eye-EE)

Shimon doesn't realize it, but he's offered an excellent solution. Thank You, Almighty One, for working this out.

NARRATOR:  MAY-shick returns to the Inn.

MESHECH:  Shimon, I accept your offer. It's good that Moshe stays with your family. After Herod dies, I'll come get him. Thank you for your kindness.

SHIMON:  Thank you.

MESHECH:  For what?

SHIMON:  You say “thank you.” First time you treat me as human.

MESHECH:  You're a brave boy, Shimon. You could be killed for protecting Moshe.

SHIMON:  (SHIMON shrugs it off.)  Uumph.

MESHECH:  Don’t underestimate Koz. He may kill us all.  (Beat)  Hef-ZEE-bah, Shimon tells me I’m not good at thanking people. But, I thank you. You have done well in caring for Moshe.

HEFZIBAH:  He’s like my own son.

MESHECH:  Here’s the money Dan paid me this morning. Take it. You'll need it when you and Dan marry.

HEFZIBAH:  Ohhh, thank you, sir.

MESHECH:  And remember: Scatter.  (MESHECH holds Moshe, kisses him and blubbers.)  I love you so much, son.  (Beat. MESHECH hands Moshe to SHIMON.)  Here, Shimon. Treat him well.

SHIMON:  We give him best care.

HEFZIBAH:  Here’s his wrappings.

MESHECH:  And here’s money for you.

SHIMON:  Oh, no money. We do this for Jesus and for Moshe.

MESHECH:  (Gently)  Take the money. When Moshe is six, you can send him to a rabbi to learn reading..

SHIMON:  Why me?

MESHECH:  Cause you're smart.

HEFZIBAH:  And tell your mother that Moshe is partly weaned. He's already eating some ground up vegetables.  (Beat)  And where will you go, sir?

MESHECH:  Nowhere. I changed my mind. I'm staying in Bethlehem.

HEFZIBAH:  Why?

MESHECH:  I've been a liar all my life. Time to put my skills to good use.  (Beat)  Koz and his thugs are on horseback. If they go south, they'll catch those Galileans within one or two days. It's my job to misdirect them.

SHIMON:  Will Koz figure out that you fooled him?

MESHECH:  Oh, for sure. He'll be furious.

SHIMON:  And he'll come back for you?

MESHECH:  But I won't be here. He'll confiscate my properties.

HEFZIBAH:  Where will you go?

MESHECH:  My secret.

SHIMON:  Now I understand—

MESHECH:  What?

SHIMON:  Never seen you generous before. . .You give away money because. . . now money worthless to you.

MESHECH:  Something like that.

SHIMON:  Like Mary said, Jesus change you.

MESHECH:  She said that?

SHIMON:  Yes. When she tripped me.

MESHECH:  An amazing little lady. Why’d she trip you?

SHIMON:  To stop me from killing Seth—and you.

MESHECH:  What!!?? Why?

SHIMON:  Because you told King Herod. You tried to kill Jesus.

MESHECH:  But I did betray Jesus. Dan got to the palace.

SHIMON:  Yes, but Mary explained. You sent Seth to stop Dan.

NARRATOR:  Dan returns from sounding the alarm to the neighbors in Bethlehem.

DAN:  Sir, no one wants to leave.

MESHECH:  Did they give a reason?

DAN:  Yes, but I'd just as soon not say—

MESHECH:  Tell me.

DAN:  Well sir, they thought it was just another of your whacko ideas.

NARRATOR:  MAY-shick pulls back his arm to hit Dan.

HEFZIBAH:  Sir, you ordered him to speak.

MESHECH:  So I did. . . . And the good people of Bethlehem won't leave—well, I'm innocent of their blood. Be it on their own heads.

HEFZIBAH:  Dan, MAY-shick has given us our freedom—you, me, and Seth. And look, here's your purchase price.  He's given it back to help us get started.

NARRATOR:  They hug.

DAN:  That's a generous surprise, sir.

MESHECH:  I hope I'm not doing a bad thing. I don't know whether you two have the spunk and sense to make it.

DAN and HEFZIBAH:  We will.

NARRATOR:  Hef-ZEE-bah kisses Moshe.

HEFZIBAH:  Shalom, Moshe. Little darling.  (To MESHECH:)  Shalom, sir. May the Most High bless and protect you.

MESHECH:  And to both of you. Shalom.

NARRATOR:  Hef-ZEE-bah starts to leave. She impulsively turns and runs to MAY-shick. From behind, she gives him a hug around the waist. Then she and Dan run out of town.

SHIMON:  Tomorrow, Koz wants blood.

MESHECH:  Yes. And he may come after you.

SHIMON:  He can’t find us. Shepherds can disappear. Shalom, MAY-shick.

MESHECH:  Shalom.  (Beat)  Shimon, take your flock with you. They’ll die in that pen.

SHIMON:  Thank you, sir.

MESHECH:  Oh, and SHIMON, ya know, you’re pretty short for an angel.

SHIMON:  (Surprised)  Me?

MESHECH:  Thank you . . . brother.

SHIMON:  You’re welcome . . . brother?!

NARRATOR  (Pause)  Here, our play ends.

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Purpose of this blog is to compile several books for my grandchildren to read in 25 years.

Copyright  ©  2016 by Jack Towe

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I welcome your reactions.  Please click below on "Post a Comment".

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Jesus’s Birth

From the New King James Version

 

Luke 2

1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.

2  This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.

3  So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.

4  Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,

5  to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.

6  So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.

7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

8  Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9  And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.

10  Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.

11  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

12  And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

13  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

14  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” 

15  So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”

16  And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.

17  Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.

18  And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19  But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.

20  Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

 

Matthew 1

18  Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.

19  Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.

20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

21 "And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins."

22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:

23 "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us."

24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife,

25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.

 

Matthew 2

1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,

2  saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

3  When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

4  And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

5  So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:

6  ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;‚Ä®For out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’”

7  Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared.

8  And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

9  When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.

10  When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.

11  And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

                      And here's the bad news, the part of the Nativity story we usually omit--

12  Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.

13  Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”

14  When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt,

15     and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

16    Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.

17     Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying:

18          “A voice was heard in Ramah,

               Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning,

               Rachel weeping for her children,

               Refusing to be comforted,

               Because they are no more.”