This is a first person narrative told by Joseph to a visitor; I anticipate it being a few days after the birth and he is talking to an unnamed visitor. When I do these I avoid a full costume, but a single prop or characterful item of clothing can help get into character
(I think I used a stick/crook in the past). Character can just as easily be portrayed through posture and voice (don’t overdo an accent; it’s too easy to slip into mockery).
Remember; Mary and Joseph are new parents, with all the rabbit-in-the-headlight awe and exhaustion that brings. Dialled up to 11 because of who this baby is. The writing attempts to reframe the nativity away from the ultra-traditional picture we are often left with at nativity plays, and draws particularly on some of the work of Kenneth E. Bailey in Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes.
Feel free to adapt the work as fits your context (and theology, I guess!). Learning lines is good, but most good public readers will be able to make something of this with a few read-throughs.
Ah, it’s good to see you! The baby is in the next room, asleep with Mary. Why don’t you sit and we’ll talk a while – I can tell you about our journey!
9 days it took us. 9 days to walk from Bethlehem to Nazareth. Oh it wasn’t so bad, but we weren’t as fast as some of the other pilgrims coming here from that area (the closer we got, the more people there were, there’s only a few ways to get into Bethlehem). It was good to have other people around too – some helped us along the way. We usually didn’t walk as far as everyone else each day – Mary was walking for two really! Some of the mountain roads were slow but the scenery there is so beautiful. It was good you know, to return to the place of my Birth – where much of my own family are. But with everyone else doing the same it was crowded. We made it back here though, to my Mum and Dad’s place; just a shame there was no space in the guest room – too full of aunties and uncles and the like. Still there was space downstairs. It was night time when the baby came, so the animals were already inside, as is our custom. I heard how one family down the road had a cow stolen overnight when they forgot to bring it inside last week.
So there we were, and the thought occurred to me, the son of God is going to be born here? Amongst the animals? With their filth and mess. And where will we put him when he is born? And then my eyes fell onto the stone manger, built into the wall; and it looked pretty cosy for a baby, just the right kind of shape and straw is fairly soft, if a bit prickly. Swaddled up in some cloth though, he would be fine I thought. And then I thought again – how could it be that I am here, worrying about looking after God? How can that be, that God will come to Earth as a baby, amid the dung and the squalor. And that I could look at a manger and think – ;that will do for God.
He must have wanted to know us so bad. His heart must have ached and yearned to be with us. God wanted to be with us so much that he would put himself in a position like this, desiring to be so close to us that he would come to earth as a tiny helpless baby. And now we have him – there, you can hear him crying as he wakes up; go, see the God who wants to know us, the God that comes to Earth as a baby.
Martin Hatfield is the Minister of Kingshill Baptist Church in Buckinghamshire.