There are many characters in the story of the first Christmas, but some get a lot more attention than others. Sure, we focus easily on Mary and Joseph and we celebrate the angels and the manger baby…but God was orchestrating a grand scheme of coordinated actions and motivations. Introduce (or get to know better) some of the “extras” in the birth of Christ with some mock interviews. You may want to have students take on roles and read scripts with one another; or you could have older students (or adults) dress the part and use dramatic flair to enact for student education/entertainment.
Here are a few possible ideas to get started… (Note: some dramatic license taken.) This may be broken into separate lessons over the advent season.
Surprise Night Light: Interview with Shepherd Shem…
Advent Action Newscaster: Greetings, Israelites, and welcome to another evening broadcast. We are here in Bethlehem tonight where some unique events seem to be unfolding. The town is packed with census registrants, strange stars are lighting the sky…I am trying to get to the bottom of all of this. I have here with me one who seems quite excited about something. Shem is a rather smelly shepherd who insists he has just seen a heavenly spectacle…Mr. Shem, what exactly transpired?
Shem: (with great excitement) It’s true! It’s true! He has come!!!!
AAN: Who? What happened? Please, try to control yourself somewhat. What is this all about?
Shem: It was a miracle! We saw them! They told us! He is here! It is true! We…they…He…It’s a miracle!
AAN: Please…attach some proper nouns, sir…what happened?
Shem: Well, I am a shepherd by trade, you see. I have been out in the fields the past few days, tending the flock as usual. It’s usually pretty dull. Just the sky and the stars and the grass and the grazing…sheep aren’t the brightest of creatures so we are responsible for keeping them safe and fed. For example, the other day little Fluff-hoof wandered off and—
AAN: But the spectacle, Shem? The events of tonight?
Shem: Oh, yes! It was amazing!! Well, I was just drifting off to sleep, when all of a sudden, well…we were surrounded! Everywhere! All over!
AAN: Surrounded by what exactly?
Shem: First there was light. Blinding light all around. Not like sunlight. Not star light. Not lamp light. It was all-consuming all encompassing all around light. Everywhere. And a tremendous noise that I can’t even describe. I don’t need to tell you I was no longer anywhere near sleep. Amos (the lead shepherd) began trembling and quaking. I am pretty sure he needed a fresh loin cloth…I couldn’t even speak or move. We were so scared. And then there was a voice! It was like a waterfall was speaking, so bold and big and rushing…
AAN: And what did this voice say?
Shem: It said…(voice breaking with excitement) Oh, it’s too wonderful…it said, “do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
AAN: A baby? This Savior is a baby?
Shem: Yes, a baby? And imagine…who would put a baby in a trough? Why not a bed or a house? I still didn’t know what to do. And then…we were even more surrounded! Not just one, but a whole host of them! Everywhere there were angels! They were singing. I have never heard such a sound. I don’t think I will ever forget it. They sang praises and said “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” The sound was everywhere! And then, just as suddenly as it came, it was gone. We were again in darkness and silence. But the glow inside of us was more than we could bear.
AAN: So what did you do?
Shem: We left Hezekiah in charge of the sheep and went running into Bethlehem as quickly as we could! We had to find out what the angels were describing! Well, we ran all through town and likely woke up most of the sleepers trying to find a swaddled baby in a manger…but then we found them! Should have figured the huge star was a guiding clue, but, well…shepherds have never been known for intelligence…
AAN: So you found the baby? It was in a manger?
Shem: HE was in a manger. A baby, yes, but…well, more than that. When I looked at Him, I just knew. He is a child. He has a mother. He was surrounded by hay and animals. But I knew. It was the Messiah. I have heard people talking about a Savior but never paid much attention or understood. I know now. Oh, I must see Him again! I must spread the news! This is too good to keep quiet! He is here!!! (runs off)
AAN: But he’s…oh, well, I guess this news was too good to hold back. Well, folks, there you have it. Evidently, a Savior has been born. I think I should investigate this further…We will keep you posted on the latest developments. Stay tuned!
Another Abode Option: Questioning Isaac the Innkeeper
Advent Action News Interviewer: Hello again, viewers. We are once again in the township of Bethlehem, and it seems I have at last tracked down the Inn which supposedly the cause of so much commotion tonight. I can’t seem to get too far on the premises, but I have here with me Isaac, the owner and proprietor of the establishment, who has agreed to give me a brief statement.
Isaac: No rooms! I don’t have any vacancies! Please…go away I have NO ROOM!
AAN: Excuse me, sir? Are you in charge here?
Isaac: Only if you are not seeking lodging. This place is fully packed out. The census does this every time…people swarming from everywhere. I wish there could be a more efficient way of counting heads. There isn’t enough space for all these crowds! It’s not just me…not a hotel in town has space! Though admittedly we do serve the best Kosher menu around…
AAN: So your inn is fully occupied now?
Isaac: Didn’t I just say that? Beyond fully occupied, in fact…I even had to rent out the stable!
AAN: The stable? You have someone staying in the barn??
Isaac: Yes, I know that’s absurd, but I do…certainly it is not a normal room. I wouldn’t want to disturb the livestock, you see. But there was this young couple…a woman in labor. Not even a woman, really…merely a girl. Her first baby, poor thing didn’t know what to do.
AAN: Was the baby coming soon?
Isaac: Open your ears, will you? She was in labor! I’m not one to turn such a person out. It was the wife’s idea, really, my Rachel…she wanted to help when she saw the young thing. The stable was all I could offer, but somehow I sensed they needed something. Rachel helped with the delivery. The husband, he knew nothing. Few men do. Actually, though, I don’t know that he was her husband. He mentioned betrothal, which sounds quite scandalous if you ask me, but I’m not one to judge…
AAN: Do you know the woman’s name? Or what they will call the child?
Isaac: That’s the other strange thing. When they arrived, she kept talking about her son coming. How could she know that? Only God knows what a child will be, boy or girl. But she said the baby was to be called Jesus; Emmanuel…strange.
AAN: Did you have any other curious guests this evening, Isaac?
Isaac: Have you seen this place? It is swarming with odd balls! But you know, there were some in particular…we had this gang of loud, wild, smelly shepherds come by. They demanded to know where the baby was. I don’t know how they had heard of it. This was minutes after he arrived! But they insisted there was a baby boy wrapped up in cloths in a manger. Well, I wasn’t going to deny them a peek, for whatever reason they were so desperate. I led them to the stable. You’d think they had never seen an infant before! They all fell face down practically worshipping this child! He was nice looking but even so…
AAN: Did the shepherds say how they knew about this baby?
Isaac: Did they say? Have you tried to speak with a shepherd? They hang out with sheep all day, how can you expect a sensible conversation? I tried to ask them and they were so crazed they ran off before I could get a straight answer. Something about heavens and messengers and light…well, there is quite a bit of light out here, with this strange star. I won’t be sad to see this census done, I tell you…if you’ll excuse me, I have guests to tend to. (exits)
AAN: But Mr. Isaac… oh well. Another strange experience in the town of Bethlehem. More to follow, I am sure. Don’t go far, folks.
Witnessing Salvation: Anna and Simeon in the Temple
Advent Action Newscaster: Ladies and gentlemen, we are here again. It has been just over a week since Bethlehem was rocked by activity of crowds, angels, and mysterious starlight. It has quieted some since then, but only some…I am joining you today from Jerusalem, the temple to be exact. It seems this is the latest scene of significance, and I am talking today with a couple, well, temple residents, who seem awfully thrilled about what they saw today. First, let’s chat with Simeon.
Simeon: Thanks be to God! My eyes have seen salvation.
AAN: Excuse me, sir? Do you mind if I ask a couple of questions?
Simeon: Please, I am only too glad to share whatever you wish to know. My life is fulfilled and my heart satisfied. Today has blessed all that we could possibly hope for.
AAN: What happened today?
Simeon: I have waited all my life…and the Lord has granted my deepest desire. Blessed be the name of the Lord!
AAN: So what was it?
Simeon: Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace…this child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many…
AAN: Child? Who? What happened?
Anna: Please, allow me to explain.
AAN: And you are?
Anna: My name is Anna. I have lived in this temple more than fifty years, and today I witnessed the most beautiful miracle known. Simeon also waited his whole life, and it has come at last. The Lord is merciful and good.
AAN: So, please…what took place here?
Anna: The child, the Christ was here! His parents took him here for the dedication. Simeon was led by the spirit to come.
Simeon: It is not usually my day to worship and serve here. I knew today was special. I have seen the king, the salvation of the world.
Anna: His mother was kind. She seemed somewhat overcome by all of the attention. This is not the end of the stir the little one will cause.
Simeon: The redeemer of Israel…
Simeon and Anna: And the world!
AAN: Well, viewers, you heard it…sounds like the long-awaited Messiah may just have arrived on the scene. How can we be sure? As always, we’ll just have to stay tuned for that…Thank you. And good night.