This play is intended for the whole congregation. All ages find a place in it.
It was written for what was then a sizeable congregation of adults and children of all ages, and aimed to make as many as possible out of being consumers of Christian fare, into being partners in telling the Good News. In order to make it truly congregational, it had to engage adults as adults. It does not require that they play at being children again, just because it’s Christmas. But will it be accessible for children? Yes, because they warm to a show when it gets going, and they will be with adults in rehearsal and performance, so they can ask questions about what is going on. And they will hear adults talking about it, and even asking and debating questions. As always, children do a lot to look after themselves – they learn early how to listen to what is going on around them, and to think about what it might all mean, even though much of what is going on around them is in a bit of a fog. There is much happening in this strange world they can’t make sense of, but they work from what they can see, they leap forward when the fog clears a little, and they learn to ask questions, and to ask them to the Paxman-degree. In all this children are models for adults, who may think they know enough, but still only see through a glass darkly. The play is a conversation piece not a take it or leave statement.
The play follows the text of the Gospel closely, missing nothing out, and bringing nothing into the narrative from Matthew or other sources. It thus differs from the usual mish-mash of nativity plays. But there is some play with words, making it more a paraphrase than a strict translation. I hope the paraphrase helps serve the meaning and purpose of the Gospel in a lively and engaging way. The play aims to open lines of communication and engagement between the writing long ago and our taking it up and taking it on today.
Scene One is an imagined introduction to Luke’s Gospel. There is the slightest nod towards Luke 1.1-5, and then a major liberty is taken with Luke’s text by bringing Simeon and Anna in the temple forward to the start of the play, from where Luke put them at the end of his account, 2.22-38. This step is justified, I think, because Luke, a skilful writer, uses Simeon’s song to state the main structural lines of his whole narrative, through the Gospel and to the end of the Acts of the Apostles.
This script may be freely used, and adapted to fit time and place. I hope the core of the story of God’s coming to save us all in Jesus will be respected, whatever the adaptation, and the message made even plainer. I would like to know when it is used and what people make of it.