Are You the One?
Gabriel and Mary
Are You the One?
Gabriel and Mary
· John the Baptist
· prison guard
Optional Scripture reading prior to the drama: Matthew 11:2-6
(John is sitting in prison reading. Guard enters with plate.)
G: (Gruffly.) Here’s your lunch, John.
J: What is it?
G: Moldy bread and cockroaches.
G: I thought you liked cockroaches. (Hands him plate.)
J: Locusts. I like locusts. Big difference. You don’t happen to have any honey I could drizzle on top?
J: (Standing and shouting.) Well I’m not eating any more of this unclean food! I’m going on a hunger strike until this prison supplies me with food allowed by the laws of Moses! Tell that warden he’s in big trouble—and that comes straight from God!
G: Settle down, John, or you’re just going to get into bigger trouble.
J: Bigger trouble? How can I get into bigger trouble? I’m in King Herod’s prison. I assume he’s going to execute me any day now. How do I get into bigger trouble?
G: Well it’s your own fault, John. You should never publicly criticize the king. What kind of a fool does that? You told everybody that King Herod was committing adultery with his brother’s wife. You don’t say those kinds of things if you want to keep your head.
J: But it’s the truth. He took his brother’s wife. It’s adultery. I just tell the truth.
G: The truth is going to get you killed.
J: The truth is the only way to live.
G: No, the world can’t handle the truth. Not if it contradicts the king. We need to keep quiet. We need to keep our thoughts to ourselves. Wait till King Herod dies—then maybe you can tell the truth. But not now. Let me tell you something: King Herod is just a little bit in awe of you. He thinks you just might be a genuine prophet. So take advantage of that! Don’t keep criticizing him—tell him something he wants to hear. Make him want to protect you. Instead of getting your head chopped off, you could be out of here and on his payroll as a court prophet. You just have to play your cards right. Survive!
J: You poor man. You have lost your soul.
G: You don’t know me—you don’t know anything about me.
J: I see more than you think. I see you’re trying to drown the pain of life with a constant flow of wine. I see you here in prison guarding me—but you’re just as much stuck in this prison as I am.
G: That’s enough!
J: I see the bribes you take. I see your lack of self-respect. I see that nothing means anything to you anymore.
G: I said that’s enough!
J: (Approaches the guard, placing a hand on his shoulder.) Where’s the image of God that God put in you? Why are you fearing King Herod instead of fearing God? All Herod can do is kill you. But God is the one who owns your life forever!
G: (Pushes him away.) Why am I even listening to you? In a few days the ax is coming down on your neck and that’ll be it for you, and I’ll be laughing because I’m still alive!
J: Yes, the ax is coming. But not Herod’s ax—God’s ax. Even now it is laid at the root of the tree, about to cut it down. God’s judgment is coming on all evil and selfishness. Give God your loyalty before it’s too late! Don’t give your loyalty to this phony king.
G: Well he’s the only king I see around here.
J: No. King Herod will soon be no more. In fact this whole world is passing away. The truth is disintegrating it. The real world is on the way, along with the real king—the Messiah.
G: The Messiah isn’t coming. That’s a fairy tale.
J: He’s already here.
G: What do you mean he’s already here?
J: I’ve met him.
J: (Walks toward the audience.) In the wilderness, along the banks of the Jordan River. That’s where I was preaching. People came out by the thousands to hear the Word of the Lord. I told them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to run from the coming judgment? Bear fruit that proves your repentance! Don’t tell me you’re already God’s chosen people. God can turn these stones into God’s chosen people! You must confess your sins, be washed, and start as a new person, dedicated to God!” (Acting out a baptism as he speaks.) And then people came down into the water with me, and they confessed their sins, and I baptized them for the forgiveness of their sins. (Pointing and gesturing.) But one day I saw a man standing on the bank of the river, and I saw a dove come straight down out of the blue sky and land on his head—and it stayed there. No one else saw it. I think only I could see it. I could see that he was pure and sinless, like a lamb without any blemish. Then he stepped into the water and came up to me and said he wanted to be baptized. I said, “No, I should be baptized by you!” But he insisted I baptize him. So I did. And as I plunged him down into the water, I felt my own sin being washed away, and the sins of all the people all around being washed away. I said to myself, “This is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Long pause.)
G: Then what happened?
J: (Walking back toward the guard.) That was it. He walked away. I told some of my disciples they should follow him, and they did. I haven’t seen him since.
G: When did this happen?
J: About a year ago.
G: Do you know who he is?
J: Yes, his name is Jesus. He’s from Nazareth up in Galilee.
G: (Sneering.) So Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah?
G: So how come I haven’t heard of him? If this happened a year ago, what’s he waiting for? Where’s his army? Where’s his victories against the Romans? What’s he doing?
J: He’s healing people.
G: He’s healing people?
J: Yes. I’ve heard that he drives demons out of people who are violent and uncontrollable, making them peaceful and happy. I heard he touched a leper and took his leprosy away. I heard he told a paralyzed man, “Your sins are forgiven,” and then he told him to get up and walk—and the man did. I heard he healed the servant of a Roman centurion without even going to his house; he just said, “He’s healed.” And the servant was.
G: The Romans are our enemies! What kind of Messiah helps them? I don’t believe it. And who cares if he heals a few sick people—that’s not freeing us from the Romans. Has this guy ever said he’s the Messiah?
J: Well . . . not that I know of.
G: You’re a fool, John! Jesus of Nazareth isn’t the Messiah. He doesn’t do any of the things the Messiah is supposed to do, and he doesn’t even claim to be the Messiah! You’re more deluded than I thought. You’re just desperate for anything to prove you’re not a failure.
J: Then let’s ask him.
G: What do you mean?
J: My disciples are coming to see me today. I’ll send them to Galilee to ask Jesus, “Are you the one we’re looking for or should we wait for another?”
G: Go ahead. Ask him. It’ll be amusing to hear what he has to say. And I’ll have the last laugh when you realize he’s a con man and you’re an idiot.
(Guard leaves, taking plate. John sits down to read. The audience sings two verses of “O Come, O Come, Immanuel” or other appropriate hymn to denote the passage of time. Guard re-enters with plate.)
G: Lunch, John.
J: What is it?
G: Moldy bread and . . .
G: No, locusts. Those are real, live locusts on there.
J: (Gets up and takes plate.) Thank you. I see genuine compassion growing in you.
G: Yeah, right.
J: I have news for you.
G: What news?
J: This morning my disciples returned with Jesus’ answer to my question, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”
G: So what did he say?
J: He said to my disciples, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”
G: That’s it?
J: That’s it.
G: So he didn’t answer the question. He’s a fraud.
J: I admit I was puzzled by his answer. But then I remembered this passage in the prophet Isaiah. (Returns to where he was sitting and picks up scroll to read Isaiah 35:3-7a). You see, he is answering the question. He is doing the signs that show that God’s new world is breaking into our world and taking over. He is the Messiah.
G: That’s not like any Messiah I ever heard of.
J: Me neither. I was expecting a holy war. I was expecting fire from heaven to come down and devour all sinners. Instead, God’s Messiah is a healer.
G: But nothing has changed! It’s still a messed up world with Pontius Pilate and Tiberius Caesar in charge!
J: The kingdom of God is coming in a way we didn’t expect. It’s coming with love, with healing, with forgiveness. Maybe it’s changing this world little by little.
G: I won’t believe it till I see those streams in the desert!
J: (Putting his hand on the guard.) You are the stream in the desert! Don’t you see? When we are transformed, the world is transformed. Confess your sins. God’s water can spring up inside of you; the desert inside of you can become a garden. You can be forgiven!
G: (Moves away.) I can’t be forgiven.
J: Yes you can. Just confess. Bring it to the light. Turn your life over to God. If you come to God in true humility, there is no sin God cannot forgive.
G: You’re not as good of a prophet as you think you are. If you were a true prophet you’d be able to see the sin in me that can never be taken away.
J: What sin? I’ve heard it all—believe me. What sin?
G: (Takes out his sword and looks at it.) I murdered the Messiah.
J: (Hesitant.) What do you mean you murdered the Messiah?
G: (Looking at the audience.) Thirty years ago, King Herod’s father, Herod the Great, received secret information from a group of astrologers from the east. They told him the Messiah had recently been born. Herod figured out the baby was somewhere in the village of Bethlehem. So he gave me and two other soldiers an order: Go into Bethlehem and kill every boy under the age of two. You know what Herod was like. He was ruthless. Any threat to his throne was always quickly eliminated. So we carried out his orders. In the middle of the night we kicked open the doors of every hut and house in Bethlehem, and if we found any boy babies inside, we killed them. I don’t know which one was supposed to be the Messiah, but we killed them all, so the Messiah must have been among them. (Looking at John.) I don’t believe in the Messiah. I can’t. Because if I did, then I murdered him.
J: (Long pause, pained expression.) You’re right. Your sin is terrible—the worst I have ever heard. (After another pause, he moves toward the guard.) But your sword cannot stop God. No evil that humanity commits can stop God. God finds a way. Your sin is now in the light. You have confessed it. Your healing can now begin.
(John places hands on guard’s shoulders. The guard kneels. John takes a cup filled with water and begins pouring it on the guard’s head.)
J: I baptize you for the forgiveness of your sins. (Guard stands.) You now belong to God, and to God’s Messiah. (They embrace.)
Based on Luke 1:26-38
(Gabriel stands in the background. Mary stands toward the front, sweeping with a broom, as though doing house chores. She does not see Gabriel, but speaks out toward the audience.)
GABRIEL: Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you!
MARY: Who said that? (Looks around, searching for someone.)
MARY: Gabriel? I don’t know any Gabriel. (Keeps searching for speaker.) Joseph, is that you? I told you to stop sneaking up on me and scaring me!
GABRIEL: I’m not Joseph. I’m Gabriel—a messenger from God.
MARY: Sure, and I’m the tooth fairy. Come on, Joseph, where are you hiding? Stop teasing me.
GABRIEL: I’m not Joseph. Do you see anyone here?
GABRIEL: That’s because only I am here with you. I am a messenger from God and I have a message for you.
MARY: (Putting down the broom.) Are you . . . an angel?
GABRIEL: Yes. And you are favored. The Lord is with you!
MARY: What do you mean, I’m “favored”? And what do you mean, the Lord is with me? This is spooky.
GABRIEL: Don’t be afraid. It means God has a special plan for you. You are going to have a baby boy.
MARY: Oh, this is wonderful! Joseph and I have been praying that after we’re married we would be able to have children. Thank you for this wonderful news!
GABRIEL: I don’t think you quite understand, Mary. You are going to become pregnant now.
MARY: Now?? What do mean, now?
GABRIEL: I mean now, or at least quite soon--any moment now.
MARY: Ummm, wait a minute. I’m missing something here. I’m not married yet. I’m still a virgin. I can assure you I can’t get pregnant now. This is not going to work.
GABRIEL: Yes it will.
MARY: No, it won’t.
GABRIEL: Yes it will.
MARY: Gabriel, I don’t think you understand about the birds and the bees. I guess they don’t have sex education in heaven. You see, a virgin can’t get pregnant. It’s impossible.
GABRIEL: Mary, nothing is impossible for God. You have been touched by God’s creative Spirit. The Spirit that creates all things is now about to create in you.
GABRIEL: Yes, any moment now.
MARY: This is terrible! Stop! Cancel the order!
GABRIEL: Don’t be afraid, Mary.
MARY: Don’t be afraid?? Are you crazy?? This will ruin my life! How will I be able to tell people I’m pregnant? How will I tell Joseph? He’ll be humiliated. I’ll be humiliated. The people in town will shun me. Joseph will have to break his engagement with me. I will be talked about behind my back for the rest of my life!
GABRIEL: Don’t be afraid, Mary.
MARY: Don’t be afraid? What do you know about rejection and humiliation? Do you know how that feels?
GABRIEL: (Pause.) No.
MARY: Then don’t tell me not to be afraid. I’m terrified!
GABRIEL: Would it help if I told you this baby will be called the Son of God?
MARY: (Pause.) The Son of God?
GABRIEL: Yes. This baby will be holy. This baby is the most special baby in all of human history. This is the one all of Israel has been waiting for. The Lord God will give him David’s throne. He will be the king of Israel forever, and his kingdom will never end.
MARY: You mean . . . this baby is going to be the Messiah?
MARY: I will be the mother of the Messiah?
GABRIEL: You are the favored one.
MARY: Why me?
GABRIEL: Why not you?
MARY: Because there’s nothing special about me. I’m just a girl. I’m poor. I’m ordinary.
GABRIEL: God likes ordinary. The more ordinary, the better.
MARY: But I’ve never even been a mother before. I wouldn’t know what I was doing!
GABRIEL: Just love the boy. Teach him right and wrong. Teach him to trust in God. God will do the rest.
MARY: I don’t think I can do this.
GABRIEL: God knows you can.
MARY: Will it be hard being his mother?
GABRIEL: (Pause.) To tell you the truth: yes. Being his mother will be the hardest thing you will ever do. Not so much while he’s a child growing up, but when he’s a man. That’s when he will do things you don’t understand. That’s when he will make choices that will distress you. You will see him in grave danger but you will not be able to protect him. When you see him suffer, your heart will be broken.
MARY: He will suffer? The Messiah will suffer?
GABRIEL: Yes. But he will give his life for others, and save their lives.
MARY: I don’t understand.
GABRIEL: Your son will be born to die. He will be the love of God that goes all the way to death.
MARY: The Messiah will die?
MARY: That can’t be. The Messiah is the Messiah because he’s going to triumph over all our enemies. He can’t suffer. He can’t die.
GABRIEL: Yes, he will. But even then, the Messiah will triumph.
MARY: This is just all too confusing.
GABRIEL: You don’t have to understand, Mary. Just trust in God and love your son. Name him Jesus—“God saves.”
MARY: (Angry.) You’ve already picked out his name?? Don’t I get any choice at all?? Don’t I get to decide whether I even want to become pregnant??
GABRIEL: (Pause.) Yes, Mary. It’s your choice. All of it is your choice. God will not compel you to do what you do not want to do. You are free to choose, just as all of humanity is free to choose. God forces no one. That’s why saving humanity is so hard and takes so long. It’s your choice, Mary.
MARY: (Begins pacing.) Let me think. . . . When he’s born, will everyone know he’s the Messiah?
GABRIEL: No. People will have to discover that on their own.
MARY: Won’t there be anything special about him?
GABRIEL: Like I said, God likes to use the ordinary. All of the greatest miracles are found in the ordinary. Sometimes in a little town, maybe in a barn.
MARY: (Long pause.) Gabriel?
MARY: Are you sure God chose me for this? Are you sure you’re at the right house? You weren’t blown off course or something?
GABRIEL: You are the favored one, Mary. The Lord is with you.
MARY: (Takes a deep breath.) Then tell God I say yes.
GABRIEL: With joy.
Cast: shepherd 1, shepherd 2, angel, choir of angels
(Two shepherds holding staffs standing at one end of the stage)
S1: Man, this is such a lousy job! Sheep are so stupid, and this job is so boring, and I’m freezing out here! Could there be a worse job than looking after sheep?
S2: Um, how about cleaning latrines?
S1: Yeah, I guess that would be worse. But this is still pretty bad. You know what I hate about this job?
S1: The boss doesn’t trust us.
S2: Yeah, that’s bad!
S1: The boss is always accusing us of sleeping on the job.
S1: And stealing sheep for our own food.
S1: And running away when we see a wolf or a lion.
S1: And not caring about the sheep at all. (kicks an imaginary sheep)
S2: Yeah! … But wait a minute, we don’t care about the sheep, do we?
S1: That’s not the point.
S2: And we do sleep on the job, and we do steal some sheep for our own food, and we do run away when we see a wolf or a lion.
S1: Yeah, but that’s not the point. The boss should trust us! (kicks another sheep)
S2: Oh, yeah.
S1: Man, if I could get another job, I would, but there’s no other jobs!
S2: I just wish half my pay didn’t go to tax collectors!
S1: No kidding! Nobody trusts us, nobody cares about us, and nobody gives us a decent life!
(The LED pulpit lights are turned on and an angel steps to the middle of the stage under the lights.)
S1: Whoa! Who are you?!
A: Don’t be afraid. I’m here to bring you fantastic news for everybody. Today, in Bethlehem, the Savior of the world has been born!
S2: In Bethlehem? In that little village over there? (pointing)
S1: Not in the palace in Jerusalem?
A: No, right here in little Bethlehem.
S2: But Bethlehem doesn’t have a palace. Where’s the baby?
A: In a barn.
S1: A barn? You’ve got to be kidding.
A: I’m not kidding. If you go to Bethlehem right now and start checking out all the barns you’ll find a newborn baby wrapped in strips of rags, lying in a cattle trough.
S2: The savior of the world is in a cattle trough?
A: Yes, he’s the messiah, and he’s the lord of all.
S1: I know you’re glowing and all that, but this is just a little bit hard to believe.
A: Maybe you’ll believe them. (points to choir of angels assembling on other end of stage)
C: (singing “Hark! The herald angels sing”) Hark, the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn king. Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled. Joyful all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies. With angelic host proclaim: Christ is born in Bethlehem. Hark, the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn king! (choir and angel depart)
S2: Well that was unexpected!
S1: I don’t get it. Why would angels come to us, to shepherds, to tell us this news? Nobody cares about us. We’re nobodies.
S2: Maybe God cares about us.
S1: That’s hard to believe.
S2: Well let’s go to Bethlehem and see if we find a baby in a cattle trough. Maybe it’s true after all.
S1: Do you think we should just leave all these sheep out here unattended?
S2: Sure, we do it all the time! (both exit)