In December of 2007, my family took a trip to Italy. One day we walked into a glorious old church in Siena, and inside was a group of children and adults rehearsing for a Christmas play. Little angels and shepherds were running around all over the place. I thought of the wonderful Christmas programs I’d seen children perform back home at First Baptist Church. It occurred to me that Christians all over the world put on various types of Christmas plays.
There is something about the Christmas story that begs to be dramatized. Which is why I can’t read Luke 2 without thinking in terms of a play. I see the various characters as different roles to be played.
There is Mary, a humble person who does God’s will, even when it requires her own plans to be thrown out the window. “Let it be with me according to your word,” she says.
There is Joseph, a noble person who does the right thing even when it’s difficult. He stands by Mary amid their scandalous circumstances, which he had no part in creating.
There are shepherds, people who seek Christ urgently. Though busy watching their flocks when they hear of Christ’s birth, they drop everything to draw near to the Savior.
There are angels, messengers who tell people what God is up to. They say, “Don’t be afraid but be joyful, for Christ the Savior is born.”
All these characters are important when a church portrays the events of Luke 2.
Thomas Long tells about a church that performed a different kind of Christmas play. They performed “A Christmas Carol,” by Charles Dickens. In the story, three ghosts visit a cranky man named Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve: the ghosts of Christmas past, Christmas present, and Christmas yet to come. The next morning, Scrooge wakes up a new man. He has been converted from “Bah Humbug” to “Merry Christmas.” He looks out the window and calls to a young lad: “Young man: Come up here. I have something for you to do.” He gives the boy money to go and buy a turkey for the poor Cratchit family so they can eat like royalty on Christmas day.
Well, a church was putting on this play, and when the man playing Scrooge yelled out of the window, “Young man, come up here, I have something for you to do,” a little boy in the audience thought Scrooge was talking to him. So, he stood up and walked up onto the stage.
In that moment, one who was hearing the story entered the story. Spectator became actor.
That’s what the Christmas story in Luke 2 asks of us. We are not to be spectators but actors in the drama of salvation. Each of us is called not only to hear God’s story but also to step into it. The Christmas story is not just a narrative on a page. It’s an account of how God’s will is unfolding in the world. We all have a role to play in this drama.
Who will play Mary, Joseph, shepherd, and angel? Who will humbly follow God’s will instead of their own plans? Who will do the right thing even when it’s difficult? Who will seek Christ urgently? Who will tell others about the Savior?
Time to step up onto the stage.
Pastor Noel Schoonmaker
First Baptist Church, Murfreesboro, TN
 Thomas G. Long, Beyond the Worship Wars: Building Vital and Faithful Worship (The Alban Institute, 2001) 45ff.