What if Jesus Never Came?
The play begins with a sister who does not believe in Jesus. Her youngest sister accepts Jesus at a friend’s church. God then transports the unbelieving sister to Bethlehem at the time of the census, then to what is going on in the devil's kingdom of darkness, to show what the world would be like if Jesus never came. The unbelieving sister finally believes when she “sees” Jesus in the simple faith of her little sister. [It is suggested that this synopsis be inserted in the program bulletin or read to the audience just prior to the performance to help the audience follow the action.]
ZOE, the unbelieving teenaged sister (many lines)
HANNAH, another teenaged sister (medium lines)
(Note: the two parts above can easily be changed to brothers or a mother and father. A few of the lines of dialogue would need to be changed, but it is obvious what to do.)
JULIE, the youngest sister (few lines) [7 or 8 years old]
DEVIL (few lines) [dressed in black, no skin showing-black pantyhose over head] (may be played by boy or girl)
SIMON (no lines) [robe]
JOHN (no lines) [robe]
WOMAN WITH SEVEN DEMONS (no lines) [robe]
BETHLEHEM LADY 1 (few lines) [robe]
BETHLEHEM LADY 2 (few lines) [robe]
MARY, mother of Jesus (no lines) [robe]
JOSEPH (no lines) [robe]
JESUS (few lines) [white satin robe]
VOICE (reads lines offstage)
SPIRIT (few lines, but must be said to music) [black slacks, white shirt] (may be played by boy or girl)
BRIDE (few lines, but must be said to music) [plain white dress]
SOLOIST(S) [see Music below]
KEYBOARD PLAYER whose keyboard is connected to a good amp and speakers, or connected to the church sound system who can play music listed below
INTERPRETIVE DANCER(S) [optional]
"Joy to the World" (no lyrics) with an introductory fanfare and an interlude (or fanfare again)
"What Child is This?" (or contemporary song of your choosing)
"O Come All Ye Faithful" with a fanfare (or contemporary song of your choosing)
"Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" (no lyrics) which can either be played live or soundtrack
Any song about the name of Jesus (must talk about the name of Jesus, not just Jesus- there are many like this such as "Blessed Be the Name")
Suggested staging and props:
STAR (bright as possible)
entrance for STREET entrance for
and KINGDOM actors when not performing ROOM
BETHLEHEM STREET LIVING ROOM
-blue and white lighting -white lighting
KINGDOM OF DARKNESS -tree w/ gifts
-red lighting -recliner
-small bench Soloist(s)
Start of Play:
Scene 1: Living Room
(House lights off. All stage lights off.)
VOICE:What would it be like if Jesus were never born? Never died on a cross. Never rose again. Never conquered sin, death, or hell. (pause) One sister is about to find out.
(White light on. ZOE looking out " window". HANNAH sitting on arm of recliner, looking at ZOE.)
ZOE: When is Julie coming home? It’s getting late. And where are mom and dad?
HANNAH: She'll be home any time now. She enjoys the kids at this church, and her little friend next door doesn’t mind taking her. Mom and dad are at a movie.
ZOE: (turning with scowl on face) Well, I don’t like her going to that church. I wonder what those people are up to.
HANNAH: Frankly, if it gives her some meaning in her life, I’m in favor of it. God knows you sure don’t have any purpose or joy in your life. And maybe our neighbors are just trying to be nice!
ZOE: Come on! I've been around this religious stuff. I know what they believe, and believe me, it's pure fantasy! There was this ad on TV for a Jesus baby and manger for only $19.95. (sarcastically)
(JULIE comes bouncing into the room all excited.)
JULIE: (running up to ZOE) Zoe! Zoe!
ZOE: (kneeling down to her, trying to act stern) Well, it's about time, little sister! I was beginning to worry!
JULIE: Zoe! (turns head to HANNAH) And Hannah! Guess what? (turns head back to ZOE) At church they asked if anyone wanted to ask Jesus into their heart. I raised my hand. We said a prayer and Jesus came into my heart. And we learned a song. (She begins singing "Away in a Manger".)
(While she is saying the lines above, ZOE turns her head and looks at HANNAH with an "I told you" look, but JULIE, oblivious to its meaning, grabs ZOE's head by the chin and turns ZOE's head back to her as she finishes talking and begins singing.)
ZOE: (after the first few words of the song, gently) Hold it...hold it. (singing stops) I'm glad you're happy, but I don't want you to be disappointed. I don't want you to believe in something that might not be real. (long pause; JULIE is looking intently at her) I just want you to think about what they've been telling you. I don't want you to be hurt later. But what if...what if Jesus weren't real? What if he never did live? (another pause) Think about it. (then in lighter mood) Now get ready for bed. It's getting late. Hannah will help you. (JULIE walks toward exit but starts skipping just before exiting, still excited.)
HANNAH: (disgustedly) Well, that was great, just great! You can kill joy better than anyone I know. She listens to you almost more than she does mom and dad. And you tell her that. (exits)
(ZOE makes a face at departing sister. She wanders aimlessly around the room, depressed. Her shoulders sag and she looks tired. She wanders over to the "window" she was looking out when the scene began and stares out.)
ZOE: (forcefully, emphasize "name") If there is a God, then where are you? And Jesus...that's nothing more than a name! (freezes)
(White light off. Soloist spot on. SOLOIST walks into spot and sings a song about the name of Jesus (it does not need to be a Christmas song but it does need to be about the name of Jesus, not just Jesus- there are numerous songs like this.)
(Soloist spot off)
end of Scene 1
Scene 2: Bethlehem Street
(Blue light on. ZOE is still frozen. BETHLEHEM LADY 1 slowly enters and stops, all the while examining a piece of cloth she has just purchased. After a few moments, BETHLEHEM LADY 2 enters and walks up to her.)
BETHLEHEM LADY 2: Meesha! How are you? What have you bought?
BETHLEHEM LADY 1: Some cloth. I want to make a prayer shawl with it. (wraps it around her head)
BETHLEHEM LADY 2: Did you get it at the market? (BETHLEHEM LADY 1 nods yes) What did you pay for it?
BETHLEHEM LADY 1: Half a shekel. Do you think that was too much?
BETHLEHEM LADY 2: (feeling the cloth) Maybe not. It does have a nice feel.
(As they have been talking, ZOE slowly walks over to the edge of the blue light and stops. This is as close to them as she gets. The women notice her as they conclude their conversation.)
BETHLEHEM LADY 2: Look at her!
BETHLEHEM LADY 1: Where are you from? I've never seen anyone dressed like you.
ZOE: (dazed) Where am I?
BETHLEHEM LADY 1: You're in Bethlehem, and if you're here for the census, then you're too late.
BETHLEHEM LADY 2: The census. And you're in trouble if you didn't get counted! Where are you staying? (waits for answer but gets none) Who is your family? (still no answer)
ZOE: Census? (She puts her hand to her forehead for a moment, trying to sort out her thoughts) Wait a minute! Jesus was supposed to have been born in Bethlehem at the time of the census. In a stable. Could it be possible? (excitedly but hesitantly) Was there a woman named Mary, and a man named Joseph with her, and they had to stay in a stable?
BETHLEHEM LADY 1: (puzzled) Yes. Over there. (points to "stable")
(ZOE slowly walks in pointed direction, pausing every step or two. Tension builds in her. After about 6 steps:)
BETHLEHEM LADY 1: But they're not there anymore. They left.
(ZOE stops, then slowly turns and takes a few steps toward women)
ZOE: Was Mary...(pause)...pregnant? You know...going to have a baby? And did she give birth in the stable?
(women look more and more puzzled as she talks)
BETHLEHEM LADY 2: No, she wasn't going to have a baby!
(women laugh hilariously as ZOE slowly and dejectedly walks back to LIVING ROOM and assumes same position as when scene began. Blue light off. Women exit.)
end Scene 2
Scene 3: LIVING ROOM
(White light on. HANNAH enters immediately as light comes on. ZOE still frozen.)
HANNAH: I'm having trouble getting Julie to go to sleep. She is so excited about what happened to her at church. (pause) Hey. (pause) Hey!
(ZOE jumps and turns.)
HANNAH: What's wrong with you? You look strange.
ZOE: (confused) I was daydreaming...or something. It was the weirdest thing. I was in Bethlehem and there were these women...and there was this stable...(slower and slower)...and Mary and Joseph...
(She stops talking. HANNAH is staring at her. They look at each other for a long moment.)
HANNAH: Sister, we need to talk. Why don't you sit down. (helps her get seated). I'm worried about you. You've become so cynical lately.
ZOE: I am not!
HANNAH: Okay, tell me one thing you believe in.
ZOE: (after thinking a moment and not coming up with anything) This chair! I believe in this chair.
HANNAH: That's what I'm talking about! But what if something serious, really serious, happened to us? What would get us through it?
ZOE: (after more futile thinking) Me! I would!
HANNAH: Could you protect us from anything?
ZOE: Anything! (reclines in chair and begins relaxing).
HANNAH: (walks to front of stage and talks facing audience) When I went to church the other day with Julie they were saying that's not true. They said we are all born in a prison and can't get ourselves out, let alone anyone else.
ZOE: Prison? I'm not in prison. (starting to get drowsy)
HANNAH: (still facing audience) Not on the outside, but on the inside, from sin. And since sin is in us, a part of us, then we would never be able to get free. That's why Jesus had to come. He took our sins on him. He had to die but we were set free… (as she is speaking, she begins to speak more to herself, and with more and more conviction)
(directing words to ZOE once again, still facing audience) But you have to believe Jesus did that for you...really believe it, in your heart. (half turns to ZOE) Do you understand what I'm saying? (She faces ZOE and sees she is asleep. She smiles, walks over, and tenderly kisses her on the cheek.) Sweet dreams, dear one. (exits)
(White light off)
end of Scene 3
Scene 4: Kingdom of Darkness
(Note: Do not rush scene. Devil is insane, but keeps it under control except for occasional outbursts. Let intensity build to climax at end of scene.)
(All lights off. SIMON, JOHN, and WOMAN WITH SEVEN DEMONS bring bench in, then take their place on bench. DEVIL is in front of bench. ZOE stays asleep in chair during entire scene.)
(Red light on. DEVIL is slowly slithering around the bench. Those on bench cower in fear, watching him. After a short time of this:)
DEVIL: (like a snake) Yes-s-s, yes-s-s. Aren't we a cozy group. (laughs maniacally) (he goes to each person in turn, stopping for a moment to look at them in the face; they immediately look away)
(coming to SIMON)
Ah, S-S-Simon Barjona. A fisherman, I believe. Such a powerful man. S-s-stand up. Let me see your power. (SIMON remains seated) S-s-stand up!!! (hissed out furiously)
(suddenly defiant, SIMON slowly stands very erect, shoulders back, with an arrogant and haughty look;DEVIL reacts with mock admiration) Ooh! S-s-so proud! And such a fine leader. You influenced many people. (SIMON looks even prouder and haughtier)
(DEVIL lets SIMON feel good about himself for a moment, then delights in telling him:) Many are here because of you. (SIMON'S expression starts to change to one of horror) Yes-s-s, it's true! And now, so are you! (SIMON'S shoulders now sag and he has a completely defeated expression; DEVIL laughs horribly and roughly pushes SIMON down to sit; he slithers around some more and then comes to JOHN)
And John...another fisherman! A son of Zebedee. I hear you can feel very deeply! (said mockingly) (JOHN tries to ignore him, staring at floor;DEVIL grabs him by the hair and forces him to look at him; this gets JOHN mad; he stands up and makes fists with his hands as though he will fight; DEVIL is not in the least afraid) Yes-s-s, I see how you can feel things deeply. Quite the temper, haven't we? (JOHN'S face looks even madder; he leans more toward DEVIL) (with glee) It was very effective in keeping you upset all the time. I could make you do anything I wanted! (with insane, intense hatred) And you didn't even know it! You humans are so stupid! (JOHN wilts, crumbles, and sits back down, burying his head in his hands; DEVIL takes a moment to recover himself from previous outburst; he is staring out towards nothing; WOMAN stiffens, knowing it is her turn next; after short pause, DEVIL turns to her)
(talking softly as he approaches her) S-s-seven? (she tries to shrink back) Seven demons you had? I didn't think you had it in you. (he laughs crudely at his sick joke; she looks terrified by now, unable to take her eyes off him for the remainder of the sequence; DEVIL slowly reaches over, takes her hand, and slowly raises her up and leads her out a few steps. Although trying not to, she is powerless to resist; he circles her a few times, looking at her up and down; he then stops in front of her and begins a slow, sensual swaying side to side; she begins swaying along with him, hesitantly at first trying to resist, then more and more sensually, finally abandoning herself totally to it; her expression changes from one of fear to one of sensuality and seductiveness; DEVIL begins using his hands like a conductor, still swaying; after a moment of this, he becomes more and more exaggerated with his swaying and conducting until he falls to the floor, laughing and rolling around uncontrollably; this breaks the spell and WOMAN snaps out of it and runs back to the bench and sits down with a dazed expression)
(DEVIL slowly gets up, still laughing, but suddenly stops and freezes, his head turning rapidly this way and that, like an animal sniffing the air) S-s-someone's just arrived! I sense a new spirit! (he rushes here and there, like a crazed animal, then rushes over to KINGDOM OF DARKNESS entrance, squealing loudly; this is the climax of his insanity; he reaches through the entrance, grabs JULIE'S wrists and pulls her in and slings her around; she is dressed as she was in Scene 1; after JULIE quits spinning, she looks wildly around her, then shrieks out very, very loudly:)
(red light off; characters and bench exit)
end of Scene 4
Scene 5: Living Room
(White light on. ZOE jerks awake with a start. She jumps up out of the recliner.)
ZOE: (somewhat loudly) Julie!
(She looks around wildly, breathing heavily. Gradually she relaxes as she realizes it was a dream. She slowly and wearily walks to front of stage and faces audience.)
(with much emotion) I want to believe, but how do I know it's real? (raises arms and looks up) Show me you exist and I'll believe!
(She freezes like this for a moment, half expecting something dramatic to happen. After a few moments of absolute silence, from backstage, JULIE begins singing snatches of Away in a Manger as though singing to herself in bed waiting to get to sleep. There should be pauses in non-pause places of the song. It should be just loud enough for the audience to hear. As she begins singing, a change comes over ZOE. For the first time, she is "seeing" Jesus through the simple faith of her little sister. She slowly drops her hands and cocks her head, listening. She turns towards the LIVING ROOM entrance and listens for a few more moments. Then she slowly walks over to the entrance, timing her movements so that she is next to the entrance just as the singing stops. Her face has an expression of peace and wonder. Her shoulders no longer sag. She pauses at the entrance, turns back to audience, looks up, and says very strongly:)
I believe! (exits)
(White light off)
end of Scene 5
Scene 6: The Star
(all lights should be off)
VOICE: Yes, something really did happen, that shook all that could be shaken.
[DEVIL enters. Red light on. KEYBOARD PLAYER plays his interpretation of what it must have been like when Kingdom of Darkness was shaken by the birth of Jesus. The special electronic sounds of the keyboard or heavy discordant notes should be used. It should be about 1 or 2 minutes long. I envision it as sudden bursts of noise getting longer and longer between shorter and shorter intervals of silence. DEVIL moves around, freezing and cowering and looking up in fear every time sound comes on. At climax, sound is continuous (shake the place if bass volume is capable) and DEVIL is in fetal position on floor, hands over ears and mouth open in a silent scream. Then sound and red light go off. DEVIL exits.]
VOICE: (strongly) And it set the captive free!
(All is dark and silent for a long moment, then a fanfare sounds loudly, then fast, majestic version of "Joy To the World" begins playing and the STAR comes on at the same time.
At the end of the first time through verse, LIVING ROOM white light comes on and ZOE, HANNAH and JULIE come out, look at the gifts under the tree, then notice the STAR. They point at it and excitedly exclaim to one another about the star.
At the end of the next time through verse, BETHLEHEM white light comes on and BETHLEHEM LADY 1 and BETHLEHEM LADY 2 come out and exclaim over STAR with each other and with others.
Midway through that same verse, SIMON, JOHN, AND WOMAN come out and do same.
Then, song goes into interlude, or the fanfare again, during which all on stage look at rear of auditorium and form semicircle that opens to audience. As song begins final verse, majestic and slow, MARY holding baby and JOSEPH walk slowly down aisle while being spotted (optional) or partial house lights (if possible). They climb to stage, go to center of semicircle, and face audience. All except MARY and JOSEPH are looking at the baby. As song ends, MARY and JOSEPH look down at the baby.
After a moment, all lights off, side spot on, SOLOIST walks into spot, MARY and JOSEPH walk to edge of spot but not inside spot. They look at SOLOIST. SOLOIST sings first verse of "What Child is This?" to the baby Jesus.
As SOLOIST begins second verse, MARY and JOSEPH walk slowly to LIVING ROOM entrance and exit, with SOLOIST turning to audience to finish verse once MARY and JOSEPH have exited.
Then KEYBOARD PLAYER plays fanfare. Then SOLOIST sings refrain of "O Come, All Ye Faithful" (loud and fast-paced) while at same time all white lights back on and JESUS in white robe enters through LIVING ROOM entrance. As SOLOIST sings first verse, JESUS goes to center of semicircle. All on stage are very excited. Unhurriedly, JESUS goes to each person, holds them at arms length, looking them in the face for a moment, then hugging them warmly. He hugs all except ZOE, who has stepped back a few steps in shame that she had doubted. JESUS then looks at her for moment, holds out his arms, and she runs to him and is hugged.
JESUS then turns to audience, all on stage kneel and raise their arms to JESUS until song ends. SOLOIST must sing as many verses and refrains of song as it takes to do all of the above. As song is ending, Jesus extends His arms to audience until song ends. Jesus waits a moment while all is silent. He slowly pans His head, looking at everyone. Drops arms.)
Jesus: I am the Alpha and the Omega. The Beginning and the End. Who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. All things have been given unto Me. I have all life, all joy, and all fulfillment for you. Yet I force no one to come, I only invite. (pause)
I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. I died for you, that you can be set free and live with Me, for all time. Yet I force no one to come, I only invite. (pause) My heart yearns for you! Will you come?
(White lights and spot and STAR off. All on stage exit.)
end of Scene 6
Scene 7: The Spirit and the Bride
(Note: The audio for this scene is on the home page of this site. Please listen to it as the following lines must be said to music and they are tricky.)
VOICE: Jesus did come. He died, rose from the grave, and is seated at the right hand of God. Only two things are left until the end of the earth as we know it: a call to all people to believe, like the sister in the play, and a call for the return of Jesus. (pause)
Revelation 22 tells us these two calls are being sent forth throughout the earth by the Spirit of God (white lights on; SPIRIT enters, walks to front of stage left, freezes)... and the church, the Bride of Christ (BRIDE enters, walks to front of stage right, freezes)
(after long pause) Will you answer the call? (reads John 3:16)
["Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" begins playing. SPIRIT and BRIDE say following lines at appropriate places in the song and with appropriate gestures (see audio demo on home page). Have the Spirit speaking with authority and the Bride speaking with warmth. If desired, INTERPRETIVE DANCER(S) can also be used.]
Come- come- come- Lord Jesus;
Behold- He comes- quickly;
Wonderful- Counselor- Mighty God-
Everlasting Father-Prince of Peace;
He- that is unjust- let him be- unjust still;
He- that is righteous- let him be- righteous still;
And there shall be no night there, and we need no candle, neither light of the sun, for the Lord God giveth us light and we shall reign for ever and ever and ever and ever... (gradually firmer and firmer on each “ever”)
Let him that heareth- come;
let him that thirsts- come;
And the Spirit and the Bride say- come;
And the Spirit and the Bride say- come;
SPIRIT: Come- come-
BRIDE: come- come; (said alternately)
BRIDE: amen; (said alternately)
SPIRIT & BRIDE:
Even so, come, Lord Jesus. (said in unison)
(White lights off)
end of Scene 7
End of Play
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