The Gospel According to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John: Puppet Remix

Advent Puppet Scene #5 for Christmas Eve “Summing Up”

Two puppets, Fred and George, appear (members of the gallery)

George: When will this trial ever end?

Fred: The end of the trial is coming soon George!

George: (sarcastically) Yeah, well so is Christmas

Court attendant stands:

Court Attendant: ALL RISE!

Judge enters from the choir entrance and goes to the pulpit

Court Attendant: Please be seated.

Judge: In this case against the Christians for spreading lies, we will hear the summary statements from the Prosecution and the Defense

Prosecutor: Honorable Judge, members of the jury, in my closing arguments you will be convinced that these Christians are spreading lies about the Christmas story and especially about the virgin birth of Jesus. I will show that Jesus really was just a man like any other, and that his birth was like any other.

Judge: Very well. And we will hear from the Defense. (looking at Fred and George) What do you have to say?

Fred and George look at each other and back to the judge a few times

Judge: Well?

Fred: George, I think the judge thinks we are the defense attorneys!

George: Well I can’t be an attorney – I don’t even know how to spell it! . . But we better say something, or we will be here forever! Can you remember what Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John had to say about Christmas?

Fred: I think I can remember. (turning to the judge) Honorable Judge, members of the jury, we will be showing that these Christians are not spreading lies about the Christmas story, but the truth, a most wonderful truth.

Judge: Very well then, let’s proceed.

Prosecutor: These Christians claim that a virgin gave birth. We all know that such would be a miracle and there is no reason to expect a miracle like that.

Fred: On the contrary, Your Honour, we learned from Matthew that Jesus’ birth fulfilled both specific prophecies spoken by the prophets centuries earlier, and also fulfilled the overall promises God made in the Old Testament. We have good reason to expect God to work a miracle, and in Jesus he did.

Prosecutor: Your honour, the first person to write an account of these things was Mark, and he did not write anything about the Christmas story at all, so shouldn’t we listen first to him?

George: Your honour, we should listen to Mark, and to all the Gospel writers. Mark did not tell the story of Jesus’ birth, but he did tell us about Christmas. He quoted prophecies from the Old Testament about God’s promise, not just to send us a prophet, but to come to us Himself! The rest of Mark’s Gospel points to what God has done for us, showing His love by the death of Jesus on the cross.

Prosecutor: Your honour, everyone knows that when a king is born, he is born to a queen, a woman of stature and prominence, but Jesus was born to Mary, a simple teenager. Everyone knows that when a king is born he is put to bed in the most expensive cradle money can buy – but Jesus was put to bed in a manger. Everyone knows that when a king is born, all the important people are invited to celebrate, but Jesus’ birth was announced only to a band of stinky shepherds. What kind of king do these Christians expect us to believe in?

Fred: Your honour, in telling us the story of Christmas, Luke helps us to understand that Jesus is a different kind of king, with a different kind of Kingdom. This is good news, for power corrupts and history is full of rulers gone bad. But Jesus as King rules with righteousness and compassion, justice and love, wisdom and a concern for all. God’s Kingdom is a different kind of Kingdom!

Prosecutor: Your honour, these Christians make a claim even more ridiculous than that a virgin gave birth. They claim that God Himself became a baby, as John said “The Word became flesh and lived among us.” We think you will find that silly.

George: Your honour, it is not silly, but amazing. We love to sing “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” It is because God came to us in Jesus that we can know His amazing grace. At funerals we like to think of our loved ones in heaven. But people cannot get into the presence of God on their own. We needed the death of Christ on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. And for Jesus to die on the cross, we needed Jesus to be born, and this is why we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the birth of our Saviour! God Himself saves us by His grace.

Judge: Has the jury reached a verdict?

Lead Jury Member (a choir member stands with the verdict in hand): we have your honour. (takes the verdict to the judge)

Judge: In this trial against Christians for spreading lies about Christmas, we find the defendants capable of deciding for themselves whether such things be true or not. Furthermore, we find that each person should be given the freedom to hear about the birth, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Let the Christians celebrate Christmas, and let them invite their families and friends to consider receiving Jesus as their King and Saviour . . .judge stops reading the verdict) very well then, Christians, you are free to go . . . of course we do encourage you to stay for the rest of the Christmas Eve Service!

Candle Lighter: So far we have lit the candles “The Promise of God”, “The Love of God”, “The Kingdom of God,” and “The Revelation of God” (lights four candles). Today we light the fifth advent candle which we call “The Christ Candle”. (lights candle) We celebrate the birth of Jesus, the coming of God into the world through Jesus to be our Saviour and our Lord. Let us pray: “Lord we thank You for what you have done for us through Jesus Christ. May we be full of celebration. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Christmas According to John: Puppet Remix

Thanks again to our volunteers who helped with this puppet play last Sunday. We especially thank those who volunteered last minute with the ice storm making a mess of travel!

Advent Puppet Scene #4 “Calling Fourth Witness John”

Two puppets, Fred and George, appear (members of the gallery)

Fred: George, George, wake up, it is about to begin again!

George: (Yawns) How can something begin again if it already began three weeks ago? It can’t begin if it has already begun.

Fred: Ok George, then the trial is about to start again.

George: (yawns again then, scratches his head) How can something start again if it already started three weeks ago? It can’t start if it has already started.

Fred. (shaking his head) Ok George, the trial is about to resume.

Court attendant stands:

Court Attendant: ALL RISE!

Judge enters from the choir entrance and goes to the pulpit

Court Attendant: Please be seated.

Judge: In this case against the Christians for spreading lies, call your fourth witness.

Prosecutor: I am calling to the stand John, writer of a book these Christians call the Gospel of John.

The puppet John appears

Prosecutor: Is it not true, John, that you wrote “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”?

Fred: Hey George, we were just talking about things beginning and now the prosecutor is beginning to speak about the beginning of John’s book which begins in its beginning with an explanation of the beginning.

George: You are BEGINNING to get annoying!

Fred: That’s not possible Fred. . . You can’t begin what has already begun.

John: Yes, I wrote that statement about the Word.

Prosecutor: And John, just what or who are you referring to when you speak about “The Word”?

John: Jesus as I make clear if you keep reading.

Prosecutor: And so when you wrote that all things came into being through the Word, you are saying that Jesus has been around longer than anything that has been created. In fact are you not intentionally referring us back to Genesis 1:1 where “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”?  Is that why you did not write about Jesus’ birth, because you believe he has been around forever? . . . Do you really expect us to believe such things?

John: You are misunderstanding what I wrote and what the Bible teaches. We believe that Jesus is fully God, so in that sense he has been around forever, since before creation actually. But we also believe that Jesus is at the same time fully human, and so in that sense he was born in a specific time and place just like any other human. As I say in verse fourteen: “The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory.” That is Christmas in a nutshell.

Prosecutor: And perhaps spoken by a true nut! So why then did you not tell us more about how the birth of Jesus happened?

John: Matthew and Luke already wrote about such things. In fact Matthew, Mark, and Luke already said much about what Jesus said and did, so when I wrote my Gospel I wanted to concentrate more on helping people see the identity of Jesus. Being His disciple, I spent a lot of time with him, and the more time I spent with him the more I could really see that while being fully human, eating and sleeping like the rest of us, there was something really different about him.

Prosecutor: And what was different about him?

John: Well his love, and his concern for truth. He was full of grace and truth. He tried to tell us who he really was, but we did not clue in until He rose from the dead. That is when we really began to understand who He is and what He taught us. He created life. He is able to give life, and he is willing to give eternal life to all who will receive him. That is why I wrote my Gospel, in hopes that others can get to know him well and so believe in him too. When you know Jesus, you know God. When you know God, you know you are loved.

Judge: John, to say that Jesus is both God and human at the same time is an extraordinary claim. I once heard among my judging peers the maxim that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Do you have extraordinary evidence to share with us this morning?

John: I am an eyewitness of the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. And there are many others still alive in my lifetime that are also as Paul mentions in his letter to the Corinthians. And these defendants before you sir are extraordinary evidence. Look at the millions of people whose lives have been changed through their relationship with Jesus. Look at the millions of Christians who can speak about the presence of God in their lives through Jesus. To know love, to be loved, to become more loving  – it is extraordinary!

Judge: Very well, Court is adjourned until Christmas Eve when I will call for closing statements.

Candle Lighter: So far we have lit the candles “The Promise of God”, “The Love of God”, and “The Kingdom of God.” (lights three candles). Today we light the fourth advent candle which we call “The Revelation of God”. We are grateful for God’s revelation of Himself through the prophets, and through the entire Bible. But we are so thankful that He has revealed Himself most completely through Jesus whose birth we celebrate this week. (Lights fourth candle) Let us pray: “Lord we thank You for how You have revealed Yourself to us in the Bible. Thank you Lord, that You have revealed Yourself fully in Jesus our Lord.  May we know You better not just by knowing about Jesus, by knowing Him personally. Use us your witnesses in this sceptical world. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Christmas According to John

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year . . ” and it is also the most sentimental time of the year with characters in movies and tv shows alike teaching us what Christmas is really all about. What is normally said may fit for someone with a very sentimental view of Christmas, with Christmas being all about family, or generosity, or peace and harmony. But it is John, in the Gospel of John, who cuts through all the sentimentality of the season to give us the most succinct expression of of what Christmas is really about: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us” (John 1:14a NRSV). John does not give us any details on how Jesus was born, there are no shepherds, angels, mangers, or magi in his account, just a clear expression of Christmas: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

To tell the story of Christmas, we need to start at the beginning, no not that beginning with the angel making an announcement to Mary, the real beginning:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. John 1:1-5 NRSV

Of course with the opening words “in the beginning,” and with the mention of creation, and life, and light, we are meant to think about Genesis chapter 1. That is where the Christmas story has its beginning! The Christmas story does not begin with the baby Jesus, but with the Word who existed before creation. This points us to the fact that Jesus is part of the Godhead. Christmas does not work without that. This does not mean we should think of the man, Jesus, existing before creation as a man, for “the Word became flesh.”

“And lived among us,” or we might prefer the translation “dwelt among us” though I prefer “tabernacled” among us as the word points to the pitching of a tent. This might seem an odd thought indeed if it were not for the fact that God had already pitched his tent with the Israelites following the exodus from Egypt. There is great and wonderful symbolism here when you think of God’s people wandering around the desert with their tents, and right in the midst of them is the tabernacle, the tent of God as He dwells among them. “I want to be with you” is what God is communicating to them. “But I cannot really be with you for I am holy” is what is communicated by all the rules and regulations about how the tabernacle would be built, carried, approached, used, and by whom, and how, and after what religious rigmarole. “I want to be with you but I cannot for I am holy and you are not.” And so the tabernacle, then later the Temple, and the whole religious system was in place to remind the people of all this. But in one moment of history “The Word became flesh and tabernacled/dwelt/lived among us.” It is through Jesus that God makes the way for God and human to come together in full relationship. We can think of the veil of the temple tearing at the moment of Jesus’ death (Mark 15:37) and the symbolism of that moment. A sinful people are forgiven and made holy, now we can really be together, and now we can really see His glory, His grace and truth (see John 1:14). This points us forward for while the story of Christmas begins before creation, it is not finished until that time spoken of in Revelation:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell [tabernacle] with them as their God;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.
Revelation 21:3,4 NRSV