This devotion was written as a skit for a seasonal religious publication. Writers train themselves to be observant of the world around them. This is especially true of seasons and celebrations. Editors are always on the lookout for meaningful expressions of sentiment for holidays like Christmas. This was inspired by a sermon heard at Christmas.
JOSEPH and MARY
SETTING: Enclosure around JOSEPH and MARY resembles a cave. A feeding trough is placed against the wall. NARRATOR stands at side of stage.
PROPS: Baby doll wrapped in cloths; Bible; straw; trash can; Nativity scene large enough to be seen by audience; Bassinet.
RUNNING TIME: 10 minutes
Soft light on Narrator and Joseph and Mary sitting off to side in cave setting behind Narrator. Mary holds baby. Light does not reveal the cave setting
NARRATOR: [holding a Bible and reading] “…and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger. Luke 2:7.
Many people today display a Nativity scene during the Christmas season. [points to Nativity scene] The tiny figures of Mary, Joseph, shepherds and a sheep or two surround Baby Jesus, asleep in a manger. The scene looks calm and idyllic.
Unfortunately, our twentieth century minds have created a scene quite unlike what it was like when Jesus was born, especially concerning the manger. We see it as a sort of glorified first-century bassinet, comfortable, clean, and safe for a newborn baby. [NARRATOR gestures to fancy bassinet setting close by].
In reality the manger of Jesus’ time was quite different [light lowers on bassinet]. It may not have even been wooden. Some Bible scholars believe Mary and Joseph sought refuge in one of the many caves surrounding Bethlehem. Situated not far from Bethlehem’s lush grasslands, these caves were excellent shelters for livestock. [Lights up on cave setting around the couple. Sounds of animals mooing and baaing are heard off-stage. Straw is scattered around].
Most caves were formed by erosion of the area’s soft limestone. Herdsmen carved niches in the cave wall for feeding troughs. This primitive area was where the Bible says Mary placed Baby Jesus. [Mary places doll in manger.]
It is strange the Bible even mentions a manger. Such an obscure object would not have been thought of with respect as it was nothing but a filthy feeder. Today it would be as if Jesus were placed in a trash can. [gestures to trash can standing beside narrator; spotlight shines on it.] The thought makes us shudder.
But Joseph, a man who loved God and his family, would have cleaned the manger, filling it with new straw so it could serve as a soft, dry cradle for the child. This makeshift spot was the first place the Savior of the world, the Son of God, laid his precious head.
We might wonder why God would allow his newborn Son to be placed in such a filthy place. No one knows for certain, but maybe it was because God wanted us to know He specializes in taking the ordinary, the dirty, the forgotten, [points to trash can] and making it extraordinary [points to Joseph, Mary watching Baby in manger]. Only God could transform a manger into an object of love, security, peace, and hope.
He is willing to do the same with our lives. When we place our dirty mangers into His hands – things like anger, a gossipy spirit, and thoughts of envy — He transforms them by the Holy Spirit into something holy and pleasing to God.
If you have a dirty manger in your life, this Christmas season ask God to transform it into something beautiful and worthy of respect and dignity for His glory. It could be the best present you receive.