Zooming to Bethlehem: A Virtual Christmas Pageant

Zooming to Bethlehem: A Virtual Christmas Pageant 

by Carol Penner   www.leadinginworship.com 2020

(email me and I can send you this as a Word document   leadinginworship@live.com)

based on Luke 2:1-14, Matthew 2:1-12

Characters:     Announcer
Innkeeper (in this version she is female, but you can change that)
Leah:  Innkeeper’s daughter
Aaron:  Innkeeper’s son
Guest 1
Guest 2
Guest 3
Mary
Joseph
Cow
Donkey
Sheep
Rooster
Shepherd 1:  Larry
Shepherd 2:  Darryl (can be male or female)
Shepherd 3:  The Other Darryl (can be male or female)
Wise Person 1:  Balthasar
Wise Person 2: Melchior
Wise Person 3: Casper

This pageant would work for children, or with an intergenerational cast. Casting a senior as a star, or adults as some characters would work fine, (and might make your virtual rehearsals a little less chaotic!)

Props:              Headgear for actors to reflect their character. 
The Star should be made of big yellow construction paper, with glitter, and a hole for someone’s face in the middle.

Flashlights in the homes of all the actors, so their faces can glow when they are in the presence of angels or the baby Jesus. The star always has a flashlight on their face.

Signs: “Zooming to Bethlehem”,  Act 1, Act 2, Act 3, Act 4, Act 5

A baby doll wrapped in a plain cloth

A package wrapped in shiny paper

Instructions: 

  1. Have an administrator on the call who will explain to audience that it is essential that everyone who is watching the pageant has their microphone muted and their camera off.
  2. For this play to work, audience must have their Zoom settings set to Speaker View. [This means that the speaker’s face is featured in a big window.]
  3. The actors keep their microphones on, but they have to be told to be very quiet when they are not speaking. Don’t even try to do the play with actors turning their microphones on and off because you know they won’t remember and they will say their lines and you won’t hear them.
  4. Actors must speak loudly so the microphone picks them up and Zoom automatically makes them the speaker. As you practice, make sure people don’t rustle their script papers by the microphone of their computer, or it will cause interference.
  5. It’s a good idea to have an extra person with a script who can jump in if someone’s internet connection goes down. If they jump into a new part, have them just say, “I’m Leah…” so people know who they are.
  6. Alternatively, you could perform this play on Zoom, with no audience and record it, and then it could be played for the church at a later time (the participants could then watch themselves). This might be a lot less stressful.

Act 1

Announcer:     Welcome to our zoom pageant, today’s performance is called

“Zooming to Bethlehem”. [they hold up the title to the screen]  We are starting, predictably, with “Act One.” [they put a sign with Act One very close to their screen.]  Let me introduce the pageant players in Act One   We have the Innkeeper, the Innkeeper’s children Leah and Aaron, as well as Mary, Joseph and three guests at the Inn.  Act One Begins Now! 

Innkeeper:       [calling] Aaron?  Leah?  Aaron?  Leah?  Leah, are you there?  Where are my children?  They always disappear when you need them.

Leah:               Hello!  Can you hear me, mom?

Innkeeper:       I think you’re muted! I can hardly hear you!

Leah:               Oh, I was in the backyard. Now can you hear me?

Innkeeper:       Finally!  I’ve been looking for you and your brother Aaron!  We have this whole inn to take care of, and we have visitors up to the ceiling, why aren’t you helping me?

Leah:               I just went to the well to get some extra water. There were lots of people lined up, so I had to wait my turn.

Innkeeper:       Well, that’s a good thing you went for water.  With this crowd, you can’t have too much water. I’m boiling water for the laundry right now.

Guest 1:           [loudly] Excuse me, Innkeeper, I need extra towels.

Guest 2:           [whining]  Innkeeper, these candles are burnt down, don’t you have new ones?

Guest 3:           [angrily] I thought I was getting the deluxe suite!  You call that a view? My window faces onto an adobe wall!

Innkeeper:       Yes, yes, and yes, that is the best view! I will be right with you…Leah, I have to run.

Leah:               No, mom wait…  When I was at the well, just now, I met such a nice couple.

Innkeeper:       What were you doing wasting time chatting with who knows who when I needed you here?

Leah:               They looked to be in trouble, I just wanted to help.

Innkeeper:       What kind of trouble?

Leah:               Well, the woman is expecting a baby, and she was holding her stomach and kind of groaning.

Innkeeper:       Oh, that kind of trouble!

Leah:               I asked if I could help…I didn’t recognize them so I figured they are here for Caesar Augustus’s census.

Innkeeper:       I told you not to mention that man’s name in this house.  If he takes one more shekel in taxes I’ll…

Leah:               OK, then Quirinius’s census, he’s the governor of Syria.

Innkeeper:       Don’t mention him either, no Roman politicians are to be named in this house.

Leah:               OK, OK… what I’m trying to say is, this woman, her name is Mary, and her husband’s Joseph, they’ve come all the way from Nazareth, that’s a long way away, isn’t it?  And I think it’s her time.  You know, as in her time to have a baby.  They asked me if I knew a place they could find a room.

Innkeeper:        You didn’t tell them we had a room, did you?  You know we have no space.

Leah:                Welllll… 

Joseph:            [knocking loudly]  Hello!  Leah, thanks for the good directions, we didn’t have trouble finding your inn at all.  You must be Leah’s mother…I’m Joseph, and this is my wife Mary.

Mary:               Thank you so much for saying we could come here, Leah, we appreciate it so much.

Leah:               I, um, I, well, you’re welcome…

Innkeeper:       [in a stern tone of voice]  Leah, you didn’t tell them….. 

Leah:               I think I might have.

Innkeeper:       Now Mr. Joseph, I am sorry to tell you that my daughter Leah has gotten a bit ahead of herself… we actually don’t have any rooms left.

Mary:               [with a concerned look on her face] Ow, ow!

Joseph:            I think it’s her time    

Mary:               Like, I think I’m running out of time!  Do you have any  water boiled?

Innkeeper:       Oh my goodness!  But we don’t have any rooms at all!

Joseph:            We’ve tried everywhere and we really can’t go any further.

Leah:               Mom, what about the stable?  Oh, Aaron, here you are…Aaron, this is Mary and oseph; Mary and Joseph, this is my brother Aaron.  Aaron, is there room in the stable for this couple to sleep tonight…they have nowhere else to go.

Aaron:             I just spent the morning cleaning the stable, and there’s nice fresh straw.  But there are some animals there….

Joseph:            That’s no problem, we will take any shelter we can find, as long as we find it now!

Guest 1:           [urgently]  Where is the innkeeper… I need towels!

Guest 2:            [impatiently] And I need candles!

Guest 3:           [angrily] I paid good money for my room, what about my view? Isn’t there a better room I can have?

Innkeeper:       I have to attend to these guests.  Mary and Joseph, if you want the stable, you can have it…    Aaron you take them there.  And Leah, I think you’d better take that boiling water to Mary, I guess the laundry will have to wait!

Joseph:            Thank you so much, we were pretty worried when we saw that “No Room in the Inn” sign posted… you are so kind to take us in.

Mary:               Ow.

Joseph:            Let’s get going!

Aaron:             It’s just back here, it’s getting dark, so watch your step.  Did you see there’s a really big star out tonight!

Star:                 twinkle, twinkle, twinkle, twinkle

Act 2

Announcer:     Act Two.  [they hold up the Act 2 sign to the screen] In this scene we check in on Mary and Joseph in their new stable accommodations.  What will they have to say in this next inSTALLment of our pageant? And we will also meet their new animal friends, what wisdom will they shed on this special night? Act Two begins now.

Joseph:            I feel sorry for you, Mary.  If only Caesar hadn’t called this census.  We had no choice…everyone had to go to the town their family came from. And it just so happens, my family is of the house and lineage of David, so we had to trek all the way to Bethlehem from Nazareth.  I wish we could have gotten a real room.  I never thought we would have to stay in a stable with all these animals.

Cow:                Moo

Donkey:           Neigh

Sheep:             Baaaa

Rooster:          Cock a doodle doo.

Mary:               I was hoping to get home before the baby came.  I guess now we’ll go home with the baby.  I just wish I had my mother here to help right around now…

Joseph:            I will go and see where that hot water is….we have to trust God that things will work out.

Mary:               I’ve been trusting God this whole time.  Except it’s getting harder not easier.  We had to trust God when I got the message from the angel who said I would give birth to the Son of the most high.  They said our baby would have the throne of our ancestor David!  A throne?  Well…this isn’t what I pictured.  Could someone whose “kingdom will never end,” be born in a barn?  Is there some mistake here?  I just don’t get it.

Joseph:            We both had a message from God, the angel appeared to you and then to me.  They said that this child was going to be born of the Holy Spirit.  Our baby will save people from their sins.

Mary:               Two angels, two messages, that is pretty clear.

Joseph:            I know, this isn’t what we expected. But I am sure God has not forgotten us. I trust that our little baby, Jesus, is going to be special.

Mary:               Well, he’s going to come special delivery pretty soon, Joseph. Can you go and get some of that water.  And towels.  And candles.

Joseph:            I’ll see if they have a better view as well!

Cow:                Moo

Donkey:           Neigh

Sheep:             Baaaa

Rooster:          Cock a doodle doodle doo.

Mary:               [Sighing] I guess we can’t do anything about these noisy neighbours!  But I think the view is fine. [looking up]   I can see that star through the window, it really is remarkable.

Star:                 twinkle, twinkle, twinkle, twinkle.

Act 3

Announcer:     This is the act where we meet the shepherds.  [Holds up Act 3 sign.] Their names are Larry, Darryl and the other Darryl. We meet them as they are out watching their flocks by night, just outside Bethlehem.

Darryl:             Nice night, tonight.  It’s quite a sight.  Twice as nice as any night.

Larry:               You’re sounding like quite a poet Darryl.

Other Darryl:  I think it might rain soon, I see some clouds over there on the horizon, right by that big bright star.

Star:                 twinkle twinkle twinkle twinkle

Larry:               Those clouds look very unusual. They look sort of golden.

Darryl:             That star is starry!  Star light, star bright, first starry star, I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish, I wish tonight.

Other Darryl:  Darryl, you are such a dreamer. But what would you wish for if you could have anything.

Darryl:             Oh, I don’t know.  Maybe just that something different would happen. It’s always the same old, same old, here.  Nothing new or exciting happens to shepherds. It’s baa baa black sheep, day in and day out. 

Larry:               While you two Darryls have been talking, I have been watching the heavens, and definitely that cloud is getting closer.  Look at it!

Other Darryl:  [slowly] That is strange..I know I’m imagining it, but it looks like…wait….what is that!?

Larry:               [shocked] The light…it’s too bright!!!!!    [From this point on, Larry, Darryl and the Other Darryl have bright flashlights shining on their faces so they are all lit up on the screen.]

Darryl:             It’s getting closer and closer….what is happening?  I’m terrified!

Other Darryl:  It’s an angel, hit the dirt. [Larry, Darryl and the Other Darryl all duck down so you                          can’t see them on their screen anymore].

Angel:              [they have an extremely bright lamp right behind their head so they are glowing…they should have their hands extending right towards the screen, if you have flashlights shining on their hands, all the better, so it looks like their skin is glowing.]  Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people!

Larry:               [peeking up into their screen with just their eyes showing, since they are supposed to be on the ground, but speaking very loudly so the microphone picks up their voice]  What did you say?

Darryl:             [also peeking up from the bottom of the screen and speaking loudly] Did you say good news? I’ve been wishing for some good news!

Angel:              For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you, you will find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

Other Darryl:  Did you say, lying in a manger, as in, lying in a trough for animal food? 

Larry:               It doesn’t make any sense! 

Other Darryl:  Wait…look, suddenly, a multitude of the heavenly host is in the sky with the angel!!!  Look, they’re still calling to us!

Angel:              [With hands cupped around their mouth, as if they are calling from a long way away…but not yelling because that won’t work on Zoom.]  Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to all people!” [waving good-bye].

[all the flashlights are turned off now]

Darryl:             I can’t see, I can’t see. 

Larry:               Darryl, that’s because it’s dark out.  You just have to adjust your eyes.

Other Darryl:  It’s dark, but I am starting to see the light. I’ve never seen an angel before…we’ve been given some good news tonight. What do we do now?

Darryl:             It’s time to zoom to the city of David, Bethlehem, which is just over that hill! Let’s just skedaddle right over there as fast we can!

Larry:               And leave the sheep?  Have you lost your marbles?

Darryl:             Trust me on this…it’s a perfectly calm night, nothing is going to happen. And I think if God can send angels with a message, God can take care of a few sheep for a few hours. 

Other Darryl:  Are you saying, the Lord is our shepherd?

Darryl:              We shall not want!

Larry:               God makes me  run through green pastures, I guess. What are we waiting for?  Let’s zoom!

Darryl:              I will fear no evil!

Act 4

Announcer:     It’s time for Act 4 [holding the Act 4 sign to the screen].  This is it, the big highlight of the pageant, the time has come for Mary to be delivered.  And for Jesus to be delivered. The Shepherds, Larry, Darryl and the other Darryl come for a visit.  Act 4 begins now.

Larry:               This is ridiculous.

Darryl:             We’ve been in practically every barn in Bethlehem.  And every manger we found only had animal feed in it, no babies at all.

Other Darryl:  And some of these people haven’t been cleaning their barns very well. [they wave their hand in front of their nose, making a face.] What a stinky tour we’ve had. Maybe we should head back. This is some strange mistake.

Larry:               I know, it’s very disappointing. I thought we heard the message of the angels so clearly, but maybe we got it wrong.   When they said, “Born this day…”  maybe they mean as in this coming day.  We can try again tomorrow night. 

Darryl:             Well, let’s head home. It’s this way. There’s that big star again..

Star:                 twinkle, twinkle, twinkle, twinkle

Larry:               Look… right under that star is the inn….there seems to be lot of light coming out of the barn windows.

Darryl:             That innkeeper is going to be mad that they are burning so many candles at once.

Other Darryl:   Why would they be using so many candles in a barn?

Larry:               We’ve come this far, we’ll just go see. 

Larry:               [knocking] Excuse us, may we come in? [flashlights light up the faces of Larry, Darryl, Other Darryl and Mary, holding a baby, and Joseph and all the animals]

Cow:                Moo

Donkey:           Neigh

Sheep:             Baaaa

Rooster:          Cock a doodle doodle doodle  doo.

Joseph:            Yes, you may come in, who could it be at this time of night?

Larry:               Well, you don’t know us, but we know who you are.  We know that baby in your arms is a special gift from God!

Mary:               [astonished] How can you possibly know that about our little baby, Jesus? [ she holds the baby doll up for all to see him…a flashlight is shining on his little face too.]

Darryl:             We were just tending our sheep, and an angel appeared unto us.  And then there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying:

Other Darryl:    Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill to all people.

Larry:               And THEY told us that a saviour was born tonight, and that we would find him in Bethlehem, and that he would be lying in a manger.

Darryl:             And we’ve checked out a lot of mangers tonight, and not one had a baby in it!

Other Darryl:  And so we are here to worship the newborn king!

Joseph:            I am amazed!  Thank you so much for coming all this way to see our baby and tell us about the angel visitors!

Larry:               He is a beautiful baby!  A gift from God.  Do you mind if we just sit here and adore him for a while?

Joseph:            Actually, It’s been a long day for us, and it’s rather late. We just want to get some sleep. I feel sort of sheepish telling you this, since you came all this way… 

Other Darryl:  You’re feeling sheepish! We’re the ones who dropped in in the middle of the night.  And speaking of sheepish..Sheep!  Our sheep!  We have to be getting back to our flocks. 

Darryl:             I hope they are in sheep shape when we get there.

Larry:               Don’t worry…the Lord is our Shepherd!  We shall not want!  I will fear no evil, for God is with… the sheep.  If God can send us a Saviour, God can watch our sheep. 

Mary:               It was awfully nice of you to visit. It means a lot to us that you confirmed our stories from the angels.  We know now that this story is bigger than just us. Our little baby Jesus [she holds up the baby for everyone to see]  is going to make a big difference in our lives.

Darryl:             I think this might be bigger than we can imagine.  Maybe as big as the whole world.

Other Darryl:  That’s a lot of big baggage for this one little baby to carry.

Larry:               And it’s a big hike back.  C’mon, let’s skedaddle back to the hills and our flocks!  Surely goodness and mercy are following us!

Act 5

Announcer:     Act 5 [hold up sign to screen] This is the big final act where you will get an epiphany. Literally. The star of the pageant shows up.  And we will meet 3 wise persons: Balthasar, Melchior and Casper as they encounter the innkeeper, Mary, Joseph and the baby.  The animals weigh in one last time.

Innkeeper:       I should be sleeping, it’s the middle of the night, but somehow I am too tired to sleep.  My goodness….look at that star

Star:                 Twinkle, twinkle, twinkle, twinkle

Innkeeper:       What’s that noise, it sounds like camels? Who could possibly be travelling this late?

Balthasar:        Hello, we are looking for the keeper of this inn.

Innkeeper:       That’s me, how can I help you?  I am sorry to tell you that we are very full tonight, in fact we are overfull.  We even have guests sleeping in the stable!  You look like you have travelled a long way?

Casper:            Yes, we have been travelling for months.  We are following the star, and it led us here.

Star:                 twinkle twinkle twinkle twinkle

Balthasar:        We received a vision from God, who told us of a newborn king who would be born, and that we should follow the sign of the star.  We are searching for a newborn baby.

Innkeeper:       You are looking for a newborn king? I’m sorry to disappoint you, but nobody important lives here.  I can tell you that for sure.  We’re all just ordinary people.

Melchior:         The star can’t be wrong, I think we are almost.  Look at it sparkling right above us. Is there no newborn baby here?

Innkeeper:       Well, as a matter of fact…there is a newborn baby but…

Balthasar:        We want to see the child right away!  Where can we park our camels, shall we put them in the stable?

Innkeeper:        I don’t think they’ll fit in the stable because that’s where the couple and their child are!  Let me lead you to them.  [she knocks…flashlights shine on the the faces of all the characters in this scene]  Mary, Joseph…oh, I am glad you are still awake. I am sorry to visit you so late, but you have some very important visitors.

Balthasar:        I am Balthasar

Melchior:         I am Melchior.

Casper:            I am Casper.

Balthasar:        We have travelled far from the east, following the sign of the star, we have come to see the newborn king.

Casper:            We have come to see this baby.

Melchior:         What a beautiful child.

Balthasar:        He is sleeping so soundly, so sweetly.

Casper:            This child is born to be a king…

Joseph:            Thank you for coming all this way and for your kind words!

Mary:              I need to ponder these words in my heart.  How did you find us?  How did you know our baby is so special?  And you came all this way just to see him?

Balthasar:        It was our joy, our pleasure. It was our mission, ever since we received the sign, we have been travelling.  And now we come to share treasures with you.

Mary:               [Holding up a shiny wrapped package]. What is in these packages!  They are wrapped so beautifully.  I want to save the wrapping paper, it’s so lovely. You did a very nice job wrapping these!

Casper:            Thank you, my mother taught me how to giftwrap. There’s a real knack to it.

Joseph:            Here, just open it already.  Oh my…it’s gold!  You’ve given us gold?

Balthasar:        Gold for the royal one!

Mary:               I don’t know how we can accept.

Melchior:         You must accept, these are for your baby.

Joseph:            And in this box, is this frankincense?

Balthasar:        Yes, the very same.

Mary:               And this final present is myrrh, I know that fragrance anywhere.

Casper:            I hope you can find a use for it.

Mary:               I am sure we will.  Thank you so much for your presents and your blessings on our lovely boy.

Melchior:         Thank you for letting us in …  we know it’s late.  We will leave you now. May we stop in to see you before we go tomorrow?

Joseph:            Why certainly, we would be honoured.  We hope to be leaving ourselves in a few days.  We want to return to our hometown of Nazareth

Mary:              I can’t wait to show the baby to my mother.  She is going to love her new grandchild, she is going to think he’s perfect!

Balthasar:        Wonderful.  We have so much to be thankful for, today has truly been an epiphany for us. We weren’t expecting to find a baby in a manger, but God works in mysterious ways.

Joseph:            That’s the truth.  But we can trust that God will be with us, every day, on every journey.

Mary:               Have a good sleep tonight, well, with what’s left of tonight, it’s practically morning.  Pleasant dreams! 

Joseph:            I’m so tired, I can’t imagine how tired you are, Mary.  I can’t wait to hit the hay.

Cow:                Mooooove over, donkey, we have to let them have roooooom to stretch out to sleep.  Well, what an evening this has been, have you ever seen anything quite like that!

Donkey:           Neigh!, what an extraordinary day. A Saviour who is Christ the Lord.

Sheep:             Baaaaasinettes made out of mangers, quite remarkable!  I like the reduce, re-use, recycle vibe of this family. Very “more with less” of them.

Rooster:          Cock a doodle doodle doodle doodle do you see what I see? do you see what I see, way up in the sky, little lamb?

Star:                 A star, a star, (that’s me!)  shining in the night!  A child, a child, shivers in the night…he will bring us goodness and light! He will bring us goodness and light!!

Announcer:     And so as sleep falls on the characters, so too the curtain falls on our pageant.  Thank you for watching, and with the words of the angels we end our virtual zoom pageant, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will to all people.”

About Carol Penner

I am a Mennonite pastor currently teaching theology at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ontario. I’ve served congregations in Ontario and most recently, Alberta.

I love to write and to lead worship! If you are finding my writing helpful, I would love to hear from you! Feel free to use or adapt the material here, it is all written by me. If printing material, please credit “Copyright Carol Penner www.leadinginworship.com” (and say whether you modified it). If publishing, please contact me for permission. Contact me at carol@leadinginworship.com

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