A Christmas Legend: The Birth of Jesus and Gift Giving

About this article

This dramatic presentation called "The Christmas Legend" is from Scripture Alive (available from Saint Mary's Press) and is meant to be role-played for an audience of young children or elderly people. There are ten roles and a choir ensemble in this piece, which imagines what the shepherds experienced when visiting the baby Jesus. Included is a reflection and discussion for students after the performance to help them process the role-playing experience and the theme of gift giving.

Session Overview: This 2-hour session is designed to use role-playing skills for a presentation to an audience.

Scripture: This session is based on Luke 2:1-20. Read the Scripture passage to the young people after the role-play, "Christmas Legend," has been performed and the reflection questions have been completed.


  • To reflect on the birth of Jesus
  • To use role-playing skills to entertain others
  • To reflect on gift giving


  • "Christmas Legend" (see text below), one copy for each group member
  • optional costumes
  • optional props
  • refreshments for the audience

Cast of Characters

  • the narrator
  • shepherd 1
  • shepherd 2
  • shepherd 3
  • shepherdess 1
  • shepherdess 2
  • shepherdess 3
  • Mary
  • Joseph
  • a cherub
  • members of the choir

Leader's Directions

Role-Playing: This session is meant to be role-played for an audience such as a group of younger children at a school, church, or hospital, or a group of elderly persons in a retirement home. It can be done effectively without props or costumes, but you may wish to add them for the enjoyment of the audience.

Choose participants to role-play the characters listed above. Give each group member a copy of handout 16-A, "Christmas Legend." If the group is large, the remaining members can play a choir and should be given a copy of the music for the suggested songs. Because this role-play is a performance for an audience, you may wish to schedule a rehearsal.

As an icebreaker, direct each group member to choose one person from the audience to interview. If the audience is young children, tell the group members to ask the children what they want for Christmas, if they have brothers or sisters, how they celebrate Christmas, and so forth. If the audience includes elderly people, instruct the group members to ask the interviewees how they celebrated Christmas when they were young, what their favorite Christmas was, what the best Christmas present they ever received was, and so forth.

After the play, you may wish to serve refreshments to your audience. If so, have members of your group serve and clean up.

Reflection and Discussion: After the performance is completed and any cleanup finished, take time to process the experience with the performers and the rest of the group. For example, ask them to share what they learned about the person they interviewed. Did the group members learn something about the various ways different people celebrate the birth of Christ?

After sharing, continue by reading aloud the Scripture passage and asking the following discussion questions:

  • How did it feel to perform in front of an audience?
  • What is meant by "the Christmas spirit"?
  • How might it have felt to be at the stable for the birth of Jesus?
  • If you could have given the baby Jesus a gift at the stable, what might you have given him?
  • Besides gift giving, what other Christmas customs originate from the Scripture accounts of Jesus' birth?


A Christmas Legend

Narrator: Young shepherds in the fields outside Bethlehem are keeping watch over the flocks at night. Behold! An angel of the Lord appears and stands by the shepherds, and the glory of God shows around the angels, who say, "Today, in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you, who is the Christ, the Lord." Suddenly a multitude of heavenly hosts appears, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to men and women of good will."

Choir: ["Angels We Have Heard" may be sung here.]

Shepherd 1: Wow! Did you see that? Let's go into town and see if this is the Messiah we've heard our parents speak about.

Shepherd 2: Hey, it must be the one. I mean, we did see these strange beings and all. They must be angels!

Shepherd 3: Yea! Did you ever hear such singing? They must have been sent by God. This must mean the King has come.

Shepherd 2: I think God wants us to know about the birth, but I wonder why he sent the angels to tell us. We are just poor shepherds.

Shepherd 3: Who knows? Maybe because David was a shepherd before he was a king. Come on! We're just wasting time. Let's go see!

Shepherdess 1: What about us? We want to see the King too.

Shepherdess 2: You silly girl! Of course we are going. After all, we heard the angels too.

Shepherd 1: This is not a time for girls. God meant the message to be for us boys alone. I'm sure our fathers would not be pleased to know that we allowed you to go into the city at this late hour.

Shepherdess 3: If you go, we go. But aren't you all forgetting something? We can't just show up without the traditional gift for a newborn child.

Shepherd 1: She's right! We need gifts. Something special.

Shepherd 2: What about a song? We can play our flutes.

Shepherd 3: Great! Remember when we played for King Herod's troops?

Shepherd 1: Well, pack up and let's be on our way.

Shepherdess 1: I will take the baby my fine wool blanket. I just finished sewing it and it will be soft and warm.

Shepherdess 2: And I will take this new baby lamb. Father gave it to me for my dowry, but he will be pleased to know I gave it to the baby king.

Shepherdess 3: What can I give? I have no lamb or blanket, and I surely can't sing.

Shepherdess 1: Well, you can't go if you don't have a gift. It is the custom of our people.

Shepherd 1: You stay here. We will need someone to tend to the sheep while we are away.

Shepherdess 3: But I want to see the baby. Please, isn't there something I could give?

Shepherdess 2: Don't worry; he is right. We do need someone to tend the sheep, and I promise I will study the baby very hard and tell you all about him.

Shepherdess 3: You will hurry back, won't you? I will be afraid here all alone. What if a wolf should come?

Shepherd 2: Right, well, just do the best you can. I am not waiting any longer. Are the rest of you coming or not?

Choir: ["O Little Town of Bethlehem" may be sung here.]

Narrator: And so the one little shepherdess is left behind to tend the sheep while her friends hurry off to see the new king. As she waits in the fields, she grows sadder and sadder, thinking about the great event that is unfolding without her. Finally, she looks up to the heavens and cries.

Shepherdess 3: God of Abraham, why did you permit me to hear the angel and not allow me to go with the others? I am lonely and frightened, and I have waited for you to send the Messiah. My father says that the King will save us and make us a great nation once again.

Narrator: Just then the young shepherdess hears an odd noise behind the rock. Thinking it is a wolf, she grabs her staff and jumps to her feet. Peering around the rock, she sees a young cherub stretching as though awakened from a nap.

Cherub: Oh, are they here?

Shepherdess 3: Who? And who are you?

Cherub: Why, the other angels. I was following them. I guess I got sleepy waiting. They were to announce the King's birth. He is the Son of God, you know.

Shepherdess 3: Are you an angel? You seem smaller than the others we saw. They were here about an hour ago, and the others went to Bethlehem to find the baby king. I couldn't go because I had no gift, and the other shepherds said I needed to watch the flock.

Cherub: You mean they were here and I missed them? Aw gee, I never seem to do things right. I'll never get to be a full-grown angel.

Shepherdess 3: Oh, I'm sorry. I know how you feel. Say, I bet you're thirsty after your long journey. Here let me get you some water. I have some cool spring water right here that you can drink from my shepherd's cup.

Cherub: Thanks. This is a very unusual cup. Where did you get such a treasure?

Shepherdess 3: Do you really like it? I carved it myself from an olive branch.

Cherub: I thought you said that you didn't have a gift for our King. This, I think, would make a fine gift. I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm a little tired of traveling, and it would be a shame for both of us to miss out on this event. Why don't you go, take your cup, and I will watch the flock.

Shepherdess 3: Really? You'd do that for me? I promise I will return and let you know all about it.

Narrator: The little shepherdess hurries along, leaving the little cherub to watch over the sheep. She is still shy about offering her cup as a gift to such a great King, but she is determined to sneak a peek of the baby, if only from a distance.

Choir: ["Away in a Manger" may be sung now.]

Narrator: As the shepherdess approaches the entrance to the stable, she can hear the shepherd boys playing on their flutes. She pauses and peeks around the door.

Shepherdess 2: Mother, may I come forward to present you with this gift for your baby? It is a new lamb. The best of my father's flock. I hope it will serve you well.

Mary: Why, this is a beautiful lamb. I know my son will be proud of the flock it will sire. Come forward, my child, and look upon the baby. See, he smiles at you.

Shepherdess 1: Mother, may I too come forward? I have brought your son a soft woolen blanket that I made myself. May it keep him warm on cold nights.

Mary: Come forward, little one. This is surely the loveliest blanket I have ever seen. It will be his favorite, I am sure. See how he reaches out to it even now.

Narrator: As Mary stoops to cover the infant in the manger, she spots the small shepherdess hiding near the door.

Mary: Come forward, child. See the newborn King of Israel.

Shepherdess 3: Mother, I have no great gift to give. I have only this simple wooden cup that I made.

Joseph: Come here, child. Let me see your cup. This is wonderful. See here Mary, she has carved the shepherd's psalm on the bowl. I am a carpenter myself, and I recognize your giftedness as a wood-carver.

Shepherdess 3: Do you really like it? Do you think your son will like it?

Joseph: This cup will always have a special place of honor in our home. When my son is older, I will tell him of the young shepherdess who gave this to him. I am sure he will make it his own.

Narrator: The shepherdess is very pleased and kneels down beside the child. In her heart, she thanks God for the gift of seeing his Son. She goes back to the flock to tell the cherub about what had taken place, but he is no longer there. The little shepherdess keeps this secret in her heart.

When Jesus becomes a man, Joseph keeps his promise and tells Jesus about the little shepherdess. Jesus carries the cup with him always and uses it many Verdana, Arial to drink from as he travels through the desert. Jesus uses this cup during his last Passover meal with his Apostles.

Today, this simple wooden cup is one of the world's most sought after treasures. This cup is the Holy Grail.

Choir: ["O Come, All Ye Faithful" may be sung here.]


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Published February 29, 2000.