Notes for performance:
Suitable for all-age worship. Try to engage with the congregation without straying from the script.
Gospel Beginnings - week one
(John wanders on talking to himself) Where to begin? Thatís the question. Where to begin?
(notices congregation) Oh, hello there. I didnít notice you for a moment. I was lost in thought. Let me introduce myself. My name is John, and Iím going to write a book about the life of Jesus. You may even have heard of me. I was one of his disciples. One of the twelve chosen. In fact, I was one of Jesusís three special friends. There was Peter, and James, and me.
Now Iím the only one left. My brother, James, was killed by King Herod when he was only a young man. Peter became our leader for many years, but eventually he too was killed because of his faith in Jesus. Which just leaves me, John. Iím an old man now. And I want to write down the story of Jesus before itís too late. I wonít be the first. Other people have already written about Jesus, but none of them knew him quite as well as I did. Or I should say as I do. Heís still alive of course. Still my special friend.
The problem is where to begin. With most people, you begin with their birth. But is that when the life of Jesus began? Iíve had many years to think about it, and the more I think, the more Iím convinced that Jesus has been around longer than we can imagine. We knew him as a human being Ė solid flesh and blood like you and me. But we also grew to realise that Jesus was none other than God himself, come to live among us. And God has been around ever since the start of time.
So perhaps I should start by saying that Jesus was God. Thatís true in one sense. In another sense, God is the Father of Jesus, so I could say that he was Ďwith Godí. Hmmm... (trying the sentences out....) Jesus was God. Jesus was with God. He was with God. He was God. I think Iíd better say both. It might confuse my readers, but at least it will make them think. After all, Iíve known Jesus nearly all my life and Iím still not sure how to explain him in simple words.
One thing Iíve just realised. The name Jesus was only given to him at his birth. It wouldnít sound right to use his name before getting to that part of the story. So what else can I call him? Well, through him God spoke to the world, and people usually use words to speak, so I could call Jesus Ďthe Wordí Ė Godís word to us. Now, all I need is a good opening line.... How does the book of Genesis start? Perhaps that will give me some idea. (reads) ďIn the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.Ē Ah, Iíve got it. I know how to start my story of Jesus.
(writes whilst speaking, and starts to wander off) ďIn the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God. And the Word was God....Ē
Gospel Beginnings - week two
(Matthew wanders on talking to himself) Where to begin? Thatís the question. Where to begin?
(notices congregation) Oh, hello there. I didnít notice you for a moment. I was lost in thought. Let me introduce myself. My name is Matthew, and Iím going to write a book about the life of Jesus. You may even have heard of me. I was one of his disciples. One of the twelve chosen. I used to be a tax-collector. But Jesus picked me out to be one of his followers. And it changed my life. Now I want to write down the story so that other people can read how wonderful Jesus is.
But the problem is where to begin. I could begin with his parents, Joseph and Mary. Well, I say Ďparentsí, but of course itís a bit more complicated than that. Mary was the mother of Jesus, thatís clear enough. But from what I hear, Joseph was not the natural biological father. There were a lot of miraculous events surrounding Jesusís life Ė not surprising considering he was the Messiah sent by God Ė and one of them is the way that he was conceived by the Spirit of God without any need for a human father to get involved.
To be fair to Joseph, he may not have been involved in the moment of conception, but he did everything else a father would do for his son, and a lot more too. He looked after Mary throughout her pregnancy. He rescued Mary and Jesus from the clutches of Herod. Joseph was the head of the family and in human terms as good a father as Jesus could wish for.
But when all is said and done, Joseph was never really famous. I hope he will become famous once Iíve written my story, but so far his name isnít well known. There must be a better way to start. If only I could begin with someone like King David who everyone has heard of. That would get peopleís attention. Heís just about the most famous person in our history. Certainly the best king weíve ever had. Until the coming of Jesus, that is.
Wait a moment. Why canít I begin with David? After all, we were always told that the Messiah would be someone like David, one of his descendants. And one of the few important things I do know about Joseph is that he was proud to be able to trace his ancestry back to David. Thatís a good starting point. It will remind my readers that the arrival of Jesus was part of Godís plan from way back in history. In fact, Iíll go back even further. Iíll start with Abraham, the ancestor of all our people.
(writes whilst speaking, and starts to wander off) ďA record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob....Ē
Gospel Beginnings - week three
(Mark wanders on talking to himself) Where to begin? Thatís the question. Where to begin?
(notices congregation) Oh, hello there. I didnít notice you for a moment. I was lost in thought. Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark, and Iím going to write a book about the life of Jesus. You may even have heard of me. I was one of Saint Paulís companions when he set off on his first missionary journey. If Iím honest, I found it hard going and dropped out after a while, but Barnabas gave me a second chance and I went with him to help spread the good news in Cyprus.
Iím so excited about Jesus, that I want to spread the good news to the whole world, and the best way to do that is to write it down. No-one has yet written a proper account of all the things Jesus said and did, so this is my chance to tell everyone about Jesus, the Messiah, the son of God.
The trouble is, Iím so keen to get on and tell the story that Iím worried Iím going to begin too abruptly. People tell me Iím rather impetuous. If Iím not careful Iíll end up letting the words just spill out of me Ė one incident after another with no pause for breath. I need to make sure I set the scene properly before I get into the main part of the story. But thereís so much to say about Jesus I donít want to waste too many words on anything else.
Let me see... How did the ministry of Jesus begin? With John the Baptist, of course. For a while he was the most famous preacher in Israel. But in the end his main task was to prepare people for the coming of Jesus. I suppose I could start by saying a little bit about John. (trying it out....) ďOnce upon a time, there was a man called John the Baptist.Ē No, that doesnít sound very impressive. It sounds as if John just turned up out of nowhere, when in fact he was part of Godís plan to prepare people for Jesus.
How do I know John was part of Godís plan? Because there is a passage in the book of Isaiah where God promises to send a messenger who will prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah.
Actually, that wouldnít be a bad place to start Ė I could begin with Isaiah, then move quickly on to John the Baptist, then I can get straight on with telling people the amazing things Jesus did.
Letís see... (writes whilst speaking, and starts to wander off) ďThe beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God... It is written in Isaiah the prophet: I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way...Ē
Gospel Beginnings - week four
(Luke wanders on talking to himself) Where to begin? Thatís the question. Where to begin?
(notices congregation) Oh, hello there. I didnít notice you for a moment. I was lost in thought. Let me introduce myself. My name is Luke. Iím a doctor by profession, and Iím going to write a book about the life of Jesus. You may even have heard of me. I sometimes travelled with St Paul and his companions on his missionary journeys. Iíve been keeping a careful record of all the things Jesus said and did, and now I want to set it all down nice and clearly for my friend Theophilus Ė though I hope other readers will find it interesting too.
The first partís easy Ė a short explanation to Theophilus about what why Iím writing. But how do I start the story properly?
How about this? ďJesus, the Saviour, was born in Bethlehem on...Ē (pause as if trying to recollect the date) Well, the actual date doesnít matter too much... ď...son of Mary and of God.Ē No, I donít like that. Itís too matter of fact. I need to get across something of the wonder of Jesusís birth Ė how it was by the power of the Most High God that Mary came to give birth to a son.
I know, Iíll start with the angel Gabriel telling Mary that she would have a son. His message explains a lot about who Jesus really is. Something like, ďOne day, Mary was visited by an angel called Gabriel...Ē Hmm, thatís better, but itís still not quite right. I need something else to set the scene before I write about Mary.
Iíve got it! John the Baptist! As an adult he paved the way for the ministry of Jesus, but even as a baby he was born first. I remember hearing a remarkable story about his parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth. They were far too old to have children, but God blessed them with a son, who became John the Baptist. And come to think of it, the same angel announced the birth to Zechariah one day when he was on duty in the temple.
That would be a good way to begin. Iíll write all about the birth of John the Baptist and then about the birth of Jesus Ė and in both cases, Iíll explain how God announced his plans in advance through the angel Gabriel.
(writes whilst speaking, and starts to wander off) ďIn the time of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah ... an angel of the Lord appeared to him...Ē
[Postscript: Did you notice that these four monologues tie in roughly with the four
traditional themes of Advent Hope; Old Testament; John the Baptist; Annunciation?
The attached script (see the link at the top of the page) also contains prayers and
a suggestion for an advent liturgy leading to the lighting of the candles.]