by Joy Rogers, Dean, St. James Episcopal Cathedral, Chicago
Second Sunday of Advent
Saints Nicholas and John the Baptist
Narrator, St. Nicholas, John the Baptist, Reader 1, Reader 2, Three Girls, Boy, Two Boys, Stranger
Narrator: . . . as it is written in the book of the prophet Isaiah,
"The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'"
St. Nicholas and John the Baptist enter from opposite sides of the front of the church.
They bump into each other at the center aisle.
St. Nicholas: "Repent and be baptized for the Kingdom of God has come near."
John: Wait just a minute. That's my line. It's the second Sunday of Advent. I always make my entrance here. It's my big scene.
Reader 1: Who are you?
John: Where have you been? It's Advent, and I sure don't look like the angel Gabriel, do I? Check it out. Camel hair duds, leather belt. "I baptize you with water, etc, etc. (He sprinkles water.)
Reader 2: It might be Advent in the wilderness of Judea, but in the shopping malls of America people are getting ready for Christmas, and you sure don't look like Santa Claus either.
John: That's the problem, exactly!
You make yourselves frantic about getting ready for Christmas.
I'm here to get you ready for God.
Look at the mess the world is in. You need help.
So the Church sends me in. John the Baptist, at God's service.
I have to yell a bit to get folk's attention. It's harder now.
Those shopping malls are noisier than any wilderness.
I'm the one who calls a halt to the Christmas crazies.
I'm the one who's supposed to make you seethe reason for the season.
"I baptize you with water for repentance,
but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me;
I am not worthy to carry his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."
Ready or not, God's coming. Prepare the way of the Lord.
So who is this old guy in the funny hat?
John: I don't care for turkey myself;
I prefer locusts and wild honey.
St. Nicholas: I don't eat Turkey. I lived there.
About 300 years after you did your preaching and baptizing in the Jordan River.
Some things had changed;
but the world was still pretty much in a mess.
John: That's too bad, but why are you stealing my scene?
St. Nicholas: It's time for my big day too—December 6.
In many countries all over the world people are getting ready to celebrate St. Nicholas Day.
Reader 1: Is it your birthday?
St. Nicholas: Not exactly. Not the day I was born; but the day I died;
and so the day I was born into glory, into eternal life.
John: Did someone cut off your head?
St. Nicholas: No. I had some great adventures; I knew first hand about suffering and imprisonment and persecution; but I lived a long life and died an old man, despite rumors to the contrary.
John: Then what makes you a Saint? You didn't even get in the Bible.
Reader 2: You don't have to be in the Bible to be a Saint.
St. Nicholas did lots of good things for people.
His parents were rich, but he gave away his inheritance.
He did miracles that helped people.
John: Like what?
Three girls together: Remember us, Bishop Nicholas?
Our family was very poor.
Our father had no money for our dowries;
so we could not find husbands.
We were ready to go out on the streets,
and become slaves or prostitutes.
You came by our house in the dark of night,
and you left a bag of gold for each of us.
Girl 1: I found a wonderful husband.
Girl 2: I used mine to get a good education.
Girl 3: I started my own business.
Reader 1: Three golden balls became a sign of financial aid in time of need. Our friend became the patron saint of pawnbrokers.
Boy: Remember me, Bishop Nicholas?
I was a sailor on the ship you took to Jerusalem.
A great storm came up;
we thought we were lost in the wind and waves.
You calmed the seas and saved us all.
Reader 2: St. Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors and seafarers.
Maybe a saint for all who find themselves threatened in the storms of life.
Two boys: Remember us, Bishop Nicholas?
We were kidnapped and murdered by a wicked butcher.
He stuffed our bodies into a barrel of brine.
You found us his basement, and you raised us back to life.
Reader 1: St. Nicholas has always been a saint for children in a pickle.
Reader 2: St. Nicholas is the patron saint of all children.
He is the giver of gifts, the worker of wonders, a lover of souls.
St. Nicholas: Stories, stories, my children.
Stories and legends and fanciful tales;
to lighten human hearts, and chase away the darkness
that frightens the human spirit.
Neither falsehood nor facts. But something more.
These lovely stories hold much more than the truth of Nicholas.
They say something about the truth of God.
St. John, my friend and brother. We need each other.
Your mission is to help people get ready for God.
My mission is to show people how God is ready for us.
We prepare for One who has already come among us.
If I found a ministry among children and for the poor,
it is because I serve a Lord who came to us as a child,
born in poverty.
If I had any truth to share with frightened sailors,
any prayer that calmed a stormy sea,
it was the gift of the Lord who saves us all,
by his love and care, and by the Spirit of God.
If I was ever an instrument of healing and life
for the wounded and dying and persecuted and abused,
then I am only a servant of the Lord and King
who reigned on a Cross,
and died to free us from sin and death.
I come with gifts in the darkness to remind us
that darkness does not stop the light of Christ.
I give gifts that bring people new lives to remind us
that God gives us new life, eternal life, God's life.
John: You don't look like Santa Claus, either.
John the Baptist & St. Nicholas
Detail: Bernardo Daddi, Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints John Gualbertus, John the Baptist, Francis and Nicholas, c. 1330-36
Norton Simon Museum
St. Nicholas: A distant cousin, I should say.
I became a household word in Holland and Germany.
On my feast day, I would come through the villages
after the children were asleep
and leave candies and coins and nuts in their shoes.
I wanted them to have a little taste of the wonderful gift
that came into the world on Christmas.
So all through Advent, they could savor the taste of love
on their tongues and in their hearts,
and delight at the thought of the gift that is God.
European settlers brought me across the sea to the New Land.
Somewhere along the way, the American genius for advertising
grafted a new identity onto the family tree.
Santa Claus is a good hearted soul.
Sometimes he forgets where he came from.
That's why the world needs us this season, John, both of us.
We are messengers with the same Good News,
and heralds of the same Advent of God.
A white robed stranger walks into the center
St John and St. Nicholas: Who are you?
Stranger: I am another Advent messenger. Call me Isaiah.
Prepare the way of the Lord.
You used my line. That's okay.
God's Advent promise is that there will come a day
when the world is no longer a mess.
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder's den.
They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.
By Joy Rogers, Dean, St. James Episcopal Cathedral, Chicago, Illinois. Used by permission.