St. Nicholas

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Midnight Missions

A Script for a St. Nicholas Day Play

by Anne E. Neuberger

The following is a short, simple play that can be easily produced for home, school, or parish use. it is basically a story-telling tool to introduce St. Nicholas, and can be used for an audience of mixed ages. The only actors needed are a narrator and "St. Nicholas," and props can be minimal or nonexistent.
Sinterklaas card, detail
St. Nicholas
Woodcarving by Barb John, 1994, Falmouth, MI
St Nicholas Center Collection

Narrator

Hundreds of years ago, in the country we now call Turkey, there lived a wealthy child named Nicholas. He lived around the first half of the fourth century. He became a priest, and soon a bishop. Bishop Nicholas worked for justice among all people, and the name Nicholas means "victory of the people."

He helped those who were poor, and those in danger in his lifetime, and he is said to have accomplished even more after his death!

Nicholas appeared to Emperor Constantine of Rome in a dream to convince him to set some prisoners free. Sailors who nearly drowned in a storm were saved by the good bishop who mysteriously landed on board their sinking ship. When a baby was swept into a swift moving river and all efforts to save him failed, the baby appeared the next day, alive and healthy, in a cathedral, under an icon of St. Nicholas.

He is a saint because he lived what the Gospel asks of us. Because some of his acts were done mysteriously, Nicholas has become our saint of surprises. Now his spirit is within each of us whenever we do a good deed in secret. It seems that his spirit is especially strong at this time of year. So strong, I feel as if he is with us now. . . .

Enter Nicholas

Nicholas:

Hello! Greetings, everyone! How are you on this Advent day? Waiting for Christmas? Waiting for the birth of the Christ Child?

Well, I have come to tell you a story, and to ask something of importance of you while you wait.

Once, long, long ago, there was a poor man in my country. I heard the man had a terrible problem. You see, he had three daughters who were all old enough to be married. Way back then, it was a custom for a young woman to bring a gift of money to her new husband when they married. This was called a dowry. But as this man had no money to give his daughters, they could not marry. I'm glad to see that this particular custom has died out!

But then, with no dowry and no marriage, his daughters would have to become slaves! Slaves! Can you imagine the worry this good man and his daughters had?

Well, I had money. My parents had left me more than enough. Of course I would share it with this family.

I knew it would be better if the money were given in secret. So, I took a bag of gold and slipped out into the night. I wore a long cloak with a hood so no one could recognize me. I walked quietly through the streets. It was dark. We did not have streetlights then, you know. Still I walked close to the buildings and kept very quiet—I wanted no one to notice me.

When I reached the house, all was dark and silent. I dared not leave a bag of gold on the doorstep for it would surely be stolen. I had no choice but to slip the bag through the window. As soon as I heard that satisfying thud, I hurried off.

I learned that soon after my nighttime travels, the oldest daughter had been married. It was a modest wedding, but her new husband was a good, loving man. One down, two to go.

I didn't want to wait too long for my next secret mission. After all, the second daughter had to be getting nervous. Again I reached the house without being seen. This time, however, I could see a small light, a candle at a bedside, I supposed, and so I had to wait. The wind was chilly and my feet started to ache, but at last the light was snuffed out. I waited another few moments, then slipped the bag of gold through the window. This time, I didn't wait to hear it land.

Again, I heard news of the second daughter's wedding. One more, I told myself. And before long, I found myself hurrying through the darkness to the house, the last bag of gold heavy in my hand. The house was dark, but I approached the window cautiously. After dropping the bag, I turned to leave, but I heard the door open! I hurried as fast as these two feet could carry me. I can tell you that my cape flew behind me!

A shout behind me broke the silence of the night as I rounded a comer. I did not look back, but I could hear that I was being followed by someone faster than I. He came closer, breathing hard, until he grabbed me with such force we both almost tumbled to the ground.

"Please, please," the father gasped—for that was who it was—as he held on to me.

For a moment we both were silent, panting to catch our breath. Then he looked into my face.

"Nicholas! My neighbor Nicholas! It was you!" he exclaimed.

"Sh!" I shushed him. "Don't wake the neighborhood!"

"Thank you! Thank you! How can I ever thank you enough!" he gushed in a hoarse whisper, and then to my horror, he sank to his knees, bowing in front of me.

"Stand up! Please!" I urged, trying to sound commanding in a soft voice. I did not want someone bowing to me!

But he stayed there, saying, "My daughters thank you, I thank you!"

"Please get up!" I pleaded.

He did so, and I went on, "Promise me one thing!"

"Anything, anything, Nicholas, that is within my power! I am so grateful to you!'

"Don't tell anyone that I gave you the money."

"Not even my daughters?"

"No. No one."

"If that is what you want, but —"

"That is what I want," I declared.

So we parted, and the third daughter was married. But the memory of that time stayed with me, and it was not the last time I gave in secret.

Now, I think the father kept his promise, but after my death it seems that someone must have known, for this story has been told about me. I tell it to you now—since it is no longer a secret—because I must ask something of you.

You see, I am a spirit now, a strong spirit, if I must say so myself. To fulfill my earthly work of giving in secret, I need you. Whenever you give in secret, you are filled with my spirit. I call on all of you to be filled with the spirit of surprises and of giving in secret, to carry on my work here. So please become "little Nicholases" and carry on this important task.

And remember two things: keep to the shadows, and have fun!


From St. Nicholas: The Wonder Worker by Anne E. Neuberger, copyright © 2000 Our Sunday Visitor. Used by permission.
Collection of 18 stories drawn from St. Nicholas' life and others which have grown up around him over the centuries. For older children or reading aloud to younger ones. Purchase from amazon.com, amazon.ca or amazon.uk.

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