St. Nicholas & the Sea

retold by by E.J. Emerson

This is really a retelling of a NICHOLAS story; a NARRATOR reads and "actors" (if the term is used broadly) essentially pantomime with speaking parts. This started at the New Brunswick Theological Seminary Christmas dinner around 1995, with "Three Daughters," as a substitute for a Santa Claus visit; gifts were passed out at the end of the play. This caught on, and was done year after year, eventually adding two other stories and a lot of broad humor.

Nicholas in ship
Artist: Michele Damiani
Postcard: Magicatera, Bari, Italy 2007
St Nicholas Center Collection



NARRATOR: Many people do not know that our dear St. Nicholas, the secret giver of gifts, the protector of children and the needy, is also the patron saint of sailors, voyagers and many ports of call around the seafaring world.

It is said that when he was still a young man, Nicholas made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He felt closer than ever before to his Lord Jesus Christ, walking where the Master had walked. Then came time to return home . . . .

Enter NICHOLAS, dressed in a long tunic, sailor hat and boat shoes, carrying a duffel bag, passport & other cruise appropriate gear (sunglasses, suntan lotion, beach towel . . . ), followed by other PASSENGERS & sailors (striped shirts, bandanas, rolled leg jeans, etc.; pirate gear optional). One should look like a CAPTAIN.

They walk around the room, then up a gangplank and settle into position as if on a boat. Sailors hoist sails, winch ropes, etc., and chase passengers out of the way periodically as the guests gawk.

FIRST MATE: Welcome aboard the Holy Land Express. Our destination this morning is Haifa. If Haifa is not in your travel plans today, kindly take this opportunity to disembark. We will be setting sail in five minutes.

PURSER: (making announcement several times in different locations)
All ashore that's going ashore!!!!

FIRST MATE: Our Captain today is Dangerous Dave. He knows these waters like David knew Bathsheba—if you get my drift, heh heh—but seriously, folks, we're in for a smooth crossing, so relax, have fun, don't worry about a thing.

CAPTAIN: Good morning, all. I'm your Captain and I just want to welcome you on board. Today's cruising speed will be (tests the wind) 5 knots. We can expect to dock on our scheduled date.

PASSENGERS: (improvised comments of glee, appreciation, anticipation)

NARRATOR: The ship weighed anchor, unfurled its sails and caught a swift wind.

PASSENGERS & CREW sway & creak as appropriate. Chitchat, finger pointing, mingling . . . No matter how OTHERS behave, NICHOLAS is always a model of decorum. After a little interaction with the OTHERS, NICHOLAS goes off alone, finds a berth, stretches, then curls up to nap.

NARRATOR: After a few hours in open sea, the wind began to pick up.

(someone makes howling, swooshing wind noises)

PASSENGERS: Hey, did you see the clouds over there?
It's getting a little too rocky for my taste.
Excuse me, I don't feel so . . . .
(improvised comments of concern, anxiety, fear—increasing in intensity & volume)

Lights flicker on & off to simulate storm & lightning.

NARRATOR: After a while, even the crew became uneasy.

CREW: Hey, where'd those storm clouds come from?
Even my sea legs can't stand this.
Do you think Cap'n Danger took a wrong turn?
Excuse me, I don't feel so . . . .

(Improvised comments of concern, anxiety, fear-increasing in intensity & volume; lights continue to go on & off)

NARRATOR: The waves began to crash over the gunwales, the sails looked as though they might rip open, and cries of woe became screams of terror.

(Lights go out for longer periods of time)

NARRATOR: Young Nicholas awoke from his deep sleep . . .

NICHOLAS: Wha'? huh? (stretches) what's going on?

We're gonna drown!

(They are all being blown & rocked about, so they cling to each other & furniture to stay upright)

NARRATOR: Nicholas was unperturbed.

NICHOLAS: Where is your faith, my sisters and brothers? (turns to the heavens)
Almighty God, hear my prayer.
Lord Jesus, grant us your peace.

OTHERS: We can't HEAR you! Speak up, kid! Don't you hear how LOUD the SEA is?
(huge lurch with wind & waves)
We're gonna DIE!!!

NICHOLAS: (with outstretched arms) Peace, be still.

OTHERS: Who does he think he is, Jesus Christ?

NICHOLAS: (to them, firmly) Peace. Be still.

All noise stops abruptly.

OTHERS: (Stunned silence, gaping stares at Nick & each other) Wow.

Big whoops of joy as they gather around NICHOLAS for a group hug.

OTHERS: Thanks, man. That was awesome.
. . . .we weren't REALLY all that scared, you know . . . . . . . . .
Will you, like, be my friend . . . ?
Hey, what are you doing two months from now—I gotta take another ship and I was wondering . . .
(they all freeze in a tableau of appreciation)

NARRATOR: And there you have yet another side to the amazing St. Nick, giver of gifts, defender of the poor, protector of children, and champion of those who take to the sea.

By E J Emerson, written while a student at New Brunswick Theological Seminary for the annual Christmas dinner. Used by permission.

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