I invite you to use any of these, especially for the Year B readings. I only ask that you give me credit, including copyright and the words “Used By Permission.” I would love to know if you used any of these and what feedback you might have for them.
Written for Advent 2002 (Year B Lectionary readings) by Valerie E. Hess ©2002
Based on the Hymn : Watchman, Tell Us of the Night by John Bowring (1825)
Watchman, tell us of the night, What its signs of promise are.
Trav’ler o’er yon mountain’s height, See that glory-beaming star.
Watchman, doth its beauteous ray Aught of joy or hope foretell?
Trav’er, yes; it brings the day, Promised day of Israel.
Watchman, tell us of the night; Higher yet that star ascends.
Trav’ler, blessedness and light, Peace and truth, its course portends.
Watchman, will its beams alone Gild the spot that gave them birth?
Trav’ler, ages are its own; See, it bursts o’er all the earth.
Watchman, tell us of the night, For the morning seems to dawn.
Trav’ler, darkness takes its flight; Doubt and terror are withdrawn.
Watchman, let thy wand’rings cease; Hie thee to thy quiet home.
Trav’ler, lo, the Prince of Peace, Lo, the Son of God, is come!
Advent Week One
Watchman is standing up front, looking into the sky.
Traveler: Ho, watchman, do you see anything yet?
Watchman: No, Traveler, there are signs everywhere but nothing concrete.
Traveler: Why do you keep watching, then?
Watchman: Because none of us know when He will come.
Traveler: But He has come already.
Watchman: Once in the flesh, now in our hearts, still to make an appearing.
Traveler: Should I be watching too? But I’m so busy taking care of my lists!
Watchman: Will you be ready for Him at the end of the lists? Will the lists ultimately make you ready for him?
Traveler: I don’t know; I hope so. What could I do to make sure I don’t miss Him?
Watchman: Slow down, listen, and live.
Advent Week Two
Watchman enters, calling over and over “Prepare the way of the Lord! Prepare the way of the Lord!” When he/she sees the traveler, points to him/her and says, “Cry!”
Traveler: Watchman, what shall I cry?
Watchman: Traveler, cry, “ All are like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fade because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely people are like grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall but the word of our God stands forever.”
Traveler: That is not a very cheerful, festive thought.
Watchman: Under all the tinsel and lights, the world is not a festive, cheerful place.
Traveler: What should I do in the midst of Hollywood’s view of life versus my life as it actually is?
Watchman: Live well, by God’s standards; make every effort to be honest, courageous, kind, and peaceful to all. Don’t believe the prophets of consumerism.
Traveler: I will add that to my to-do list and try to remember God in the midst of all my preparations.
Watchman: Slow down, listen, and live.
Advent Week Three
Watchman enters carrying a fire extinguisher.
Traveler: What are you looking for, Watchman?
Watchman: The fire of the Lord to descend on this place, Traveler.
Traveler: That would be so scary. I’m not sure I’d want that.
Watchman: Then what are you looking for?
Traveler: A nice middle road. I want Jesus and I want the good life as advertised all around me.
Watchman: You can’t have it.
Traveler: Why not?
Watchman: The abundant life of Jesus comes to all people in all circumstances. It is not dependent on what is under the Christmas tree but rather what is in your deepest thoughts and desires.
Traveler: How can I change my thoughts and desires?
Watchman: Be joyful always, hold on to the good, avoid evil in all its subtle and beautiful forms, trust God to be faithful in His promises to you. Slow down, listen, and live.
Advent Week Four
The Watchman enters, looking all around.
Traveler: Ho, watchman! What do you see?
Watchman: He is coming, Traveler! He is coming!
Traveler: People have been waiting for centuries. How can you say he is coming now? All I know is that December 25th is almost here and I’ve got all of these people showing up for dinner. Why should I worry about someone promised so long ago coming again?
Watchman: Mary was going about her everyday busy-ness when God came to her. But in her everyday busy-ness, she was always watching and waiting so she didn’t miss the quiet voice speaking to her. Traveler, have you in your false busy-ness missed the small voice of Jesus coming to you?
Traveler: I don’t know. How can I be sure not to miss God’s coming in small, quiet ways?
Watchman: Say these words daily, “I am the Lord’s servant.” Slow down, listen, and live.
Written for Christmas Eve 2002 as a continuation of the “Watchman/Traveler” dialogues from Advent
by Valerie E. Hess ©2002
Opening hymns/liturgy as you choose.
Reading: Isaiah 9:2-7
Hymn: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Watchman is in same place up front as for the Advent vignettes. Traveler enters from back carrying a bucket and mop, a long list of paper that drags on the floor, and pushing a vacuum cleaner. The traveler is stumbling and obviously harried. Dialogue takes place in center aisle, near the front.
Watchman: Whence comes this rush of noise from afar?
Traveler: O, Watchman, how can you be so calm? It is here and there is so much left undone! How can I finish up all of the work that needs to be done before tomorrow morning?
Watchman: Traveler, shouldn’t you be more concerned about Who is here?
Traveler: What do you mean? Isn’t all of this cleaning and other chores on my list meant to get me ready for Christmas?
Watchman: Only if they ready your heart to prepare for the coming of the Savior.
Traveler: Oh, yes, that is all very well and good but his coming happened a long time ago and now, what is important is the traditions we carry on to remember that sweet story.
Watchman: But much of the truth of that story was not sweet. It did not look like a Christmas card. It was embarrassing to find Mary, a very young single girl, pregnant and not even by her fiancé. Jesus was born in a barn. He had to flee for his very life as a toddler. It was too dangerous to settle in his ancestor’s hometown when they could finally come back from Egypt. What makes you think that your celebration of his birth has to be sweet with warm feelings?
Traveler: But that is what I see all around me! That is what the holiday specials on TV and the advertisements show me. Everything is perfect and I want my life perfect, too.
Watchman: If your life was perfect, you wouldn’t need the Savior. And if you don’t need a Savior, why go through all the hassle to celebrate his birth?
Traveler: Oh, Watchman, what can I do to truly celebrate this Savior?
Watchman: Ask yourself what needs cleaning in your life, in your heart and soul. Ask where you have left uncleaned closets from the past, closets full of hatred and resentment and fear. Work on preparing your inner being to receive God anew. And rejoice always! Good news has come down to us from above.
Hymn/Carol: “From Heav’n Above to Earth I Come”
Reading: Luke 2: 1-7.
Watchman is still up front but in a different place. Traveler enters from side, wrapped in Christmas lights with Christmas decorations hanging from his/her hair and clothing. A tray of cookies is in his/her hand. Still harried but less so than in first vignette.
Traveler: You were right, Watchman. I let go of the unnecessary preparations I was doing and am now concentrating on the fun ones. Let’s see, I just need to finish stringing the lights outside the house, put up the Christmas tree and decorate it, finish decorating the rest of the house, finish the baking, and oh, yes, in the spirit of giving, decorate my elderly neighbor’s house and take cookies to the homeless shelter. That should be fun.
Watchman: But how are you decorating your soul, Traveler?
Traveler: Decorating my soul? I’ve never heard of such a thing. What do you mean?
Watchman: You are doing all of these preparations not only for yourself but also for those who will come to visit you. Jesus wants to come visit you. He is knocking at your door. Is your soul decorated for him to enter?
Traveler: It has been so long since I have thought about the state of my soul that it must look like my garage does right now. I would be embarrassed to have Jesus see it in that state. What can I do, Watchman?
Watchman: First of all, know that Christ comes to those who can’t help themselves. He won’t bother those who don’t need a Savior. There is no need to feel embarrassed. Invite him in; he is the best at straightening out messes. Shhh! I hear his quiet footsteps approaching now.
Hymn/Carol: O Little Town of Bethlehem
Reading: Luke 2: 8-14.
Watchman is standing up front. Traveler staggers in behind wrapped boxes piled so high, he/she can’t see the Watchman.
Traveler: Oh, Watchman, where are you? I can’t find you behind all of these gifts. I spent more money than I had to make others happy. I think I’m getting the idea of what Christmas is about and so I went all out this year gifting everyone.
Watchman: What gift do you want for yourself, Traveler?
Traveler: Didn’t you hear me? Maybe these boxes are making it hard for you to hear. (Almost shouting) I said that these gifts were for others. Isn’t that what this is all about? Stuff for others? Why would I think about a gift for myself?
Watchman: (comes down to traveler and knocks boxes out of his/her hands) When these are all broken, discarded, and forgotten, what will be left? Where are the lasting gifts of God in these boxes? What gift do you want for yourself, a gift that a thief can’t steal, and rust or moth can’t destroy? A gift for your soul?
Traveler: In my desire to spend so much money on everyone else, I haven’t even thought about lasting gifts for me. What kinds of things should I ask God for, Watchman?
Watchman: Courage, faith, obedience, prayer, honesty, patience, the ability to love everyone—even your enemies.
Traveler: Well, those sound nice but some of them I don’t want. I’m not sure I want to be courageous because that means God might send me into a tough situation. And I’m not asking for patience because that gift is always given in times of hard waiting. And loving my enemies! Well, I can think of some people I don’t ever want to encounter again let alone try to love. I’m not so sure I want those gifts.
Watchman: Those are the gifts of God. Maybe you don’t want God?
Traveler: You know this doesn’t seem like a very festive, cheerful conversation to be having on Christmas Eve. I’d rather think about Santa Claus and holiday lights and tomorrow’s Christmas dinner.
Watchman: God’s gifts don’t exclude those other things but they do transform them into things we can be thankful for instead of grasping for. Let us give thanks to God for the gift of his son, Jesus Christ.
Hymn/Carol: Angels, We Have Heard on High
Reading: Luke 2: 15-20.
Watchman is standing by a Nativity scene. Traveler enters quietly with no props and goes reverently to manger. Kneels.
Traveler: Watchman, I have let go of all of my preparation expectations. Don’t get me wrong. My house is decorated, the food will be great tomorrow, and the gifts are ready to be unwrapped. But I have let go of needing to feel Christmas through those things. I have come to see that if all of the external preparations for celebrating Christmas leave me breathless and empty inside, then Christmas has not been celebrated.
Watchman: Joy to the world, the Lord has come!
Hymn: Joy to the World
Reading: John 1:1-14
Continue with rest of service as so desired.