Between the Walls

I found drama was an effective way to present the modern Christian narrative. Below is a dialogue sermon I wrote for Christmas Eve during the Viet Nam war.

Between the Walls

(Lines are spoken seated on chairs on either side of the altar. The dialogue is slow, somewhat hushed, with long pauses.)

P – John….John….John. Are you there?….John, where are you?

J – Quiet down, I’m here, Peter. Where could I go?

P – Thank God. For a moment I thought….I just thought maybe….You know.

J – Yes, I know. But I am still here.

P – How are you?

J – Fine, just fine….How are you?

P – O.K. Everything considered. I am doing well.

J – Hang in there.

P A U S E

P – I don’t know what I would do if you were not there.

J – Careful, Peter. We must be careful. It is dangerous to get too attached to each other.

P – Yes, but that is easier said than done.

J – But we must try. One night I might not be here.

P – Don’t say that, John.

J – But it is all too true.

P A U S E

P – The wall is cold.

J – It is getting colder outside. By noon, I wanted to scream.

P – It’s so hard just sitting, sitting, sitting when it is so cold.

J – At least we have a lot of time to think.

P – My thoughts only depress me.
P A U S E
P – How is your foot?
J – It is still sore. It throbbed in the cold, but I think the infection is going away.

P – Why don’t you go to the doctor?
J – And what would he do?
P – Somebody has to do something about that foot.
J – One Tooth did something. He stomped on it when I walked by on the way to exercise.

P – That son of a….
J – Don’t swear, Peter. It’s Christmas.
P – I know….Merry Christmas, John.

J – Merry Christmas, Peter.
P – It’s not right that he can get away with that.
J – You learn to live with such things.
P – But they treat us as they please. As if we were small children. There is no accounting.

J – There’ll be an accounting.
P A U S E
P – Christmas. I wonder what Sophia is doing right now. I wonder if they have a tree this year. Do you think they have a tree, John?

J – Certainly, people still have Christmas trees.

P – I bet Sophia and the children are sitting around the tree right now, eyeing the presents. We used to gather together after church. We’d sing a few carols and take turns opening the gifts very slowly.

J – Ilse always invited her parents by. The children always loved having their grandparents near….It must be ten o’clock. They would be there now.

P – I wonder if they think of us.

J – Certainly they think of us. I bet the children are asking “Why can’t daddy be here. I wish daddy were here celebrating Christmas with us.”

P – I don’t know. How long can they keep it up? Two months now and no visits. Sometime they have to stop and start living a new life.

J – No. Peter. They will ask. One does not erase the past so easily. One does not sing carols with another and then forget. One does not hang the greens with another, and then forget. (gets very emotional) One does not put up the tree, go to church, light the candles, exchange the gifts, eat the dinner, kiss each other and then forget.

P – John, John this is not the time to be sentimental. This is not the place to remember. It just makes things worse. One should not observe Christmas in a prison.

J – Peter, we cannot let Christmas escape us, just because we are here. The prison will pass away, and Christmas will remain. We must maintain our grasp.

P – Right. This morning at breakfast On Tooth searched me. Suddenly, I decided that even guards have hearts and family and feelings on such a holy day. I decided to speak to him….”Merry Christmas”, I said as happily as I could. And do you know what he did….He laughed. He laughed as if I was the last of the madmen. And then he went out and stomped on your foot.

J – But at noon the little plain looking girl brought out our lunch – – the usual slice of bread and spot of cheese. As she passed me, she smiled and broke me an extra little crust of bread. “Merry Christmas” she softly whispered in my ear. The light still shines in the darkness.

P – The only light I see is the search light, saying over and over, “You cannot get out….You cannot get out….Don’t you try.”

J – Peter, the light of Christ still shines.

P – Not here, John. Here is only darkness.

J – Be careful. Peter, you’ll begin to think that you are what they say.

P – They say we’re enemies of the people, because we wish to speak truth. Perhaps we who speak truth are enemies of this world. Perhaps we should turn our heads, not see, lie like all the others.

J – Do not even begin to believe what they say. Let the light expose the truth.

P – The light says that I am a criminal of the people.

J – No, Not that light. The light says that you are child of the Everlasting God. The light frees men and women from whatever prison binds them. Believe me, Peter, there are worse places in this world than prisons. At least here the lines are clearly drawn.

P A U S E

P – John, John tell me the story.

J – What?

P – John, please tell me the story. I want to hear the story.

J – I don’t know if I can.

P – Try, John, try – – you’ll remember.

P A U S E

J – Long ago the everlasting God decided to come into our history. The light would become flesh and dwell among us, so we could touch him….so he could touch us.

God could have chosen any vehicle – – a prophet, a king, a priest. Instead he chose a poor family, Joseph the carpenter and his wife to be, the humble maiden Mary. When she was ready to deliver the child, God’s son, the mighty emperor of the Roman empire decided he could no longer be cheated of his taxes. He would enroll everyone in his empire. He would separate them out. Each would appear at their assigned
city to be enrolled. So Joseph and Mary had to make their way from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

It was not an easy journey and when they arrived there was no room at the inn for them. God would not have an easy time entering our history. They found a place in a barn, a horribly dark and foul smelling place among animals and their filth. And there the Son of God was born. His mother laid him in the only clean place, the manger. And so God was born among us in the most horrible of surroundings.

P – We know about wretched conditions, but go on, go on.

J – Obviously, God wanted a quiet entrance, but some form of announcement seemed necessary. He gathered his messengers, the celestial chorus of angels, and sent them to a group of lowly shepherds tending their sheep in the field. These were shepherds of the third shift, men hired at the minimum wage. To them the chorus sang the songs of heaven. And then the angel in charge sent them to Bethlehem to
welcome his son. All this was unnoticed by the Roman Empire which was busy collecting taxes.

P – But some noticed. There was Herod.

J – Yes, Herod noticed. God also sent wisemen from the east – – gentiles – – for he came to deliver all mankind from their prisons of death. And these wisemen stopped at the palace of King Herod, the ruling power, Rome’s agent. Herod was frightened at the arrival of the light which brings truth. He plotted how he would sabotage God’s attempt to rule his people. But God sent an angel to Joseph, and the family escaped to Egypt. And despite all the efforts of all the Herods ever since the truth remains. The light shines in the darkness shall never overcome it.

SLIGHT P A U S E

P – John, we should pray.

J – Yes, let us pray.

P – Our father who art in heaven, hollowed be thy name, thy kingdom come.

J – Thy kingdom come.

P – Thy kingdom come.

J – Thy will be done.

P – Thy will be done.

SLIGHT P A U S E

J – Amen

P – Amen

SLIGHT P A U S E

J – Goodnight Peter

P – Goodnight, John

LONG P A U S E

P – John, John are you still there.

J – Yes, I am still here.

P – John, God is with you.

J – Peter, God is with you, always.

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