What child is this?
Updated: Dec 1, 2020
The play begins with a Christmas carol, then each scene ends with a specially-written verse of “What Child is This?” (tune: Greensleeves) and an appropriate Christmas carol. In all the play can be used as a narrative carol service.
Welcome and practical instructions as necessary
Carol 1 - O Come all ye faithful
Mary is dancing to music, hairbrush in hand. Gabriel enters
Mary, Mary (shouts) Mary!
Wha..! Who are you? What are you doing in my room? Get out – or I’ll call my mum!
It’s OK, it’s OK! Mary, listen. You are very, very special to God. God is with you.
What? Who are you? What are you doing here?
Hey hey chill! It’s OK! I’ve got good news for you. You’re going to have a baby…
It’s going to be a boy and you’re to call him Jesus.
Yes it’s got to be Jesus. He’ll also be known as the Son of God, and he’ll be a mighty king over Israel.
(Mutters) Son of God? King? Oy! Wait a minute! I’ve not been with anyone! I can’t be pregnant! I’m a good girl, I am!
No – like I said he’ll be God’s son. The Holy Spirit of God will make you pregnant! God will be your baby’s dad! (Pause) Remember God can do anything! Even your cousin Lizzy is having a baby in June.
Old Lizzy – pregnant! Wow!
God will be his dad! This is big! God really can do anything!
Well…..OK….if that’s what God wants…I’m in! I trust him!
Lights down on Mary. Lights up on Joseph. Joseph is sitting in a chair.
Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.
But what should I do, Lord? She’s pregnant! And I wish the baby was mine. What was she thinking? She could be stoned to death for this. I don’t want to make a fuss. I’ll just break off the engagement and hush it all up. Oh Mary, how could you?
He falls asleep. Gabriel walks in
Joseph! No don’t wake up, just listen. Mary hasn’t been unfaithful. Mary’s baby is God’s, conceived by God’s Holy Spirit. Mary’s having a son, and you’ll name him Jesus – God saves – because he will save people from their sins. Joseph, marry her.
Gabriel leaves. Joseph wakes up.
Well when they called me Joseph they said I’d be a dreamer, but that was something else! Mary! Mary!
What child is this, who will fulfil the prophecies of all the years?
In Mary’s womb now silent lies, the one who wipes away our tears.
This, this is God’s own son, the Holy Spirit’s chosen one.
Watch, watch and see him come, the child who came to Mary.
Carol 2 – The virgin Mary had a baby boy
A field. Two shepherds are looking after some sheep. Other shepherds are asleep.
Oh, I hate the night shift. (to himself) Come, on, stay awake.
Busy night in Bethlehem, though, with all these people around. All King David’s descendents, they reckon, here for the census.
What’s that, then?
Census, when they have to count all the people.
Count them? What, like we have to count the sheep?
Shepherd 1 goes to count the sheep. An angel appears in a blaze of light
Shepherd 1 (counting, not noticing the angel)
Yan, tan, tetherum, petherum, pimp…
Oo-er, oo-er, oo-er, OO-ER!!
What’s up? (turns to see the angel) OO-ER!
All the other shepherds wake up
Hey, don’t be afraid. I’ve got special message from God just for you, and for all people. A Saviour has just been born in David's town, a Saviour who is Messiah and Master. Go and look for a baby, wrapped in a blanket and lying in a feeding trough.
A crowd of angels appear.
Glory to God in the heavenly heights. Peace to all men and women who please him.
All the shepherds stand, amazed. The crowd of angels leave.
That was amazing!
Come on, then, let’s go.
Go to Bethlehem and find the baby. The Messiah, the Saviour!
They run off towards Bethlehem
What child is this, whom angels greet, while shepherds watch are keeping.
They sing of peace and good news sweet and joy in place of weeping.
This, this is heaven’s Son, the Lord of Life’s beloved one.
He comes to all who call, this child who is our Saviour.
Carol 3 - Hark the herald angels sing
Inside a rough room. Mary is sitting, pregnant and looking anxious. Joseph is pacing around.
Are you OK? What’s the matter?
Do I look OK? What do you think is the ma…aaargh! Joe it’s started – he’s coming! Help! Aaaaargh!
What shall I do? I’ll find a blanket! You stay there.
I’m not going anywhere! Don’t you leave me! Blanket – what … Aaargh!
I’ll get help! HELP! HELP!
(Embarrassed) Joseph! Stop it! Aaargh – help!
It’s all right I’m here. I’ll mop your brow.
Get off! Leave me alone. Sorry Joe, come back! Sorry! (She hugs him) Aaaargh!
Midwife runs in and quickly assesses the situation
What’s going on here? (To Joseph) Dad, what are you doing here this is no place for you. Get out! Go on now! (Joseph leaves)
Joseph – don’t go! No!
Now Mum, don’t be silly! You don’t need him! Now breathe, you must remember to breathe. No don’t push yet, just breathe.
But I need to push…….AAAAAAARGH!
Lights down on Mary. Lights up on Joseph outside, pacing
Lord, be with her. Lord, stay close to her and the baby.
Lord God, send your angels now to Mary, oh, my Mary.
“You are my hiding-place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”
Lord, be with us now in this horrible place. Lord, protect us, give us songs of deliverance.
Okay, you can come in now. It’s a boy!
Lights up on Mary and baby. Joseph and Midwife enter
Mary, are you okay? Oh Mary, well done. He’s wonderful.
What child is this, whose birth is shared, where animals are feeding?
All people hear, since for us here the silent Word is pleading.
This, this is heaven’s king, of whom all earth and nature sing.
In such a way the Christ is born, and God has come among us.
Carol 4 - Silent night
The Temple Courts. Mary and Joseph enter, carrying the baby.
This is it; this is where I came for the Passover, after my bar-mitzvah. Just here, look, this is where my Dad sat me down to listen to the teachers of the law. Oh, this does bring back memories. The Father’s house, my old Dad used to call this place.
Hello, welcome to our Temple. And this is a bonny one, isn’t it? A boy is it? Here for the purification? May I?
Simeon takes the baby in his arms.
The Lord bless you and keep you, little one. This child... this child, is something special.
O, God, you can now release me in peace as you promised. Because I’ve seen the Saviour of the world.
He will be special amongst God’s people and show the way to everyone else in the world.
Thank you so much for letting me hold him, God bless you both and bless your family.
Your son will be a man who divides opinion – it’s not going to be easy and you’ll get hurt.
Anna enters as Simeon is speaking.
What’s that? A lovely baby! Oh, this child... Oh, The Lord has done great things for us and we are glad. All these years fulfilled in this child. This child is our freedom – our freedom! All praise to our ever-giving God. O, Lord, thank you, Lord, thank you Lord.
Well, that’s extraordinary! Thank you, thank you for your words. We know this child is something very special, God has shown us so. Now the Lord give you peace, both of you.
Come on, Mary, we have to go, we have to look after this precious little one.
What child is this whom just to hold makes glad the heart of young and old
The helpless child, without a care, fulfils God’s promises foretold,
This, this is Israel’s might, who shines out with the world’s true light.
Come, now and bring him praise, the earth’s salvation bringing.
Carol 5 – Come and join the celebration
Some magi enter and are met by King Herod
This must be the place, come on.
Welcome, honoured guests. I have heard of your journey. We're always pleased to greet such rich... such cultured men. What, may I ask, is the purpose of your visit to Jerusalem?
We’re here to pay homage to the King of the Jews. We observed a star in the eastern sky that signalled his birth. We're on pilgrimage to worship the great king.
Yes I think you’ll find that’s me.
Oh no Sire! This king is only very young
Yes, your majesty. The signs in the sky are clear. A new king of the Jewish people has been born.
(to himself) Over my dead body.
Yes, the Jewish scholars, very clever they are, and very religious, they say that the new king is prophesied to be born in Bethlehem. Please, if you would, go and find this child, then let me know where he is, so I can go to worship him myself.
Your majesty is most kind.
The king is very generous with his information.
Yes, but his reputation isn't quite so good. I'm not sure we should trust him.
Well at least we can see if the star can help us. Bethlehem’s due south of here.
Let's go and find the new king. I've got a good feeling about this now.
What child is this, the King of kings, let every heart enthrone him.
We bring him incense, gold and myrrh, come rich and poor to own him.
This, this is Christ the Lord, by kings enthroned, by priests adored. Offerings of love we bring, acknowledging our master.
Carol 6 – As with gladness
Music playing. Mary, Joseph and the child Jesus are in a house.
The magi arrive at the house and give gifts to Jesus and his parents.
Characters come forward one by one with testimony boards. These have the first phrase written on one side, the second phrase on the other side. They turn their board to show the change Jesus has made in their lives.
Searching for the truth / Found all I need in Jesus
Stuck in the day to day / Good news to share
Waiting all my life / God came to meet me
Given up hope / Given new purpose in Jesus
A man alone / Complete in God’s family
Just an ordinary girl / Offered a heavenly privilege
What child is this who can transform the lives of all he reaches.
Who brings good news and hope of life, who true redemption teaches.
This, this is Jesus Christ, who comes to give us all new life.
Come, open up to him, and welcome in your Saviour.
Short evangelistic talk about this child who changes lives.
Three or four real-life people come forward with testimony boards of how this child has changed our lives.
Invitation to respond now, and to church Christmas services.
Carol 7 – O little town of Bethlehem
Written by Wayne and Val Clarke
First performed by Churches Together in Mossley Hill, Liverpool, Christmas 2010
Reproduced here with permission.