.           all rights belong to Tanis Harms, © 2015
.             refer to
www.church-skits.com

CHRISTMAS GATHERING - written by Tanis Harms

SCRIPTURE:  Mt.1:18-12; Lk.1-2; Jn.3:16-17; 2 Thess.3:1-5
THEME:    Hope – especially from the depths of despair.
STYLE:    Drama with Christmas music
PREMISE:  CAROLERS introduce the different problems.
.         Each song goes into a specific family member’s
.         struggles.  As the family gathering progresses,
.         each individual struggle comes to light.
NOTES:    for MESSAGE, CAST, SET and PROPS

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SCRIPT:               SCENE 1 – STREET

(YOUNG CAROLER (C1) steps out onto upper center stage
and begins to sing 1.“Oh Little Town of Bethlehem”.)

C1      (singing vs.1) “O little town of Bethlehem,
.       How still we see thee lie.
.       Above they deep and dreamless sleep
.       The silent stars go by.

(C1 waves at TINA & GERALD who smile as they stop to
listen.  Cdad enters and joins C1 in the song.)

C1 & Cdad (keep singing) “Yet in they dark streets
.       shineth , The everlasting Light;
.       The hopes and fears of all the years
.       Are met in thee tonight.”

Cdad    Lunch time!  Mom sent me to get you.

C1      Can I go caroling again after lunch?

Cdad    Maybe I’ll join you once I’m done working.
.         (C1 and Cdad talk as they exit)

TINA    (turns to GERALD)  Oh, how sweet. Remember
.       those days when the kids were young?

GERALD  I remember THEN, but I don’t remember THAT.
.                                                 2
.                     SCENE 2 – HOUSE

(When GERALD and TINA enter the house, TINA pauses,
then places her grocery bag onto the dining table
while she leans against it and fans herself.)

GERALD  Are you okay?  What did the doctor say?

TINA    The results weren’t in yet.
.       But not a word of this to the kids.
.       I want everything to be perfect!
.       Now, we should quickly eat something
.       before everyone gets here.

GERALD  They’re only coming for supper?

(TINA has an “I’ve told you this before” stance.)

TINA    Dear, we talked about this months ago.
.       I just can’t do all of that anymore.
.       I just can’t.  I don’t know why,
.       but I – can’t.  I’m just so very tired.
.       (fighting her tears)

GERALD  Okay-okay. It’s okay.  I’m just
.       getting old.  I forget things and you’re
.       running low on energy.  We’ll just keep
.       muddling through it all like we usually do.

(GERALD carries his grocery bags through the door
“to the rest of the house”.  TINA follows,
but forgets the grocery bag on the table.)

.                     SCENE 3 – STREET

(C1 and C2 appear at upper center stage.)

C2      Aren’t we going to go from door to door?

C1      This is a good spot – close to the church.
.       (points to church)  AND lots of people
.       walk by.  You’ll see.

C2      Really?  Because it’s very quiet right here.

(C1 begins singing 2.“Silent Night”.)
.                                            3
C1      (vs.4 & 1 combo) “Silent Night,
C2      (joins in with an echo)  “Silent night.
C1      “Holy Night
C2      (echo going higher) “Holy night
C1&2    (merging together, singing vs.4)
.       “Sleeps the world in peace tonight.
.       Round yon verigin mother and Child,
.       Holy infant so tender and mild,
.       Sleep in heavenly peace.
.       Sleep in heavenly peace.
.       (vs.1) Silent night –“

(Song is interrupted by DONALD, FRAN, BEN, LISA,
and OLIVIA clamoring onto stage carrying tons
of bags and parcels.  The CAROLERS stop and
watch in astonishment.)

OLIVIA  MOM!  DAD!  My feet hurt!

BEN     Wimp.

LISA    Maybe if you didn’t walk like an elephant.

OLIVIA  MOM! Ben and Lisa are calling me names.

(FRAN plods toward the house ignoring everything.)

DONALD  (to FRAN)  Fran, the kids need you! Fran?  
.       Still not speaking to me?
.       What’s wrong with you?

FRAN    (spinning around)  What is wrong with ME?
.       You’re so cheap, you made us take the bus.

DONALD  Our car did not start-

FRAN    Because you’re too cheap - to FIX our car?

LISA    Mom!  Dad! You’re totally embarrassing us.
.       (LISA stares at the carolers)
.       What are you staring at?!

C2      (to C1)  Hey, let’s get some hot cocoa?

(C1 & C2 shuffle off to the other side,
while the family continues toward the house.)
.                                                 4
.                     SCENE 4 – HOUSE

(A surprised GERALD & TINA meet FAMILY at the door.)

TINA    You’re – here – early.

GERALD  Get in here kids, we don’t want to
.       heat the town.

(FAMILY steps in, dropping their things on the spot.
Hugs and kisses all around.  Meanwhile FRAN places
their gifts under the tree.)

DONALD  Hi Mom and Dad.

FRAN    A smaller tree, Mom?  Now kids –
.       no touching any of the presents, you hear?

OLIVIA  (gives big hugs)  Hi Grandma and Grandpa.
.       Did you get me the present I asked for?

FRAN    (chastising with clenched teeth)  Olivia!

TINA    Oh-oh, you’ll just have to wait and see.
.       Merry Christmas, dear.
.         (TINA grabs FRAN in a hug.)

FRAN    What’s for lunch, Mom?

(TINA pulls away from the hug while still holding
FRAN’s shoulders, to look her in the face.)

TINA    I thought I said – come AFTER –

(DONALD stands there shaking his head.)

BEN     What?!  But I’m starving!

GERALD  Don’t worry, we won’t let you starve.
.       I’m sure Grandma can scrounge up something.

TINA    Because I’m just a diner, that way.

(TINA looks weary as she heads for the kitchen.
As FRAN stows their coats and bags, she notices
the neglected grocery bag on the table.)
.                                              5
DONALD  I told you!  Why don’t you ever
.       listen to me-?

FRAN    (still completely ignoring DONALD)
.       Oh, Mom, you need to put these
.       groceries away.  How long has this
.       been here?  Are there perishables?

DONALD  Like if I’m not even here?

(DONAD and GERALD sit down at table to mime talking.
BEN and LISA sit on the sofa to play electronic
games as OLIVIA stands behind the sofa, watching.
TINA returns to grab the bag with great efficiency,
then leads the way to the kitchen.  Finishing her
stowing task, FRAN now follows while speaking.)

FRAN    I’ve been feeling so out of sorts lately.
.       I wish I was more like you, Mom.
.       Super woman who never gets tired!

.                    SCENE 5 – STREET

(C 1-4 enter, ALL with Styrofoam cups of “cocoa”.)

C3      Nice bumping into you.  See you around?

C2      You can join us? We’re caroling right now.

C3      I still have to buy my brother a present.
.       But I’ll catch up with you all later.
.       (C3 waves goodbye while leaving)

C4      Okay, so, what are we going to sing?

C2      How about “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”?

Cs      (#5.vs.3) “Hark! The herald angels sing,
.       Glory to the new-born King,
.       Peace on earth and mercy mild,
.       God and sinner reconcil’d.
.       Joyful all ye nations rise,
.       Join the triumph of the skies,
.       With the angelic host proclaim,
.       Christ is born in Bethlehem
.       Hark! The herald angels sing-“
.                                                  6
(BILL and ARLENE enter with their wrapped gifts,
from stage right and admire the singing.)

ARLENE  How sweet!  Just like MY little angel,
.       Merle.  (suddenly looks around)
.       Where’s Merle?-Where’s my baby?

(MERLE enters, spinning this way and that.)

MERLE   Beep-beep.

BILL    An angel with untold energy.  If only
.       we could harness that somehow.
.       He’d be unstoppable.  Merle,
.       spin this way and watch the nice people.

(CAROLERS jump away while trying not to spill their
cocoa as MERLE spins haphazardly toward the house.)
.                                                7
.                     SCENE 6 – HOUSE

(MERLE enters in a reeling spin and almost knocks
GERALD over. FRAN and TINA have join the group.)

GERALD  Whoa!  Merry Christmas – there - Merle.

(GERALD manages to briefly hug MERLE,
who then heads for the tree while patting the heads
of BEN, LISA and OLIVIA.)

BEN     Cut it out, squirt!
LISA    Get lost, Merle.

ARLENE  (nervous laughter)  Isn’t he something!

GERALD  He’s something, all right.

ARLENE  (hugs)  Ha ha, it’s just the A.D.H.D.
.       Merry Christmas, Mom and Dad.

BILL    Yeah, Merry Christmas-He gets his energy
.       from our side.  Right, Mom?

TINA    Perhaps that’s where all my energy went.

FRAN    I felt a disturbance in the force, too.
.                                                7
MERLE   PRESENTS!

(TINA winces out a smile.  MERLE reaches the tree
and touches all the presents.)

OLIVIA  Ah! Merle gets to touch all the presents!

FRAN    Ah-ah-ah, Merle, you must stay away!

(ARLENE begins to fret and wants to say something,
but BILL holds her back.)

ARLENE  (aside to BILL)  But she’s starting already!

BILL    That’s just what she does.  Let it go.
.       Just let it go.

.                     SCENE 7 – STREET

(Finishing the cocoa, C4 holds out her cup.)

C4      What should I do with my cup?
.       I don’t see a trash bin around.

C2      Hm.  Oh, I have an idea.
.       This’ll now be “gold”.

(C2 takes felt pen and writes “gold” on the cup.
Exchanging cups, C2 now starts to write on that.)

C2      How do you spell “frankincense?”

C4      “F” – “r” –

C2      “F-r” for frankincense, and “M” for myrrh.

(As C2 finishes the “Fr,” C2 writes an “M” on C1’s cup.)

C1      Careful, I still have a bit of cocoa left.

(C5 wanders over and smiles.)

C5      What-cha all doing?

C4      Labeling our gifts: “gold,” “frankincense”
.       and “myrrh.”
.                                                8
C5      I mean, are you all caroling? Can I join?

C4      Sure, but you get to hold my cup!
.       Because YOU are the NEW guy.

(C5 takes the cup from C4.  C1, C2 and C5 hold out
the cups like a gift-offering as C4 begins to sing
4.“We Three Kings of Orient Are” and ALL join in.)

Cs      (sing vs.1)  “We three kings of Orient are
.       Bearing gifts, we traverse afar.
.       Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
.       Following yonder star.
.       (Chorus) O Star of Wonder, Star of Night,
.       Star with Royal Beauty bright
.       Westward leading, still proceeding,
.       Guide us to Thy perfect Light.
.       (vs.4)“Myrrh is mine, it’s bitter perfume-

(PERRY and SANDRA enter, carrying fancy gift bags,
pausing to listen with a critical ear as if it’s
a concert just for their personal benefit.)

PERRY   Who in the world would buy BITTER perfume?
.       Here - (putting some money into C1’s cup)
.       by yourself some - BETTER - perfume.

(CAROLERS smile and hide their awkward giggles.
C1 quickly takes the bill out and shakes it dry.
C1 tries to give it back but PERRY motions “no”.
PERRY pulls SANDRA away from the carolers a bit
and goes into some motivational speech to SANDRA.)

PERRY   Money! – the biggest motivator for
.       entrepreneurial development and success.

SANDRA  Great investment, honey.

PERRY   Indeed.  (to CAROLERS)  And thank you, kids.
.       Keep up the hard work.  You may be discovered
.       one day.  Just keep working on your harmonies.

C4      Ahhh, ooo-kay.  Thank you?

(CAROLERS wonder as PERRY and SANDRA walk away.)

.                    SCENE 8 – HOUSE            9

(PERRY and SANDRA enter.)

PERRY   Who wants presents?

OLIVIA  Oh, me – I do-I do!  Your presents are
.       always the best.

FRAN    (to OLIVIA)  Don’t – touch!
.       (to PERRY)  Hi, Perry.  How’s Wall Street?

(FRAN kisses PERRY on the cheek, then gives SANDRA
a weak hug as SANDRA remains slightly aloof.)

PERRY   More unpredictable than usual, sis’.

(SANDRA throws PERRY a curious look,
then lightly pecks TINA on the cheek.)

SANDRA  Hi, Tina.

TINA    Merry Christmas, dear!

SANDRA  Oh, yes, Merry Christmas.  And - Gerald.

GERALD  (grabbing SANDRA in a big hug)
.       How many times have I said?  Call me “Dad”.
.       Call me “Dad!”  Come on, let me hear it.

SANDRA  (reluctantly)  Daaaad.

PERRY   (shaking GERALD’S hand)  Hi Dad.

GERALD  Ugh, son, you are way too formal.
.       Where did your Mother and I go wrong?

(PERRY winces an overly polite smile.  GERALD begins
to walk away then remember the etiquette rules.)

GERALD  Oh, I beg your humble pardon.
.       Won’t you please come in-eth.  And thus
.       sit-eth, oh precious visitors from afar.

(SANDRA hands TINA her fur stole to be put away.
ALL give a half-hearted hi to PERRY and SANDRA
as they primly sit at the table.)
.                                           10
SANDRA  (forcing a smile at OLIVIA)
.       How goes your ballet lessons, Olivia?

OLIVIA  (copying the air)  Very well, Sandra.

FRAN    (correcting OLIVIA) AUNTIE Sandra! Olivia!

(SANDRA gives a mischievous shrug to OLIVIA.)

OLIVIA  I LOVE you, “AUNTIE” Sandra.

(OLIVIA and SANDRA air-kisses both cheeks.  
ARLENE rolls her eyes.  FRAN grits her teeth
and stomps out of the room.  SANDRA makes
a pristine reaction and OLIVIA copies her.
TINA enters and wonders what’s happened.)

ARLENE  Whoa!  Touchy!

SANDRA  Are you referring to me?

BILL    Are you kidding!  You’re anything but touchy.

PERRY   What is THAT supposed to mean?

DONALD  She’s not the warmest fish in the pond.

PERRY   Well, she’s MY fish!
.        (seeing SANDRA balk)
.       And - the BEST fish in the pond.

TINA    Yeah, and that sounds so much better, dear.

BILL    Our family isn’t exactly known
.       for our poetry.

BEN     (makes up a poem while playing his game)
.       She’s a fish, in the pond of life,
.       but she’s my fish, and she’s my wife.

(BILL motions to BEN as if – “Prime example.”)

PERRY   Better stick with your day job,
.       there, kid.

BEN     I’m not allowed to have a job.
.                                              11
PERRY   (to DONALD)  Why not?  Kids should get
.       a job as soon as they’re ten.

DONALD  I don’t want them turning into you,
.       Perry.  Education comes first.

BILL    (agreeing)  And playtime is also
.       very important!  For kids and adults.
.       Life in proper balance.  Oh, Mom,
.       could you get me something to drink?

TINA    So when is it my turn to play?

BILL    Now that you’re retired, that’s all you do.

(TINA stomps out.  BILL and DONALD both shrug.)

.                    SCENE 9 – STREET

(CAROLERS are now without cups.  C3 walks up.)

C3      Whoot!  I’m finished.  My brother is NOT
.       the easiest person to shop for.
.       Now, let’s get caroling!

C1      So, what’s your favorite song?

(C3 begins to sing 5.“It Came Upon
the Midnight Clear”.  The others join in.)

C3      (vs.1) “It came upon the midnight clear,
Cs      (joining in)  “That glorious song of old,
.       From angels bending near the earth,
.       To touch their harps of gold,
.       ‘Peace on the earth, good will to men,
.       From heaven’s all gracious King’
.       The world in solemn stillness lay,
.       To hear the angels sing.
.       (vs.3) “Yet with the woes
.       of sin and strife,
.       The world has suffered long.
.       Beneath the angel-strain have rolled,
.       Two thousand years of wrong.
.       And man at war with man hears not
.       The love song which they bring.
.       O hush the noise, ye men of strife-“
.                                            12
(CAROLERS hum the rest as NED swaggers in
with CLARE who tries to hang  onto his arm
and a casserole dish at the same time.)

NED     Walk much?

CLARE   It’s slippery, and you’re walking too fast.
.       Do you WANT me to slip and break my neck?

NED     You would do that just to drag me down
.       with you, wouldn’t you?

CLARE   Oh look, carolers.  You don’t hear
.       THAT everyday.

NED     And we’d hear MORE if you’d stop gabbing.

CLARE   Well, I hope you’re listening.  
.       They’re singing about PEACE between people.

NED     I think they also sang about us being
.       at war.  See? They know.

CLARE   It’s always a FIGHT with you.

NED     Why did I bring you along again?  Oh yes,
.       you didn’t have anything better to do,
.       and I wanted to keep the family
.       off my back about still being single.

CLARE   Why do I put up with such a self-centered,
.       uncommitting jerk?

NED     “Uncommitting”, Clare?  That’s not even
.       a proper word.

.                    SCENE 10 – HOUSE

(NED flies into the house and strikes a macho pose.
Heaving a sigh, CLARE stands behind him unsure.)

BEN &
LISA    Uncle Ned!

FRAN    Late as usual.

TINA    Actually, the rest of you were way      13
.       too early, and Ned is right on time.

NED     What?  You mean I had more time to kill?!

SANDRA  (to DONALD)  What does she mean,
.       we were too early?  (DONALD shrugs)

TINA    Ned, who’s your friend?

NED     Oh, ahhh, this is Clare.

FRAN    (to NED)  Oh, another new one?
.       (to CLARE)  Hi, I’m Fran.

PERRY   Welcome to the madness.
.       I’m Perry, this is my wife, Sandra.  

(SANDRA nods at CLARE.)

BILL    Hey, Clare, was it?  It’s hard
.       keeping all the names straight.

(CLARE nods tentatively.  TINA hugs NED,
while GERALD shakes CLARE’S hand.
TINA gives CLARE a reassuring hug.)

TINA    Welcome to our house, dear.

GERALD  (waving CLARE in)  Make yourself homesick.

PERRY   (sarcastically)  THAT - never gets old.

NED     Where’s lunch?

TINA    (gasps, just as the phone rings)
.       I’ll get that.  (to NED)  You - just –
.       go  into the kitchen and
.       make yourself something.

NED     I have to make it myself?

BILL    That’s what you get for coming late.

CLARE   I-I could help you.

NED     Don’t sweat it. Mom will eventually get it.
.                                              14
(NED sits down and motions CLARE to park it.  
Still unsure, CLARE sets casserole on the table
and meekly takes a chair next to NED.)

TINA    (tries to ignore the remark and answers)
.       Hello?  Oh – hello.  Yes, this is she...
.       So what you’re saying is – it IS negative.
.       That means it’s NOT good?...Oh, it IS good.
.       But?...  I see...  THAT is not good...
.       Well, YOU may think that’s good news...
.       (mumbling)  I suppose this eventually
.       happens to all of us.  (hanging up)

GERALD  (noticing)  Is everything all right?

(TINA just glares at GERALD who then wonders.)

BILL    What is there to snack on, Mom?
.       We’re starving.

MERLE   I want candy!

DONALD  Yes, get the kid some candy –
.       that’s what he needs.

FRAN    Couldn’t we maybe slip the kid a valium?

PERRY   Maybe something with calcium
.       would slow the kid down.

ARLENE  (seething)  The KID’S NAME is MERLE.

(Everyone ignores TINA as she sets the table
with disposable dishes.  GERALD approaches TINA.)

GERALD  I thought you were going to use those
.       for supper?

TINA    I guess I’ll be washing dishes until late.

GERALD  I’ll go out later and buy some extra stuff.

(MERLE throws himself onto the sofa between
BEN and LISA who complain.  SANDRA stares wide-eyed
at TINA’S table- setting and comments after
TINA exits to kitchen.)
.                                               15
SANDRA  Perry!  She’s using paper plates.

(TINA comes back with bread and peanut butter.)

NED     Way to outdo yourself, Mom.

PERRY   You’ll be using china for supper though,
.       right?

TINA    Only if you all help wash them.

(Long pause of silence.  TINA puts the food down
onto table.  NED pushes the casserole to the center.)

NED     Hey, we can eat Clare’s dish right now.
.       I’m sure it’s not up to our usual
.       supper-standard anyway, but probably
.       better than peanut butter sandwiches.

TINA    (seeing CLARE’s hurt expression)
.       That was very thoughtful of you, Clare.
.       I’m sure it tastes wonderful.

FRAN    (aside to CLARE)  Next time don’t bring
.       anything.  You’re making us all look bad.
.       Well, anyway, it looks good.

NED     Eat at your own risk.

(FRAN helps herself to the casserole while
TINA rushes to the kitchen to hide her crying.)
FRAN takes a bite then rushes to the kitchen
like she needs to throw up.  As NED comments,
CLARE moves to the sofa and hides her face.)

NED     See?  I warned you about Clare’s casserole.

DONALD  What’s up with all the women?

BILL    Didn’t you know?  Christmas is a stressful
.       time of year.  I don’t know WHY they insist
.       on making everything so fancy-schmancy?

PERRY   We’re talking “class”, Bill.  If you don’t
.       distinguish yourself from the rest,
.       you’ll never get ahead.
.                                                16
DONALD  Right now I don’t give a RIP about all that.
.       And what does Christmas celebrations
.       have to do with all that, anyway?

NED     It’s just more pressure to be something
.       that you’re not.

DONALD  Was that a slight against ME or Donald?

NED     Your choice.  Just don’t expect me to
.       conform either way.  I march to my own drum.

BEN     (making up a poem as he plays his game)
.       I only march, to my own drum.
.       I do what I want, no matter how dumb.

PERRY   (to DONALD)  I really worry about your son.

(Fran slips back into the living room, then sneaks
outside with her purse.)

.                   SCENE 11 – STREET

CAROLERS start singing 6.“What Child Is This?”
as an older LADY [Clady] walks up to them.)

Cs      (vs.1) “What Child is this who laid to rest-“

Clady   Oh, I LOVE this song.

C2      Hi, Mrs. Wellington.  You can join us.

Clady   You wouldn’t mind?

(Clady joins, putting an arm around C2’s shoulders.  CAROLERS sing as they
watch FRAN race from
house to the pharmacy, clutching her purse.)

Cs      (vs.1)  “What Child is this who, laid to rest
.       On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
.       Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
.       While shepherds watch are keeping?
.       (Chorus) This, this is Christ the King,
.       Whom shepherds guard and angels sing
.       Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
.       The Babe, the Son of Mary.”
.                                            17
(FRAN now clutches a bag as well as her purse,
and rushes back toward the house.)

Cs      (singing)  “What child is this – who –“

FRAN    (frantically yelling back at CAROLERS)
.       It’s none of your business!

(Confused CAROLERS continue to hum as
FRAN steps forward to fret and process.)

FRAN    WHAT DO THEY KNOW?!  I don’t want them
.       blabbing about ANY child until the FACTS
.       are in.  Who are THEY to gossip about
.       people having babies, anyway!  They sing
.       this stuff like it’s good news or something.
.       It is NOT good news!
.       (lecturing the CAROLERS)  Not at this point
.       in time!  It’s the last bit of news I need
.       to hear right now.  Night feedings, diapers,
.       the constant dependency!  I’m done.
.       I’m tired.  When is it my turn? Huh?
.       When is it my turn?

(FRAN gasps a sigh then rushes back inside.)

CLADY   I think that lady needs our prayers.

(CAROLERS nod, then circle-up and bow in prayer.)

.                    SCENE 12 – HOUSE

(As FRAN enters, MERLE runs into her.  
FRAN holds her stomach in pain.)

FRAN    Merle!  Will you just sit down
.       for a minute and cool it!

ARLENE  Excuse me, he’s my child.
.       I will handle this.

FRAN    I wish you would!

(MERLE dances and spins and falls onto BEN and LISA.
They push him off and he falls over the coffee table,
to the floor, writhing in pretend exaggerated pain.)
.                                                 18
FRAN    Please get your kid under control!

ARLENE  You don’t understand - Merle is ADHD.

FRAN    But you’ve never had him tested.

(FRAN goes to the kitchen still hiding her purchase.)

PERRY   I say - get the kid some medication –
.       and fast.

SANDRA  And how.

NED     I’d throw him into the shed, myself.

CLARE   You would?!

BILL    (BILL grabs MERLE and playfully shakes him)
.       I’ll get you to settle down.  I’ll get you –

ARLENE  Bill, please, that doesn’t help,
.       and you know it.

PERRY   I think Bill is ADHD.

(BILL picks MERLE up in a fireman’s carry.  MERLE
squeals with laughter.  SANDRA rolls her eyes.)

BILL    What should I do with Merle, huh?
.       Should I - throw him away?

MERLE   Nooooo!

PERRY   (under his breath)  Yes!

BILL    Should I give him a tummy-tickle?

MERLE   Noooooo!

PERRY   Maybe you want to go play outside.

MERLE   Nooooooo!

SANDRA  Every year the torture becomes greater.
.       I’M ready to step outside.

PERRY   I’ll make it up to you, dear.           19
.       (pulls SANDRA toward the door)
.       Let’s go outside.  I want to give you –
.       I want to –

SANDRA  I’m sorry, I can’t hear you.

(Grabbing their coats, PERRY and SANDRA walk out
without waiting to put them on.)

.                   SCENE 13 – STREET

(PERRY and SANDRA step out and put on coats there.
Hearing CAROLERS sing 7.“The Twelve Days
of Christmas”, they sigh, cuddle and listen.)

Cs      “On the twelfth day of Christmas,
.       My true love sent to me
.       Twelve lords a-leaping,
.       Eleven ladies dancing,
.       Ten pipers piping,
.       Nine drummers drumming,
.       Eight maids a-milking,
.       Seven swans a-swimming,
.       Six geese a-laying, Five golden rings.
.       Four calling birds, Three French hens,
.       Two turtle doves,
.       And a partridge in a pear tree.”

PERRY   There you go.  A song I know.
.       (to SANDRA)  And for the record,
.       I’d give you all of that and MORE.

C4      The gifts actually stand for something else.

PERRY   Whatever.  It’s all about the toys and
.       the bling, right?  And speaking of bling...
.         (talks aside with the CAROLERS)
.       Oh, could you provide a little background
.       music?  The tip I gave to you before
.       is still good, right?  Great.

(Unsure, CAROLERS hum “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”
PERRY pulls out a small present and hands it
to SANDRA who opens it very purposefully.
It is a box - which holds a – tennis bracelet.)

SANDRA  Oh, ahhh, it’s only - a single strand.    20
.       Ah, it’s – okay, I just wanted–well,
.       I was expecting a double strand at least.
.       (angrier now)  Am I not WORTH more than that?

PERRY   You are, Sandra!

SANDRA  And here I bought you a Rolex –

PERRY   (blurting out)  Sandra-we’re broke.

SANDRA  (without balking)  No, we’re just in debt.
.       (lightly)  We can just get another loan,
.       or another credit card -

PERRY   Sandra, our spending exceeds our
.       minimum monthly payments.

SANDRA  Sooo, we’ll just pay the minimum payments.

PERRY   Let me put it another way.
.       Our earnings – will not even cover
.       what our minimum payments need to be.

SANDRA  (pause)  What EXACTLY does this mean,
.       PERRY?

PERRY   (longer pause)  We’ll – have to cut –
.       spending...  Sell a few things.

SANDRA  Well, you can start with THIS, then!

(SANDRA throws the bracelet at PERRY
and marches inside.  CAROLERS bow in prayer circle.)

.                   SCENE 14 – HOUSE

(PERRY follows SANDRA in.  He grabs her arms to
stop her and puts the bracelet on her wrist.)

PERRY   This is your Christmas present, Sandra!  And
.       I would love for you to wear it - right now!

(FRAN shuffles back into the room, in shock, then
seeing the bracelet, she’s struck with jealousy.)

FRAN    Wooooow!
.                                                21
BILL    (sarcastic)  Yeah, real fancy-schmancy.

OLIVIA  No fair!  I want to open presents now.

FRAN    (wearily to Perry)  You couldn’t
.       have done that in private?

(OLIVIA stomps around the room.)

FRAN    Olivia, please!  You know we always wait
.       until after supper.

OLIVIA  Then I’m going to ask everyone.
.       (to NED)  What did you get me, Uncle Ned?

NED     Nothing.  I don’t believe in giving gifts.

CLARE   Not even to me?  I - got YOU something.

NED     I refuse to be controlled by social conformity.

CLARE   Silly me.  I forgot that you are
.       a self-centered – noncaring-

NED     “Noncaring? You’re making up words again.

CLARE   And let me add “critical” to the list.

(OLIVIA has been lurking around the tree.)

OLIVIA  (angry) Hey! I wanted a PONY for Christmas.

FRAN    (to OLIVIA)  You were not to touch!

OLIVIA  Auntie Sandra got to open a present!
.       And I wanted to get a pony for Christmas!

FRAN    You DID.

OLIVIA  My LITTLE pony!?  All I got was one
.       My LITTLE Pony?  It’s not REAL.
.       I wanted a REAL pony!  A HORSE!  Grrr.
.        (stomping around the room)

FRAN    Everyone, just ignore her.
.       We will not reward such behavior.
.                                             22
(OLIVIA finally notices GERALD, who sits alone
with his head propped up in his hand.
This makes OLIVIA curious and calms her down.)

OLIVIA  Grandpa, are you sad?  Well, I’m sad too.
.       I did not get what I wanted?  Not at all.

NED     No one ever does, kid.  So, just
.       suck it up, and deal with it.

TINA    No-no-no, this is not how it was supposed
.       to be at all.  Maybe this is all MY fault.
.       Everything was supposed to be perfect,
.       and then the doctor’s office called...

(ALL stop in shock, confused at the statement)

FRAN    Mom, what is it?

BILL    Is it the C-word?

PERRY   Well we’ll just – find the best doctor
.       money can buy-

LISA    Cancer?  Do you have cancer?

OLIVIA  We’re all going to die!

FRAN    Calm down!  No one’s dying!...
.       Mom, are you dying?  DO you have cancer?

TINA    The tests were negative for that...
.       But I have – begun...
.       (now very solemn) - my change in life.

BEN     Huh?

FRAN    Menopause?

GERALD  Oh-oh.

NED     (angrily)  Now why would you start to   
.       share and discuss now?  Why would you go
.       and tell us THAT on Christmas Eve, anyway!

(FRAN starts crying and goes over to cling to TINA.)
.                                                 23
TINA    (to FRAN)  Your compassion is overwhelming -
.       and weird - but I’ll take it.

FRAN    It’s not that.

TINA    Of course it isn’t...  Ugh, there-there.

(OLIVIA picks up with her sulking and walks around
in a circle while quietly chanting.)

OLIVIA  I still want a pony.  I want a pony.
.       I want a pony...

ARLENE  (to BILL)  Look who has a brat now.

(FRAN breaks away from TINA and quickly
wipes her tears.)

FRAN    Will you stop with the pony!
.       It’s completely impractical.
.       You’re smart, figure it out!
.          (seeing OLIVIA’S hurt expression)
.       I’m sorry Olivia –

LISA    Don’t be sorry?  She totally asked for it.

OLIVIA  (yelling)  This is SO NOT FAIR!!!

ARLENE  Yelling is always unacceptable.

FRAN    Arlene, don’t even!

(TINA and GERALD find and hold each other
as they watch their family unravel.)

ARLENE  Me?  You’re worse than your usual critical,
.       controlling self!

FRAN    I’M PREGNANT! What’s your excuse?
.       (shocked)  Did I just say that out loud?
.       Okay!  I did.  And... I’m pregnant!

DONALD  You can’t be pregnant!
.       Fran – this is not a good time.

FRAN    Oh, I’m sorry, should I reschedule?
.                                               24
DONALD  We can’t afford this-I don’t have a job!

(There’s a long awkward pause.
BEN and LISA’S jaws drop.)

FRAN    You’re unemployed?... When did this happen?
.       When were you planning on telling me?

SANDRA  (to CLARE)  If you like drama, you sure
.       picked a GREAT year to join us.

CLARE   And here I thought I was going to miss my
.       soap opera.

SANDRA  (snobbishly agreeing)  Hmmmm.

(GERALD pecks TINA on the cheek and gets his coat.)

TINA    Where are you going, dear?

GERALD  To... buy more disposable dishes?

(TINA breaks down crying.)

GERALD  Should I not go?  What’s wrong?

TINA    (sobbing)  Memory loss is part of menopause.

GERALD  As well as emotional outbursts?
.       (TINA sudden stops crying and becomes angry.)
.       Ah!  Is there anything else I should buy?

TINA    Might as well get some extra snacks –
.       while you’re getting the – ah... (thinking)

GERALD  Disposable dishes?

TINA    (breaking down again)  YEEESssssss.

(GERALD nods and quickly leaves.)

.                   SCENE 15 – STREET

(GERALD shuffles past the CAROLERS as they sing
8.“God Bless You, Merry Gentlemen”. )

Cs      (vs.4) “God bless the Master          25
.       of this house, And Mis-ter-ess also;
.       God bless the little children
.       That round the table go;
.       God bless their friends and kindred,
.       That come from far and near;
.       May the Lord send a happy New Year,
.       Happy New year,
.       May the Lord send a happy New Year.”

(While Carolers hum, GERALD talks to them.)

GERALD  Why don’t I have such a family?
.       Blessed and merry?! I wish!  Maybe –
.       maybe if I had been a better father
.       and been there more?  I feel so helpless.
.       All our lives seem to be falling apart.
.       I just wish there was some hope.

C1      Have you tried praying?

GERALD  Does that really work?

(CAROLERS all nod.)

.                   SCENE 16 – HOUSE

(While others do their own thing, MERLE jumps
up and down singing “I am bored-I am bored”.)

FRAN    Can that kid please shut up?

ARLENE  Maybe your NEXT child will be ADHD and
.       then you’ll understand.

(Entering, GERALD’s big smile drops.  He hands the
grocery bag to TINA who brings it to the kitchen.)

GERALD  Could – everyone - just stop being ADHD -
.       and – be a normal family?

NED     Just what exactly does “normal” look like?

PERRY   This is why we did not have children.

SANDRA  (dryly) We couldn’t afford one anyway!

(Silence.  SANDRA bites her lip, wincing.)        26

SANDRA  Did I - say that out loud?

NED     (laughing)  Really?! That - is hilarious!
.       Mr. I’ve-Got-It-All-In-The-Bank-Perry!
.       Mr. and Mrs. I’m-So-Much-Better-Than-You-
.       Just-Because-Robinsons.
.       The quintessential perfect couple
.       of the year, give me my rewards NOW
.       so I can gloat –

CLARE   (to NED)  Do you feel SO bad about yourself,
.       you just must always put everyone else down?

NED     Learn some English, Clare.
.       It’s called an education.
.       And soap operas do not count
.       as intellectual television.

(CLARE quickly gathers her things to leave.)

FRAN    (dryly to NED)  I guess you won THAT one,
.       huh, Ned.  How many does this make now?

BEN     (makes up a poem while he plays a game)
.       How many does this make?
.       Are we keeping score?
.       And just like a piece of cake,
.       Ned can always dish out more.

BILL    (motions to BEN)  He IS improving.

.                  SCENE 17 – STREET

(Crying, CLARE moves away from the house but her way
is blocked as Cdad walks up to join the CAROLERS.)

Cdad    (to C1)  All done work, and ready to sing.
.       (to all) Hi, hello...  (to CLARE)  Hello?

CLARE   You - saw - nothing!

(Seeing a garbage can, CLARE quickly hides behind it.  
CAROLERS nonchalantly start singing
9.“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” as
NED appears from the house to look around for CLARE.)
.                                                  27
NED     Clare?! Clare!

Cs      (vs.3) “And in despair I bowed my head
.       ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said,
.       ‘For hate is strong and mocks the song
.       Of peace on earth, good will to men.’”

(NED looks at CAROLERS, after hearing the words.)

NED     PEACE!  AGAIN?  I suppose you have to
.       keep trying to convince yourselves
.       of that one.  Everybody’s delusional!
.       Any woman who thinks she can get ME
.       to change - and commit – lives in
.       a fantasy world.  And if they don’t like it,
.       THEY can change or leave.  That’s not
.       being selfish, it’s just the way it is.
.       I’ve got to be happy.  So – whatever.
.       (calling out)  Goodbye, Clare!

(NED goes back in, and CLARE creeps out from her hiding
place as the CAROLERS continue to sing.  Clady goes to
CLARE and mimes a conversation to see if she’s okay.)

Cs      (vs.4) “Then pealed the bells
.       more loud and deep:
.       ‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
.       The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
.       With peace on earth, good will to men.’”

.                   SCENE 18 – HOUSE

(Inside, NED paces the floor.)

NED     I cannot believe her.  THIS is why
.       I refuse to get married.

GERALD  Ned, when you love someone –
.       you do what you can to make it work-

NED     There you go, telling me that I have
.       to change.  But you don’t get it.  You
.       don’t understand the pressures of today.

GERALD  No, I suppose fighting in a war
.       doesn’t count, or raising four kids –
.                                               28
NED     I am fighting a war, Dad, the war of life.

GERALD  Who’s attacking you, Ned?
.       WHO IS attacking you?

NED     Everybody! I just want to be happy. Okay?
.       So I’m just going to do things my way.

GERALD  By hurting people?  As I see it,
.       all you do is get your “way”–
.       and you’re still not happy.

ARLENE  Exactly.  If everyone would
.       just be nice.  It’s all about doing
.       what you can – to make a perfect life
.       for those you love.

(TINA listens to this with a new realization,
because that’s what she’s been doing all her life.  
NED pulls out headphones and sticks them into
his ears.  ARLENE watches him with dropped jaw.
Meanwhile, MERLE slips through everyone and
goes outside without being noticed.)

.                   SCENE 19 – STREET

(MERLE slips outside and runs around.  The CAROLERS
notice him.  Clady and CLARE are no longer there.)

C5      Hey! Do you want to sing with us?

(MERLE stops short, amazed at the invitation.)

MERLE   You want me to sing with you?

C5      Yeah, come join us.

MERLE   Okay.

C3      Let’s sing, “Oh Holy Night”.

MERLE   Don’t know that one.

C3      No problem, how’bout“Oh Come All Ye Faithful”.

MERLE   Ahhh, no.
.                                               29
C3      “Silent Night?”... “Joyful Joyful?”...
.       “Joy to the World?”...

(MERLE keeps shaking his head.)

.                    SCENE 20 – HOUSE

(ALL look almost zombie-like as they sit around
enjoying some peace and quiet.  GERALD holds
a stop-watch and keeps an eye on the time.)

PERRY   (sighing)  It’s so nice and quiet.

LISA    Ah!  Uncle Perry, I can’t believe YOU
.       were the first one to talk.

BILL    (enters and balks)  Man, is IT quiet
.       in here!  What happened?

LISA    Grandpa gave us a “game” to play.

DONALD  More of a challenge, actually.

SANDRA  Regardless, this has been
.       the nicest part of the day so far.

ARLENE  (smiling)  It is nice.  We must remember
.       that Merle likes to play this – “game.”
.         (realizing, looks at BILL, then around)
.       Ah, where is - Merle?  Merle?  MERLE?
.       Where’s my baby!? MERLE?!!!
.       Send out an Amber alert!

BILL    Relax.  He’s probably just hiding
.       somewhere in the house.

(ARLENE starts searching the house, underneath and
behind all the furniture. Things become chaotic again.
GERALD bows in silent prayer right where he is.)

.                   SCENE 21 – STREET

(MERLE still shakes his head, “No”.)

C3      “We Three Kings?”... “While Shepherds Wa-

Clady   How about if we just sing a really          30
.       simple song so you can learn the words?

(MERLE smiles at all the positive attention and slowly
joins in the song.  The other half of the CAROLERS start
singing #10 song in the round.  Clady starts the song.)

Cs      (singing)  “Sing noel, sing noel, noel, noel
.       Sing noel, sing noel, noel, noel
.       Sing noel, sing noel, noel, noel
.       Sing we all noel.”

(ARLENE flies outside looking around. She even looks
at the CAROLERS and doesn’t recognize the calm MERLE.
It takes a little while until MERLE sings out.)

MERLE   Oh, hi Mom.

ARLENE  Hi baby!  (realizing)  AH! Merle!  There you are.
.       (rushing over)  Are you all right?!

MERLE   Yeeesssss.

Clady   He was just running around out here.

ARLENE  You didn’t think to go look for a parent?

C5      (wondering)  Kids - play outside.

C4      We did not see any adults around.
.       And he looked kind of lonely so
.       we just asked him to sing with us.

ARLENE  (curtly)  Well, thank you, I guess!
.       (to MERLE while dragging him inside)
.       Don’t EVER do this to me again! You hear me?
.       (hopelessly)  What am I thinking?
.       Of course you’re going to do this again.

.                   SCENE 22 – HOUSE

(ARLENE stops dragging MERLE as soon as they get
inside.  She then grabs him in a desperate hug.)

ARLENE  I found my precious baby.  Oh Merle,
.       were you afraid?  Mommy was-
.       Mommy was so – worried.
.                                               31
(MERLE breaks free and runs around.)

ARLENE  Mom, how in the world did you do it?
.       Three boys and a daughter?

GERALD  (adding) And not much money. But we did it.

FRAN    Okay, so now I really want to know.

TINA    I just – DID it - and ignored myself.
.       I didn’t get much sleep...  I guess
.       I SHOULD have.  I ran myself RAGGED,
.       and I see now THAT was wrong.

FRAN    What are you talking about?
.       You were like – the perfect mother.
.       You were Super Mom.  I could never
.       be that, no matter how hard I try.

(ARLENE nods her agreement.)

TINA    I should have delegated.  I should have
.       given you kids chores.  You kids turned out
.       so spoiled and self-centered - I’m – sorry.
.       (noticing all the dropped jaws)
.       Did I just say that out loud?
.       That just slipped out.

FRAN    Spoiled?  Just slipped out?
.       What’s going on with you?
.       You never say things like that.

BILL    Hormones – or the lack thereof?

BEN     (making up a poem as he plays his game)
.       Did I just say that out loud?
.       Is the family theme for the day.
.       What else - can we - expect – (thinking)

GERALD  (finishes poem) That grandpa started to pray.

(ALL stop to look at GERALD, who grins.)

GERALD  Did I – just say that out loud?

PERRY   Oooo-kaaay.
.                                               32
FRAN    Whatever.  Mom was just saying how spoiled
.       we all are because of her.  And I object.

PERRY   I second that.

TINA    So I have nothing to do with it?

PERRY   Wh-what?  I object to you calling us spoiled.

TINA    You are in debt because you want things
.       before you actually have the money.
.       Fran has been whining about “me time.”
.       Ned only cares about his own happiness.
.       And Bill... is just – Bill.

BILL    Hey!...  (agreeing)  yeah, okay.

(TINA slowly sits down, feeling tired and achy.)

TINA    And all of you just sit around and   
.       expect me to wait on you hand and foot.
.       And that’s my fault.  I need to speak up.
.       I just don’t have the energy anymore.
.       (to SANDRA)  THAT’S why the paper plates.
.       THAT’S why I only wanted to make
.       one meal today – that - being supper –

ARLENE  (sniffing the air)  Which may be burning
.       as we speak.

TINA    (sobbing)  Of course it would burning!
.       The PERFECT ending to a PERFECT day!

ARLENE  I’ll – I’ll see to it.

(ARLENE rushes to kitchen.)

FRAN    So – why haven’t you ever said anything?

TINA    That’s where I failed you as a mother.
.       I did not do a good job of teaching you
.       to help out, or think of others, or
.       discuss things in order to work things out-

BEN     So will you let me get a job NOW, Dad?
.       PLEASE?  
.                                               33
LISA    Me too.  We both want to help.

DONALD  But-

BEN     Dad!  I study hard, and I STILL find time
.       to play computer games?

LISA    Yeah - I bet the time he spends playing
.       games - is MORE than a part time job.
.          (BEN nudges LISA playfully
.           who shrugs it off)
.       And we’re almost adults.

DONALD  I guess you are.  Ugh, okay then.

(BEN and LISA knuckle-punch.)

BEN     Yes!  Dad said we can get jobs.

MERLE   (mimicking)  Dad said we can get jobs.

DONALD  We still have to discuss the details.

MERLE   We still have to discuss the details.

LISA    (to FRAN)  So, we’re really going to have
.       another brother or sister?

MERLE   Another brother or sister?

BEN     Be quiet.

MERLE   Be quiet.

FRAN    (to MERLE) Please sit down and be quiet.

ARLENE  He is ADHD!

FRAN    He is not.  And I’ll prove it.
.       Merle, if you sit still for 10 minutes,
.       I’ll give you FIVE dollars.

(MERLE sits down immediately and stays quiet.)

DONALD  Ah, we really don’t have five dollars.

FRAN    This is totally worth it.               34

PERRY   I’LL give him the five dollars.

SANDRA  WE - really don’t have five dollars.

(FRAN motions to the very quiet and still MERLE.)

FRAN    ANYWAY - notice, he’s not ADHD.
.       If he WAS, he’d STILL be bouncing around.

ARLENE  Well THANK YOU Dr. Phil for
.       a quick diagnosis.

FRAN    Hey, I’m no Super Mom –
.       I just WATCH A LOT OF TV!

SANDRA  Fran has a point, though.  If a child
.       is ADHD, even if they GET their way,
.       they cannot CHOOSE to calm down...
.       Hey - I - read a lot of books.

ARLENE  (to SANDRA)  YOU don’t have any children.
.       (to FRAN)  And - YOU just don’t think I know
.       what’s best for my child?

(ARELEN rushes outside.)

.                   SCENE 23 – STREET

(ARLENE bursts out taking the CAROLERS aback.)

ARLENE  (wails) I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S BEST FOR MY CHILD!
.       I’m such a failure of a mom.

(ARLENE slumps onto bench, while CAROLERS start
to sing 11.“Angels from the Realms of Glory”.)

Cs      (vs.6) Though an infant now we view Him,
.       He shall fill His Father’s throne,
.       Gather all nations to Him;
.       Every knee shall then bow down:
.       (chorus) Come and worship, come and worship
.       Worship Christ, the newborn King.”

(ARLENE speaks to the CAROLERS.)

ARLENE  I thought my baby would be the          35
.       answer to all my dreams and
.       give me purpose in life.  So my
.       whole life has been centered around him.  
.       But it was so much easier to worship
.       and adore Merle as an infant.
.       For the first few years he’d
.       look up at me with such adoring eyes.
.         (stops and gasps – concerned)
.       Maybe all along, I’ve wanted my child to
.       worship and adore ME?  No, that’s crazy.
.       I’ve only ever wanted the best
.       for my child.  Really!  Ugh, even though
.       some days I h-ha – sometimes I hhh-
.       I get so angry with him!  I thought
.       I could raise the PERFECT child – but -
.       it’s impossible.  Nobody can be perfect.
.       But - perhaps this child you sing about,
.       isn’t just ANY child.

(CAROLERS shake their heads, as ARLENE turns and
wanders back to house while pondering this thought.)

.                   SCENE 24 – HOUSE

(ARLENE slips in, hiding her face as she
walks through the room and heads for the kitchen.  
Meanwhile, FRAN notices PERRY and SANDRA
rearranging the plastic knives and forks
so that they are set the right way.)

FRAN    What are you doing?

SANDRA  Helping.

PERRY   Sorry, we just couldn’t stand it anymore.

FRAN    Stand what?

PERRY   Improper place settings.
.       No matter what your economic status is,
.       you can always have proper place settings.

DONALD  (looks introspectively at PERRY)
.       So what are your plans to stay afloat?
.       I mean, if I don’t find a job soon,
.       we’ll have to dip into our NEST EGG –
.                                           36
PERRY   At least you have a nest egg.

SANDRA  I guess we’ll dip into OUR next egg.
.        (PERRY remains quiet, intent on task)
.       We HAVE a nest egg, don’t we, Perry?
.       Perry?  Do we have ANY eggs?
.       Where are the eggs, Perry?!

PERRY   Sandra, you are as guilty as I am...

SANDRA  WHAT are we going to do, Perry?
Sell our Porches and buy ahhhh–
.       I don’t know–what’s a cheap car, Bill?

BILL    Hey, leave me out of this.

PERRY   We’re talking – everything, Sandra!
.       Spa visits, the penthouse... everything!
.       It’s all going to have to go, DEAR!

SANDRA  Do not “dear” me!  I’ve just learned
.       that my prince was actually a frog!

(PERRY numbly walks outside.)

.                   SCENE 25 – STREET

(PERRY enters as CAROLERS sing
12.“Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne”.)

Cs      (vs.1) “Thou didst leave Thy throne and
.       Thy kingly crown, When Thou camest to earth
.       for me;  But in Bethlehem’s home was there
.       found no room For Thy holy nativity.
.       (Chorus) O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
.       There is room in my heart for Thee”

PERRY   (to CAROLERS)  I too have been de-throned,
.       you know.  I had EVERYthing!  Okay-okay,
.       I didn’t really OWN any of it in the
.       first place – but I was ENJOYING all of it,
.       and now I will lose everything.
.       Maybe even my wife.  And losing all of it -
.       not my choice.  So TELL ME, what could this
.       Jesus possibly know about trouble
.       and suffering? Huh?! –
.                                              37
(PERRY starts to walk away, but turns back.)

PERRY   Who is this Jesus, anyway – and how
.       in the world do these stories help me out
.       now?  My life – is over!  It’s completely
.       hopeless.  My life may as well be over!
.       (breaking down)  What am I going to do?
.       How can I move on from this?  We have
.       dug ourselves into such a very deep hole.

(PERRY goes to bench to sit down. The CAROLERS
look at him with concern and then approach
and surround him.)

.                   SCENE 26 – HOUSE

(GERALD sits to the side, head down in prayer.
SANDRA paces the floor as TINA comes from kitchen.)

TINA    Well, so much for supper.
.       All you’re getting is charcoal.

MERLE   We haven’t been THAT bad?

TINA    Well, I’ve learned a lesson.  Next year
.       I will relinquish the need to control things -
.       so much - and ask for help with the dinner -
.       Everything does not have to be perfect.
.       (now noticing everyone’s concerned looks)
.       Well, if you don’t like it, that’s tough-

FRAN    Perry had a melt-down and left a while ago.

SANDRA  I shouldn’t have said all those things.

DONALD  But both of you still have your jobs,  
.       don’t you?

SANDRA  You don’t understand.  (gasping)
.       I – I can’t – breathe.-I can’t breathe.

TINA    Sit down, dear.  It’ll be okay.  Somehow.

(TINA guides SANDRA to the sofa.  BEN jumps up so
SANDRA can sit and recover from her panic attack.)

GERALD  We’ll all get through everything...       38
.       together.

SANDRA  (stands up, gasping)  I’m worried Perry will
.       do something drastic.  YOU know how he is.

FRAN    You’re right.  I DO know how he is.

GERALD  (looking up)  We need to go look for him.

(ALL head to the door.  PERRY sticks his head in.
ALL freeze and study PERRY to see if he’s okay.)

PERRY   Hey...

SANDRA  Perry?

PERRY   Not sure if any of you have met these
.       carolers who’ve been out there singing –

ALL     (randomly) Oh, yeah, THEM. Yeah. We’ve met.

PERRY   Well, we’ve been talking, and - I’m okay.
.       (to SANDRA)  Sandra, I’m sorry.
.       I really am.  And... we’ll be okay.

SANDRA  (weakly falls into PERRY’S arms)
.       I’m sorry too.  I thought –
.       I thought you’d go do something crazy.

PERRY   Yeah, the thought crossed my mind.
.       But, well, this is a little crazy...
.       Those carolers – have invited us
.       to a Christmas scene at their church.
.       Afterwards there’ll be a service
.       and ah – what they call a – fellow – ah -
.       fellowship meal.  FOOD - in other words.

TINA    That sounds good to me.
.       I was wondering what I’d feed all of us.

BEN     We don’t have to dress up, do we?

PERRY   No.  We’re to just “come as we are.”

FRAN    Are you sure they want us there?
.       I mean, this family is really messed up.
.                                             39
PERRY   They were explaining to me –
.       that all we can do is “come as we are.”
.       That – ALL people – are messed up.
.       And because we’re ALL far from perfect –
.       that is why we need Jesus in our lives.

ARLENE  (pondering this)  Huh.

GERALD  That would be the answer.
.       That must be the hope I was looking for.

MERLE   Well I want to go.  Please, Mom? Dad?

FRAN    They were all very nice...
.       Even when I kept yelling at them.

(The FAMILY exits with excitement, all but NED who
sits down stubbornly.  GERALD looks back at him.)

GERALD  (to NED)  You’re not coming?

NED     Go without me.  I’m staying right HERE.

GERALD  Well, you know where you can find us,
.       if you change your mind.

NED     No one’s changing ME, Dad.

GERALD  I know.  But just in case YOU decide
.       you want to change...  Just a thought.
.       (finally leaves with resignation.)

.                   SCENE 27 – STREET

(Sad, GERALD steps out, but smiles when he sees
the FAMILY in a supportive, hopeful mood.)

GERALD  (looks up in prayer)  I suppose - I really
.       need to thank You.  Out of all that chaos,
.       You let me find hope.  And – I’ll be talking
.       with You a lot.  I’ve got so many questions.
.       Oh, and  thank You that it was just menopause.
.       But I trust You’ll get us through that, right?

(GERALD joins FAMILY and CAROLERS as they sing
13.“O Come, All Ye Faithful”.)
.                                                  40
Cs      (vs.1) “O come, all ye faithful,
.       Joyful and triumphant,
.       O come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem.
.       Come and behold Him, Born the King of angels.
.       (Chorus) O come, let us adore Him,
.       O come, let us adore Him,
.       O come, let us adore Him,
.       O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord

(CLARE enters from other side and shyly waves
at FAMILY from across the way.  As CAROLER’S sing
14.“O Holy Night”, the nativity scene builds.)

ALL     (sing vs.1) “O holy night, the stars
.       are brightly shining,
.       It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth’
.       Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
.       Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
.       A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
.       For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;
.       (Chorus) Fall on your knees,
.       Oh hear the angels voices
.       O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
.       O night, O holy night, O night divine.
.       (vs.2) Led by the light of faith serenely beaming
.       With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand
.       So led by light of star sweetly gleaming
.       Here come the wise men from Orient land
.       The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger
.       In all our trials born to be our friend.
(Cs)    (Chorus) He knows our need,
.       He guardeth us from danger
.       Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
.       Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
.       (vs.3) “Truly He taught us to love one another
.       His law is love and His gospel is our peace
.       Chains shall He break,
.       for the slave is our brother
.       And in His name all oppression shall cease.
.       Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
.       Let all within us praise His holy name.
.       (Chorus) Christ is the Lord,
.       O praise His name forever!
.       His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!
.       His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!”

(The NATIVITY people enter the “church/exit” first, 41
followed by the CAROLERS, then the FAMILY.
GERALD looks around with a slight smile.  Suddenly
NED runs to catch up with the group.  GERALD beams.)

NED     DON’T - say anything.

(CLARE and NED see each other and slowly merge toward
the door.  As they near the door and get closer
in proximity, they subtly nod at each other and enter.
The YOUNG CAROLER [C1} and Cdad are the last two left.
They smile at each other, then both look out
and together sing 15.“O Little Town of Bethlehem”.)

C1 &
Cdad    (vs.1) “O little town of Bethlehem,
.       How still we see thee lie.
.       Above they deep and dreamless sleep
.       The silent stars go by.
.       Yet in they dark streets shineth
.       The everlasting Light;
C1      The hopes and fears of all the years
.       Are met in thee to-night.”

(Cdad and then C1 enter into the “church”.)