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Christmas Carol ’74
RJ Marshall is the modern Ebenezer Scrooge. He has time for his money but that’s about all. There is a family. There is a Church. But in RJ’s thinking, they are all put there for his benefit, and not the other way around.
RJ is joined in this presentation by wife Emily, son Ronald Jr., secretary “Nancy”, and Pastor Collins. We see family and friend from the past, including an old Army buddy, Al.
In this army scene is explained why RJ must walk with a slight limp throughout.
Most of the drama takes place in RJ’s office and from thence to the past, present, and future. No ghosts in this tale, and for one who has been redeemed by Christ, the story told will seem even more familiar than the Dickens classic.
To the Marshall Industries then, office of founder and C.E.O. RJ Marshall. It is a very
busy day towards the end of the Christmas season.
(Note: Story written in 1974, slightly revised 2003)
The office of RJ Marshall. Many phones ringing. Persons in waiting room with secretary Nancy.
RJ: Nancy, will you come in here! There are at least ten lines lit up, I can’t do all this by myself!
Nancy: Sir, it’s not like we’re out here reading a magazine. We’re getting to the phone calls as quickly as we can.
Oh, and also, there’s someone here in person who needs to see you.
RJ: Isn’t this ridiculous? A man gets a little money, and everyone in town assumes that it belongs to the community.
Nancy: No need to take it personal, sir, I’m sure other businesses are being asked for donations. It’s Christmas. It’s a happy time. People want to give, they want to share.
RJ: Christmas! They want to give and share MY money! Let them give and share their own! Why do they have to come to me?
Nancy: You’ve been blessed, sir.
RJ: Please, no talk of religion just now.
Nancy: All I said was “blessed.” It’s been given to you, and they genuinely believe you want to share it.
RJ: Well I genuinely disagree with them. Genuine! There’s nothing “genuine” about this holiday! It’s merely everyone’s excuse for giving presents they can’t afford to impress people they don’t like. It’s nonsense, and it always has been.
Nancy: Always? Seems to me you told me once about a happy Christmas you had…
RJ: Oh, yeah…that one…that was long ago, Nancy, and far from here… far in many ways…
Office scene blacks out, and set next to it appears. We are in the Marshall home, and RJ is now 9 years old. It is Christmas, and the house is meagerly decorated. There are other children, and under the tree is one gift for each child.
Mother (entering): OK, kids, gather ’round the tree, while daddy tells us about the first Christmas! (All but RJ appear, and gather as directed.)
Mother: RJ… RJ!
Father: I think he went outside for a minute. It just began to snow and… (Father is interrupted by the front door opening. RJ comes in accompanied by a smaller boy.)
Mother (rushing to RJ): Ronald! (She takes the smaller boy and lays him on the couch, as all gather.)
RJ (hugging his mother, crying): I found him outside, in the snow, alone…
Father (looking out the window): Well, there’s no way we’ll be able to get anyone to come 20 miles out in the country on a night like this… especially on Christmas Eve… Which means, children (he begins to grin) that we have a special guest this Christmas. (the children react happily)
Father (reaching for Bible): OK, let’s have the story… (they all gather). You know, it was probably on a dark, lonely night like this that God let His own Son be born. It seemed He might be misplaced there for awhile. Born in a pile of hay, in a tiny village…almost no one knew anything about Him. But God knew. God had a special plan for this Baby… and later there were some kings who came and gave gifts to Him, when they found out how special He was. They gave Him money, and lots of other things that kings give.
RJ: What if you’re not a king and want to give a present to Jesus? Do you have to be rich? And does He actually come down and take the gift, and make it disappear?
Father (laughing a little): No, not exactly. You see, Jesus said that when you give something to somebody else, it’s just like giving it to Him. He tries to make us to love each other that way.
RJ: (hesitantly, with growing understanding): You mean, if I gave my gift to our special guest, it’d be like giving it to Jesus?
RJ (dramatically going to tree, picking up his gift and laying it at the feet of the little stranger): Dad, you know, this is the most fun Christmas I’ve ever had! back to office
RJ: Yeah, we all had one gift apiece in those days… and I gave mine to a little boy I didn’t even know… (changes abruptly from wistful to official).. Now don’t get me talking about those days… they’re gone. This is today, and it’s a mad world. The rich keep getting’ richer, the poor, poorer… I just happen to be one of the rich.
Nancy: You just happen to be?
RJ: Yeah…well, I guess I started early… was forced to…
RJ is a teenager in the same home we saw in scene 2. He is pleading with his mother.
RJ: Oh come on, Mom, all the kids are going! It’s the annual Christmas Party. It won’t cost over $5.00 each.
Mother: I know, RJ, but we just can’t stretch the budget that far. When your father had his accident, we lost all our regular income. And even with my job it’s almost impossible to make ends meet. Besides, RJ, Christmas isn’t just parties, it’s about Jesus born into the world…and especially into our hearts.
RJ: I know, Mom, but… well, if we didn’t have to give ten percent of our income to the Lord, we could do a few more things…like maybe even go to a Christmas Party.
Mother: RJ! The Lord gives us all that we have. A tithe is the least we can give of our money. Some give so much more. Don’t forget the widow who gave ALL she had.
RJ: Yeah, sure, Mom. That’s all right for widows. But there aren’t any widows in our family. We’re people that have things to DO with our money. Or we would have things to do if the Man in the sky didn’t gobble up 10% every week! (He walks out, slamming the door behind him.)
back to office
Nancy: So you started out on your own personal road to fame and fortune?
RJ: Yeah… I left home as soon as I was done with High School, got a good-paying job, even got married and had a kid… all before I was 20… then Uncle Sam said he needed me, and I spent another lousy Christmas…in the War.
In a very unpleasant-looking room a party is being held on Christmas Eve…drinks are flowing… the men are enjoying themselves… all except one in the corner.
Al (approaching RJ): What’s wrong RJ?
RJ: Sorry. Never enjoyed Christmas parties… especially in a bomb shelter, thousands of miles from my family, with death waiting outside the door.
AL (drunk): Well, like it says, you might as well eat, drink, and be merry… tomorrow you’re gonna die (he laughs).
RJ: I KNOW that’s wrong, Al, but somehow I don’t remember why…
AL: Oh come on, RJ, have a drink or somethin’…
Voice (suddenly heard on loudspeaker) Now hear this! Now hear this! The bomb threat for this area has been lifted. Report to your regular barracks. (repeated)
Al (suddenly sobering): That don’t sound like anyone I know.
RJ (preparing to move): So you know all the radio men in Asia?
Al: No, but there’s only a few in this area… that don’t sound like any of ’em. You know, that thing could have been transmitted by the enemy.
RJ: Could have, but who knows? I’m sure not gonna sit here till I rot, while you play “Name that announcer.” And besides, you’ve eaten and drunk, and you seemed very merry a minute ago…why wait till tomorrow to die?
Al: Those stripes say you’re in charge (he gives a weak salute).
RJ (signaling for men to follow him. They get outside the door and we hear gunshots. Only Al and RJ come back in… RJ is wounded and speaks showing great pain) : Well, Al, that don’t seem right at all… you get merry, eat, drink… and I gotta die.
Al (examining him) : You won’t die… but you won’t walk very well again…
RJ: Well, another wonderful Christmas this year… my son gets a worthless father, my wife gets a crippled husband…and my present is another lousy year to live…if they ever get us out of here.
Al: It could be worse, RJ.
RJ: Oh yeah, Christmas COULD come every day…
back to office
Nancy: So, embittered by all your losses, when they finally got you out and sent you home, you launched out on a one-man campaign against life.
RJ: Gets pretty obvious, doesn’t it? Yeah, I got a few breaks and started moving. It’s been uphill, but I made it. And nobody can take this from me!
Nancy (glancing upward) : Nobody?
RJ: All right, all right. I never quit this religion bit altogether, you know. In fact, it’s good business to belong to a good-sized church. But Nancy, I’ve learned that faith just doesn’t pay the bills, doesn’t get you ahead, doesn’t give you the “good life.” Yeah, I go to church, but I guess I’ve never felt too comfortable there.
A church service. RJ is sitting in the back, showing great boredom. Suddenly he is called on to pray and does so like the Pharisees of old.
RJ (coughing to cover up surprise): Lord, we thank you for this beautiful building, and these beautiful people. We thank you that we’re not like the other people in this community, rioters, lazy, dirty… Thank you for our great wealth and especially, thank you that we were born in free America. Amen.
Pastor Collins (standing to deliver message to actual audience gathered): Christmas is here again, with all its delights and all its pitfalls. And tonight I do not want to talk to you about how Christmas went on in Judea that night long ago. You know that story all too well. I want to try to help you live Christmas today. Jesus has warned us many times about seeking first the visible things of life, instead of allowing Him to supply them for us. He has promised to take care of our needs, if we will seek the INVISIBLE things. He has told us to build our lives on Him, and not on the sinking sands of material pleasures. He has taught us that if we are but willing to deny ourselves here, He has great things in store for us there, but that if we are unwilling to share our wealth now, the rewards of eternity will be closed to us. Listen to this clipping from a major newspaper:
“John Elzy, watchman at the Grand Eagle Department Store, while making his rounds last nightfound the body of a man pushed under the bargain counter. The man was in His thirties, thin to the point of starvation, and had suffered several bruises and scars, evidently at the hands of fellow-shoppers. He crawled under the counter, it seems, for protection. But officials are unable to account for what appear to be nail-prints in His hands. Police are investigating.”
Now, at the same moment that all of us realized that that didn’t really happen, we all realized that it DID, and does happen every day. In our minds we push this precious Saviour of ours out of the way, out of our thoughts, our plans, our dreams… and then we wonder why life is so frustrating.
This year, do more than “keep Christ in Christmas”. This year, keep Christ in YOU. All else will follow.
I close with another solemn warning: Jesus told of a man who had a savings account that wouldn’t quit. My, was he secure. But God called him a fool, because he hadn’t made that first investment in the Kingdom of Heaven. (Hearing this, RJ is disgusted and leaves the church.) Let’s talk to God.
O Lord, we’re unworthy sinners. be merciful to us. Thank you for sending Jesus, for He is all we really need. (Congregation/audience sings, He is all I need)
back to office
Nancy: Oh that reminds me. The man who wants to see you. It’s your pastor. He’s been in the outer office waiting all this time.
(The following comments about and to the Pastor are spoken with a lightness of heart, yet the underlying bitterness cannot be hidden.)
RJ: Oh no, it’s either my money or my life. Send him in. (As Pastor Collins enters…) Hi ya preach, (motions for him to sit down, then ) what’s on your burdened mind today?
Pastor: Well, as a matter of fact, I do have a bit of a burden, RJ: it’s you.
RJ: Oh, here we go… I know, I’ve missed three Sunday’s worth of sermons, and offerings, and you’re here to deliver all six messages in person.
Pastor: Well, if you like…
RJ: I don’t…
Pastor: OK, let’s talk about you…
RJ: Interesting subject.
Pastor: To whom?
RJ: Oh, lots of people, especially at this time of year.
Pastor: Tell me, RJ, are you interesting to yourself?
RJ: Oh come on, Pastor, say what’s on your mind. I’ve had a rough day. I don’t want to be rude, but I’m not in the mood for word games today. All day I’ve been on that phone talking to church leaders who want my money. Listen, if that’s what you’ve come for, you may as well forget it.
Pastor: Sorry I caught you in this disposition. But I did have a contribution in mind.
RJ (rising): You’re kidding.
Pastor: No, the Lord wants a contribution from you, RJ. He wants your heart.
RJ: Ah lay off. I’m a member in good standing. I tithe. I come when I can. Don’t get preachy with me.
Pastor: I think you’ve changed the subject. We’re talking about your heart. I don’t want to offend you, RJ, but I feel that the way you’re going, with all your emphasis on this life, can only bring you frustration here, and possible…
RJ: Hell? Is that what you’ve come to tell me, Collins? Let me tell you. I’ve been through hell already. I don’t ever plan to go back. If you came in here to scare me out of a few more dollars, you just lost. I’ve known you for a long time, Collins, but you never pulled one like this before. Why don’t you go back to your sheltered temple and leave me to my frustrations?
Pastor (keeping calm throughout) : All right, RJ. But I’m going to be praying for you. Somehow you’ve got to know that not everyone is after your money (exit).
RJ (still hot, talking to the walls): Yeah, I’ll bet he’ll be praying. His church needs some new carpeting. He’s probably wanting me to buy a whole new building for him! And what business does he have walking in here like that, making statements about my life… frustrations… what does HE know anyway… surely no one has been telling him about things at home…
The scene shifts to the present Marshall home, on a typical school morning. Emily is RJ’s wife.
Emily: Ronald Junior, hurry up and get ready for school. Don’t forget, Mommy’s going Christmas shopping today. RJ, are you up yet? RJ!
RJ (slowly entering, wet towel on head): Don’t shout, woman, I got ears. I also got one big hangover. (aside) And one noisy wife.
Emily: Hmph! RJ, that BOTTLE is going to be the end of you. And in the meantime, it’s going to destroy this family. Ronald, HURRY! Where IS that child?
RJ: Why isn’t he up?
Emily: Oh, there was some movie on last night… lasted till about 2 or 3.
RJ: 2 or 3, huh? That TV is going to be the end of HIM!
RJ: And that shouting is going to be the end of you! (shaking his fist, but non-threateningly)
Emily (unconcerned): Well, we’ll just all end it together. (Ronald finally appears, and as he and Emily leave:) Come on son.
RJ (shouting after them): You know, Emily, sometimes…
Blackout. When lights come back, RJ is seated at a desk adding up some figures, Emily is crocheting.
RJ: Emily! How much did you spend on Christmas gifts? If this figure is correct I may have to start another clothing industry.
Emily: Ha! You’re a little too old for that…
RJ (ignoring her comment) : Look at this! $300.00 for a bedspread, $25.00 for hosiery, $1000.00 for a dress! What’s it made out of? Silk, with diamond buttons?
Emily: Oh, you always exaggerate. Anyway I got that on sale. It’s a Gauvenchy original.
RJ: Well that price is just a little too original for me.
Emily: But what will people think if we don’t give them something nice?
RJ: They might think we finally got honest with them.
Emily: You mean you don’t think our friends are worthy of nice gifts?
RJ: I mean, most of our friends aren’t worthy of the title “friends.”
RJ: Don’t “RJ” me. You know as well as I do that those people want our money.
Emily: Oh I think you’re sick!
RJ: I think I’m going to be sick if you keep going out and spending every dollar I earn in meaningless gifts!
Emily: Oh, I’m sure they’re meaningful to someone. And anyway I don’t spend all your money.
RJ: Yes, you do leave me a small allowance. You’re such a big person.
Emily: Thank you dear. By the way, when are we going to begin decorating the trees and yard? It’s only 6 weeks till Christmas.
RJ: Let’s wait awhile this year. Energy crisis, you know.
Emily: Oh, that’s for the other people- we’re the MARSHALLS!
RJ (In her face) : We’re the Marshalls, we’re the Marshalls. Oh is that so. Let’s go back to basics for awhile: I’M the Marshalls, YOU came along for the ride.
EMILY (undaunted, in his face): Well, I must say the ride has been getting very bumpy lately, Lord Marshall. And let me tell YOU something. I AM a WOMAN and proud of it. Things have changed, dear Master, women aren’t the slaves they used to be. Don’t think for one minute that I couldn’t do just as well on my own. So if you look on me that way, you can just get yourself another servant!
RJ: Why not, help’s cheap these days.
At this, Emily slaps RJ, and at that moment, Ronald Jr. appears from a hiding place behind the couch.
RJ and EMILY: RONALD!
Ronald (As he speaks he is backing away) : I’ve always had to listen upstairs. Thought I’d get a closer view tonight. Well, I’ll see you two later. I’m on my way to church. I think the lesson in Youth Group tonight is about respecting your parents…(exit)
back to office
RJ: No, Collins couldn’t possibly have known. Unless Emily called him… or Ronald. But it doesn’t really matter. I know what’s going on. I have to live with it every day. I need to catch the stock report. (He walks to and turns on radio)
Radio Preacher: But though you’ve tried to run from God, He’s still after you. He loves you. He loves you. Whoever you are listening today, God loves you. And oh how real the love of God can be at this time of year when even the hardest of people feel impelled to give, as God gave.
RJ (flipping off radio angrily) : How in the world did I turn on a Christian radio station when I never listen to Christian radio? Somebody’s tryin’ to tell me something? But I’m not the “hardest of people”. (He turns to the radio) And I don’t feel “impelled to give”!!! I don’t! Oh, look at me, screaming at a radio. (He breaks.) Is there a way out of this prison? Could it be? Could life REALLY be meaningful? I wonder what it would be like if…
When lights arise we are in the Marshall home again. Emily, noticeably sweeter, is on the phone.
Emily: Hello. Oh, hello dear…fine…Ronnie just went back to school for the afternoon…yes, he’s fine. Ron, this change has made the difference. His grades are up. He doesn’t even turn on that TV, he’s so involved at church. And you! Ron, I love you…I know you do…Isn’t this Jesus wonderful?…What?…You’re kidding…But the industry… That’s wonderful…a full week!…Yes, Ron will be starting winter break on Monday…Oh Ron, a full week of just us, together…OK, see you tonight…(She kisses the phone.)
Back to office
RJ: Could it be? Could it be? Could I have the same joy in giving that I had as a little boy? I almost feel I could. And if that preacher’s right, a change now will affect me even after I leave this world. (Black out office area, spotlight on RJ only)
Voice Offstage: Ronald, you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many. Enter into the joys of your Lord.
RJ: But Lord, I’m not worthy.
Voice: But Ronald, I am. And that day you gave your heart to me, I started living at your house. Come on in.
Lights back up. RJ appears to be waking.
RJ: Come on in…Come…Come… Yes, I’ll do it. Right here and right now. O God, take me back, forgive me. Thanks Lord. (He begins to be very happy) Praise God! It’s all over! Frustration gone! Hallelujah! So that’s why they say Hallelujah!
Nancy (entering): Sir, are you all right?
RJ: ALL RIGHT? Never been higher in my life!
Nancy: Y-Yes sir, that’s what I meant…
RJ: Don’t worry, Nancy, I’m not ill. I’m alive. I’m awake! You know, you started me thinking. I’ve been nothing but an old Scrooge. But today, without all those ghosts he had to go through, I’ve been visited by my life as it was, as it is, and as it will be.
Nancy: Well praise the Lord!
RJ (beginning to speak then showing surprise): Nancy! You mean YOU are…
Nancy: Sure am. Even a humble secretary can be in touch with God.
RJ: Ha! A humble secretary. Well as of next week, you can count yourself $25.00 a week less humble.
Nancy: Why Mr. Marshall!
RJ (sternly) : And furthermore! (Nancy is tense) Merry Christmas, Nancy.
Nancy: Thanks RJ. You too.
RJ: Nancy, call Emily, tell her I’m on my way home… and don’t whisper a word of this.
Nancy: Right! (as she begins to call, RJ exits)
Again, the Marshall House
RJ (opening the door, speaking gruffly): Emily, I’m home. (He hides flowers and candy at the door outside. As Emily appears:) Supper about ready?
Emily: Yeah, I got the phone call. Thanks for the warning. Next time, a little further in advance, please.
RJ: Emily, you ask too much from an old man. Next thing, you’ll be demanding flowers and candy every time I cross the threshold.
Emily: Believe me, I’ll never expect that.
RJ (with pretended anger): And why not? (While she stares curiously he goes to door and retrieves gifts.)
Emily (as she receives gifts): Why, Ron, how nice…thanks.
RJ: You don’t know what to say, do you?
Emily: Well, it has been awhile.
RJ: It won’t ever be that long again. Emily, God’s gotten into this man, and he’s all new inside. This family’s going to be different.
Emily: You know, I believe you.
Ronald Jr. (passing by): Oh hi Dad.
RJ: Hello, Son. I-I don’t know how to tell you about this, but something has happened to your old man… in fact, he’s a new man. I was in the office today, and well, I prayed…
Ronald (interrupting): Oh, you mean you got saved today? Well it’s about time, Dad. We been prayin’ for you at church for about 2 months now. Congratulations! (They hug)
RJ: Thanks, Son. (To Emily) Say, why don’t we surprise the holly wreath off of Pastor Collins and show up for midweek service tonight?
Emily: Well, I guess he’ll be able to take it.
Scene opens at church, which is really the audience. Pastor Collins is leading the group in Christmas carols. The Marshalls walk in during this time. Collins shows emotions upon seeing RJ and his family together. At the end of the hymn…
Pastor: Something tells me that this would be a good time to have a few testimonies.
RJ: You guessed it, Pastor! (The entire Marshall family rises and goes to front of congregation. Emily and Ronald are on either side, as RJ speaks:) I guess it seems pretty strange to see me in this building on a Wednesday night. I never had a whole lot of time for you people unless you were helping my business concerns, or my prestige. Well, from what I understand of the Good Book, that’s all behind me now. Today in my office, I asked God to forgive me. I want you to know, something happened. I’m different. (Sprinkled amen’s and praise the Lord’s).
I guess I had a real bad feeling about Christmas. I saw a lot of people pushin’ and shovin’, tryin’ to get the good bargains, even Christians. Tryin’ to impress people, and not even knowin’ about the best gift that was ever given. Well, that’s bad, but I don’t have to be like that, not anymore. Now God’s given me a whole bundle of cash, and I want you to know that I intend to pray real hard about what to do with it. Meanwhile, I’m the happiest guy there is, and I want to thank you, our pastor, my family, for puttin’ up with me, lovin’ me. And this year, I’m gonna let Jesus dictate my Christmas plans, not my bank roll or my so-called friends. Jesus is the one that this is all s’posed to be about, so I think He oughta be in charge. I’ve said enough. Maybe there’s some others who need to do some confessing or praising. Thanks.
Collins: That’s a good idea, RJ… are there others? (From here the drama fades into a real testimony time. There is no “curtain call” or official end to the play. Let the truths planted bring forth real fruit in the congregation now.)
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