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The Camel’s Complaint: A Christmas Puppet Play

Our Christmas gift to all: A puppet play I wrote some years ago. Merry Christmas!

The Camel’s Complaint

Characters:
Caliph the Camel
Hannah the Horse
Daniel the Donkey
Lucius the Lion
Ollie the Ox
Sarah the Sheep

Scene One|
Setting: Desert oasis. Palm trees, green plants such as aloe, yucca, water hole off to side. Tents visible in background.
Lighting: Outdoor sunset.
At Rise: Hannah enters left, whinnies loudly. Caliph stumbles on behind her, sinks down, begins to snore.

Hannah: Caliph! Caliph! Wake up, great ship of the desert!

Caliph (Grumbling, not looking up): May a thousand fleas make their nests in your tail. Can’t you be quiet?

(Daniel enters right.)

Daniel: Ah, the most beautiful flower of the desert. What’s the matter, Hannah?

Hannah: Caliph won’t get up again, Daniel. The caravan’s going to leave without him.

Daniel: They won’t leave without that sorry excuse for a camel.  Remember what he’s carrying?

Hannah: but he’s got to get up. He’s making us lose time every day. What if we’re too late?

Daniel: Get up, son of a sand-slug. Caliph! You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

Caliph: It’s fine if you want to keep walking all night, every night. This load of mine is much too heavy.

Daniel: It should be heavy. That’s gold you’re carrying, O grandfather of grouches.

Caliph: Sand for breakfast, dust for lunch, cactus spines for supper. What a life! I’ve had enough.

Daniel: You haven’t got any choice. Our masters are headed for Judea. I know that much.

Caliph: Why Judea? The whole place smells like Caesar’s armpits.

Hannah: They follow the Star.

Caliph: The sky is full of stars! Can’t they pick one going to the Caspian Sea Resort? I need a vacation!

Daniel: I’ve heard them talk about a new King.

Hannah: This King is greater than Herod or Caesar, the masters say. They call Him the King of kings.

Caliph: Humph! All I know is, my load’s too heavy and I’m tired of walking. I don’t care about any king of kings. See you at the waterhole. (Caliph exits left.)

Hannah: What if we miss the King of kings, Daniel?

Daniel: We’ll have to think of a way to hurry Caliph up. Hmmm … I have an idea. Follow me. (Both exit left.)

Scene Two
Lighting: Desert sunrise.
Setting: Similar to scene one, but plants, etc., rearranged to show it is a different location.
At Rise: Caliph runs onstage from left.

Caliph: We can make another few miles before it gets too hot. Come on, come on!

(Hannah and Daniel stagger onstage behind Caliph, panting, exhausted.)

Daniel: Caliph, stop! We’ve got to rest! You mangy, flea-bitten son of a jackal, stop! (collapses)

Caliph: Is that lion still following us?

Hannah: Oh, Caliph, there isn’t any lion! Daniel made up that story to scare you so we could go faster!

(Caliph stops dead, turns, butts heads with Daniel.)

Caliph: No lion?

Daniel: No lion, Caliph.

Caliph: I ran all night long, and now you tell me there’s no lion? Why I should –

Daniel: Go ahead. I’m so tired I don’t care what you do.

Caliph: Fortunately for you, my long-eared friend, I am also too tired. But I’ll have my revenge. (Caliph lies down heavily, and begins to snore.)

Hannah: We certainly made up for lost time today, Daniel. It was a good idea.

Daniel: We’ll be in Jerusalem tomorrow night. Get some sleep, fairest Hannah. King of kings, here we come.

(He gives her a peck on the nose. She nuzzles him, and they go to sleep. Lucius the Lion enters quietly from right and looks at the three sleeping animals, walks all around them, sniffing, and stops over Caliph. Caliph suddenly snorts, shaking his head with a loud jingle of bells. Lucius runs off right. A distant roar is heard offstage. Caliph jumps up.)

Caliph (Whispering): What was that? It couldn’t be. Could it? (He looks around fearfully, then drops off to sleep again. After a pause, lighting dims to signify sunset, and animals get up and exit.)

Scene Three
Setting: Bethlehem. Stable with hay in manger, buildings visible at sides.
Lighting: Night outdoor in town.
At Rise: Ollie and Sarah enter, munching.

Ollie: By all the boils on Job’s back, I’m glad it’s calmed down around here, Sarah.

Sarah: It was a madhouse during that census, wasn’t it, Ollie? So many strange animals and  people.

Ollie: Even people staying in the stables with us! And giving birth to babies, by every pair of unclean animals on the ark!

Sarah: What a strange place for the Lamb of God to be born. But I’m glad we got to see Him.

Ollie: Yes, indeed, but it’s better for Him to be living in a house, by all the salt in Elisha’s cruise.

Sarah: Ollie, I heard a lion last night.

Ollie: By the four hundred prophets of Baal, Sarah, this is Bethlehem — civilization. A lion! Don’t be silly.

Sarah: I know I heard it. It was scary. Ollie! There it is!

(Caliph runs onstage right, pushes between Sarah and Ollie, tries to hide.)

Ollie: By all the water in the Red Sea, I’ll have my horns in you, you — CAMEL?

Caliph: Hide me! Hide me, quick! I’ll be dead and lying in a sand-swept grave if I go back to that caravan!

Sarah: You scared us half to death! Who are you, and what are you doing here?

Caliph: I am Caliph, son of Casbah, son of Cashmir, heir to the royal line of blue-blooded Bactrian —

Ollie: Spare us the pedigree. By all the soldiers in David’s army, what are you doing in our stable?

Caliph (munching a mouthful of hay): Enjoying your fabulous fodder. I’ve run away from a caravan. They were bound for Jerusalem, but I gave them the slip in Jericho. I’m a free camel! Ha – ha – ha – ha – ha! Eh — by the way, where am I?

Ollie: Out in the cold, by all the Philistines Samson killed! (He shoves Caliph with his horns.) We’re done feeding strangers, thank you very much.

Caliph: Ouch! Those horns are sharp! Am I bleeding? You’ll be hearing from my attorneys!

Sarah: We work for our food, you silly camel. If you want our master to feed you, maybe you could help him at his inn.

Caliph: Work! I’m through working! But I do have something that will make your master take care of me for the rest of my life. My packs are full of gold!

Sarah: Gold! You ran away with your master’s gold? Stay out of our stable. This is where the Lamb of God was born.

Caliph: Well … it wasn’t really my master’s gold. It was for some King … the King … uh … the King of … a king of … some sort.

Ollie: That’s all we need — someone who steals a king’s gold. You get out of here, or by all the spices of Sheba’s queen, you’ll need more than an attorney when I get through with you! Go on, get out!

(Ollie jabs Caliph again. Caliph runs off right. Ollie and Sarah exit left.)

Scene Four
Setting: Barren desert. No plants of any kind except dead brush. Jagged rocks.
Lighting: bright daylight.
At Rise: Caliph stumbles on from left, falls exhausted.

Caliph (gasping): No food … no water … this pack … still on my back. How could things get worse?

(Lucius enters right, stands directly over Caliph, sniffs him. Caliph slowly looks up, then jumps away.)

Caliph: Aaaah! Now I’m going to be lion lunch! I knew it could get worse!

Lucius: You must get back to the caravan at once.

Caliph: Oh, O get it. I’m hallucinating. You’re just a mirage of a lion, right?

Lucius: The Lion of Judah is in great danger. You must get the gold to Him.  He will need it to escape.  Do not let the Enemy win! Go! Go!

(Lucius roars and chases Caliph offstage left. Roaring continues, then fades away.)

Scene Five
Setting: Bethlehem stable as before.
Lighting: Night in town.
At Rise: Ollie and Sarah enter left, heads nod, they fall asleep. Lucius enters quietly from right, comes up to Ollie.

Lucius: Where is the Lion of Judah?

Ollie (Startled awake, he snorts and waves his horns.): What? Keep away! By all the straw in Pharaoh’s bricks, there’ll be no mutton or porterhouse for you tonight, lion!

Lucius: The Lion of Judah! Quickly! Where is He?

Sarah (cringing): You’re the only lion we’ve seen.

Lucius: He was born in this very place not long ago. A baby — the travelers from Nazareth. Where is He?

Ollie: By every grain of feed in Joseph’s brothers’ sacks, He’s well-guarded from hungry lions.

Lucius: I do not want to eat Him, my foolish friends. I only want –

Lighting: Star appears in sky above set, fills scene with bright light.

Lucius: Ah! It is the sign. They will find Him now.

Ollie: Who are you?

Lucius: My name is Lucius. The Star and I are both sent to lighten that which is dark. You and your fleecy friend have helped the One Who has come. Others will help Him too.  Even stubborn old Caliph. We will see Him safely all the way. I must go now and make sure my reluctant friend has returned to his duty. Farewell, Ollie and Sarah.

(Lucius exits right.)

Ollie: The Lion of Judah? Didn’t you call Him the Lamb of God, Sarah — that baby, I mean?  By all the stones in Solomon’s temple, I –

(Ollie and Sarah exit left, talking. Daniel and Hannah enter right.)

Daniel: I can’t believe Caliph would really run away.  We came all this way to find the King of Kings, and Caliph ran off with the most important gift of all.

Hannah: Our masters are so sad.  This may be the town where we will find Him — the star stopped right here, but without the gold –

(Faint sound of roaring. Caliph runs in left, panting.)

Caliph: The lion! Is it still after me? I’ve been running and running, but I couldn’t get away! I — Daniel! Hannah!  Look out! There’s a lion! It chased me all the way across the desert! Run!

Hannah: Caliph! You’re back! Is the gold safe?

Caliph: Gold! How can you think of gold at a time like this?  Our lives are in danger! Didn’t you hear me say there’s a lion chasing me?

Daniel: I told you that story wasn’t true, Caliph. How could you run away with the gold? It was a gift for the King of kings!

Caliph: The gold is perfectly safe, strapped to my back, weighing at least ten thousand pounds — it would have been safe if that lion had eaten me, not that either of you care.  Say, a minute ago it was dark. Where’d that bright light come from?

Hannah: It’s the Star, silly! See it up there? This is where the King of kings is.

Caliph: The King of kings? That was it! But that lion — he said something about the Lion of Judah — and there was a sheep talking about the Lamb of God — I am so confused!

(Lucius enters left. Daniel and Hannah run off right.)

Caliph: I’m too tired to run anymore. Go ahead and eat me. The gold is here. You can give it to the King of kings, or the Lion of Judah, or the Lamb of God, or whoever’s supposed to get it. Bon appetit!

Lucius: Your masters will be here in a moment, and you will live to serve them a long time, silly, stubborn Caliph. Thanks to you, the Bright and Morning Star will be safe.

Caliph: Don’t tell me, let me guess. This Bright and Morning Star — He’s the same as the King of kings, and the Lion of Judah, and the Lamb of God — Have I got it all straight now?

Lucius: He is all those things, and many more. Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace …

Caliph: You mean He’s — He’s the One? THAT One?  I ran off with His gold? Oh, you’ve just got to eat me. I can’t live knowing what I almost did.

Lucius: What you almost did is not as important as what you really did, Caliph. You brought the gold that will get Him safely to Egypt, away from Herod. All is well.

Caliph: What can I do? I can never make up for all the trouble I’ve caused.

Lucius: Be faithful to your masters from now on. Be faithful, Caliph, and you will be faithful to Him.

(Caliph turns and looks up at the star. Lucius exits left.)

Caliph: The Bright and Morning Star. I think I like that name best of all. I’d better go find my masters now. Faithful Caliph.  Hmmm … I like the sound of that. (Exit right.)

Production Notes for The Camel’s Complaint

Settings: Scenes One and Two are desert oasis with plants which can be changed around to show two different locations. Scenes Three and Five are Bethlehem stable with hay in manger. Scene Four is barren desert with scrub brush, jagged rocks.

Lighting: All outdoor. Scene One is sunset, Scene Two sunrise, Scene Three city at night, Scene Four bright desert day, Scene Five same as Three but add Star shining like daylight at appropriate time.

Props: Bundles or chests for Caliph’s back. Jeweled harnesses can be made from costume jewelry to decorate Caliph and Hannah. Daniel and Ollie wear plain rope halters.

Puppets: Camel, Horse, Donkey, Lion, Ox, and Sheep.

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Wisdom Says, “Can You Hear Me Now?”

Proverbs Chapter Eight is absolutely amazing. We try to read through Proverbs day by day each month and this one just stops me in my tracks every time.

Why does God say that wisdom is a woman? I don’t know. A friend commented on the fact that Proverbs is mostly advice from father to son. Yet we have this personification (a literary device where an abstract concept is treated like a person) of Wisdom in many places as a woman. She’s stretching out her hands, she’s going around to the high or chief places, she’s standing at the crossroads, and here in Chapter Eight, she’s shouting at the top of her lungs right in front of the city gates. You can’t miss her! Or can you?

She is talking to men, apparently, like most of Proverbs does, but I think we women can listen in. As long as we can handle being called simple and fools like the men. Our culture today tends to depict women as smarter than men, but only this woman, Wisdom, really has the right to call men fools, and I think women better humble their hearts and listen up as well.

“Be ye of an understanding heart!” She cries in verse five, after calling her audience fools. Boy, these listeners better gather the shreds of humility the “I’m OK, You’re OK” secularist world has left them. Do not get all hurt and walk away from this, men and women alike. “Excellent things” are coming. “Right things.” Wisdom is going to speak truth, and her lips can’t stand wickedness. She also promises that what she says is going to be “plain,” and “right.” She’s going to speak righteousness only. The only catch is that you have to “understand” it. It might seem contradictory that Wisdom calls you a fool in one verse and then expects you to understand her in another, but that’s the way it is with believers sometimes. We’re still struggling with that sin nature, but the Holy Spirit still lives in us to teach us and give us understanding if we let Him. You don’t need silver. You don’t need gold. You need instruction straight from the mouth of Wisdom herself. In the ancient world rubies were the most valuable gemstone. You don’t even need them. No comparison. You need this.

When I get to heaven, I want to ask what “witty inventions” are to make sure, but I think for now I’ll settle for understanding that phrase as the ability to come up with good ideas.

People complain about the very thought of “fearing the Lord.” God is a God of love, isn’t he? He is to be loved and feared, like a dad who would do anything for you but is not going to let you get away with being a fool. So stop complaining and listen. Hate evil, hate pride. What’s a “froward mouth”? One that says vulgar, crude, bad, wrong things. Especially when you say them just because it’s entertaining to vulgar, crude, bad people. Why exactly do you want to impress them again? You don’t.

You want to be a counselor. You want to be strong. You want to tell kings and princes and judges how to rule, how to be just. You want honor and “durable riches.” Wisdom has a revenue-sharing plan that can’t be beat. Her dividends are eternal. Those that love wisdom will “inherit substance.” Not talking about material wealth here. You might get that, or you might not, but what you get from Wisdom will last forever.

Who is this Wisdom anyway? What’s her authority for telling us what to do? How’s older than the oldest of God’s works strike you as a tried and true source of solid teaching? Wisdom predates Creation. She witnessed it all, and starting with verse seven she shares her view of it unfolding before her delighted eyes. Depths of oceans and canyons, fountains of water, mountains, hills, earth, fields, even dust gets a mention. She was before it all, and saw it all come to be. Wisdom saw how God arranged and organized things from the beginning, setting boundaries, defining limits. Wisdom is like God’s best friend, watching Him do it all, right there by His side all the way, rejoicing that God made a habitation for man, and, once again, delighted with that special, crowning creation of human beings.

So Wisdom’s got the right to speak to man, to call us her children, to say, “Listen up!” Don’t refuse her instruction. Yes, you’re struggling with sin, with the pride that says, “I don’t have to listen to you!” But that’s what she’s there for, to tell you what to do. She’s God’s best friend, and she’s yours, too. That’s why she’s yelling at the top of her lungs. That’s why you should be this guy (or girl).”Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD.” The consequences of being too proud to hear Wisdom’s voice are severe. “But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.”

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All Glorious Within

Psalm 45 is a beautiful passage of Scripture. It describes a king which certainly seems to be the Messiah, Jesus Christ. In verse nine it begins to talk about women, and there are lessons for Christian women and their earthly relationships with men and others in the descriptions found here.

First, though, we witness the anointing of the king with “oil of gladness.” The scents from his garments are of “myrrh, aloes and cassia.” The mentions of these and the “ivory palaces” are stirring descriptions of beauty for multiple senses — touch, sight, smell, and a delight for the emotions as well. It’s easy to see why “they have made thee glad.” Woman, this man and his dwelling-place are being prepared for you, as if for you alone. Are you blessed, or what?

This Psalm is aiming toward a point, and I think that point is a “pre-echo,” if you will, of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Sure enough, verse nine states that “Kings’ daughters were among thy honorable women,” (attendants at a wedding) and the queen is on his right hand, in gold of Ophir.

Mention of Ophir goes all the way back to Genesis and it is an ancient source of the highest-quality gold. I think that could mean that Christ loved His Bride from ancient times and set aside ornaments for her wedding day just as God planned salvation “before the foundation of the world.”

Verse ten is another “pre-echo,” this time of the statement of Christ that if one does not love father and mother more than Him, or even hate them, he is not worthy to be a disciple. So the daughter, or bride, is urged to “forget thine own people, and thy father’s house.” Just after the creation of Eve, before there were mothers or fathers, or perhaps even houses, Adam says that a man will leave these things and “cleave” to his wife.

The passage says that by doing this, the bride will cause her king to “greatly desire thy beauty.” She will be irresistible to her man as she is wholly committed to Him alone. And verse twelve has a great by-product of being the king’s bride. She gets presents! Tyre is certainly not known historically or biblically for being a good or godly kingdom, but its princess will have to show respect for this bride. All the richest and most powerful kingdoms on Earth want to get on her good side.

Now we get to the really good part! Verses thirteen and fourteen say “The king’s daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework.” I’m told that “within” means within her chamber, that is, while she’s getting ready for the wedding. She gets to put on wrought gold and that magnificent tapestry brocade you see in ancient portraits. No sweatpants, no bluejeans, no sir! The king’s daughter, who is now also the wife of a king, shines like the sun in the most beautiful and best workmanship. She is glorious, mind you, not glitzy. No bling here. The virgins, young girls, follow her, and you can bet they follow her example of godly beauty, too because they are accompanying her to her Lord and theirs with “gladness and rejoicing.”

Like many Scriptures this is a “here and now” as well as prophetic passage. The godly earthly queen will have children who can take the place of her forefathers as princes, leaders of kingdoms. In our sinful world we too often see children fall away from following their parents’ example and teaching. Not so here. The influence of this godly queen is solid because she worships her Lord with her whole heart. The memory of a woman who can produce generations of godly children will always be praised.

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