Excerpted from “Expect Joy”, a musical/dramatic production first premiered at the Christian Reformed Church of Western Springs, IL.
Scene: Table with cutting board, peppers, hummus and a jar of olives on it, a wad of dough, and a pot with a long-handled spoon sticking out of it. Elizabeth (in the middle stages of pregnancy) is bustling about chunnering to herself, chopping vegetables and kneading bread at the table. A chair sits to the side, and one behind the table.
Elizabeth: Oh dear me, so much to do and so little time. Cleaning and baking and cooking – it never ends. (pauses in the middle of the kitchen, holding her tummy and checking things off) Bread, veggie, hummus, olives, ah, stew! (goes to pot and stirs vigorously). And I need to remember to sweep. (speaks over her shoulder to someone offstage) I know just what you’d say if you could, Zeke. (quote fingers) “Why clean? She’s family.” Well, I’ll tell you why – she’s had a rough time of it lately and I want her to feel welcome, and how welcome would you feel if the floor was dirty and dinner was 30 minutes late?
(Finishes stirring and moves to knead the bread – flour on hands. Kneads zealously.)
Elizabeth: (to herself again) All those arrogant, ignorant idiots and their foolish wagging tongues. (gets violent with the dough progressively, punctuating her words) All those hypocritical, mean old beards looking down their turned-up noses at that poor girl. All those twittery flibbertigibbets with air for brains pointing and talking behind their hands like addled hens. We are NOT going to let our John be that way, so help me God. He will be decent, and upstanding, and clean in manner and dress. The perfect gentleman. (to Zeke) And he’ll comb his hair, if it’s the last thing I do. Couldn’t get you to do it all these years but I’ll eat a grasshopper if I don’t raise a neat boy.
A knock comes at the door. Elizabeth jumps slightly and turns as Mary enters.
Elizabeth: (outspread arms and rushing to Mary) Why, Mary, so good to… whooooooo (stops short and sits heavily on the chair). Oh lordy calm down there… hooooweeee (holds tummy and leans back).
Mary: (concerned) Cousin Elizabeth! What’s wrong, are you alright?
Elizabeth starts laughing, hearty
Elizabeth: Mary! (chortles) This baby’s doing a jig right now, because of you! (places Mary’s hand on her abdomen)
Mary: (bewildered) Me?
Elizabeth: Cousin Mary, you are blessed among all women to be carrying that child. And I’m blessed with the great joy of receiving you here, as the mother of my Lord!
Mary: (overcome, tears fill her eyes) Oh, Elizabeth. (clings to Elizabeth’s neck in relief)
Elizabeth: (hugs her and then tries to extricate herself) Now then, hon, let me get you a seat. Those of us great with child types ought to look out for each other!
Elizabeth pulls up a seat for Mary. Mary sits and Elizabeth returns to her work, chuckling.
Elizabeth: How was the journey?
Mary: Well. (she pauses, then looks down) The hardest part was to the edge of town, and that was over quickly. It was beautiful the rest of the way.
Elizabeth: (pauses and places a floury hand on her hip, her ire up) Did those fools at the gate give you trouble again? I know their daddies and I will give them what for…
Mary: No, no, only a little. It’s not new anymore to them.
Elizabeth: (muttering and turning back to kneading) Hooligans.
(moment of silence)
Elizabeth: (tenderly) And… how are you, child?
Mary: I’m… I’m okay. (convincing herself) They’ll always look at me a certain way, and view me as something I am not. But I know what I have seen, and I believe.
Elizabeth: (proudly punches the dough) Brave girl. (points at her triumphantly) You are blessed doubly, to believe that what the Lord has said will come to pass! (holds tummy; belly laugh) Haha, look at us! You and me, a virgin and a decrepit old woman, given the joy of bearing children. (laughs) God certainly works in mysterious ways.
Mary: (smiles, wistfully) It means so much to hear you say that. To know that you believe me! It’s just you and Joseph right now.
Elizabeth: And Zeke! (looks back) Right Zeke? Haha, he’s still speechless about the whole thing…
Mary: (holding her tummy and hesitant to bring it up) Elizabeth… um, I’ve heard stories about labors since I was a little girl. Does it… (nervously) is it… I mean, I know that you wouldn’t…
Elizabeth: (goes over to her, sits and clasps her hands, all floury) Honey, I have no idea how much it will hurt. I expect it will hurt badly, unless people groan and scream for the fun of it. There’s no doubt it will be painful, and no doubt that the pain won’t end for you after he’s out. But, oh honey…
Elizabeth: There’s nothing like a baby. And with how these two babies came about (touches each tummy), there’s reason to hope, reason to be brave, and reason to anticipate with joy – not fear.
Mary: (smiling, emotional but confident) You’re right, Elizabeth. My heart is happy in this – God has promised to save us through this baby. And He will bring me through it – young as I am. I am blessed, like you said. Because He chose me to carry His son, our only hope.
Elizabeth: (chucks her under the chin, rises heavily and returns to stir her pot) That’s the spirit, hon. You ought to write those words down before you forget them, and read them often to remember your courage. (yells to Zeke) ZEKE! Dinner’s ready! Don’t you be keeping us pregnant ladies waiting. We wait enough as it is.
Freeze. Lights down. Exit.