Martha. Yes, we are slaves; that only thought haunts me; the chosen people of Jehovah in subjection to the idolatrous Roman.
Salome. Where now is the might of David? where the glory of Solomon? Surely Miriam’s song may be turned upon ourselves; for the enemy “hath triumphed gloriously,” and we are laid in the dust.
Mary. Let us not, however, despond too much. Jehovah will not always chide. The Roman sway shall have an end.
Martha. I know that Messiah cometh, and he will restore all things; but when?
Salome. Yes, when? Long have we waited, and bitter has been our bondage; and even our own Herod has been more cruel than our foes.
Mary. Nevertheless, let us hope. In the fulness of time the promised one will come. (Miriam and Leah approach.) But, see! two more friends join us.
Martha. Rather say, two more slaves.
Salome. Yes; two more to weep with us.
Miriam. Not so, not so, unless we weep for joy. The cloud that has so long hung over us in blackness is beginning to break. We have experienced more of gladness this day than has been ours since the last report that the Messiah had come was proved false.
Leah. Yes, we have heard strange things since the morning service; joyful news have we for you.
Martha. Another false prophet, no doubt, claiming to be Israel’s deliverer, and proving a thousand times her foe.
Salome. Let us not cheat ourselves with any more fanatical dreams.
Miriam. No dream this; no fanatic’s voice; no prophet’s word, but a message direct from Heaven.
Martha. A message from Heaven!
Leah. ’Tis even so. Listen while I tell you. At Bethlehem, last night, the shepherds were watching their flocks as usual; at midnight they were startled by the sudden appearance of an angel of the Lord, and the shining round about them of an exceeding bright light; and the angel spoke to them. “Fear not,” said he, “for, behold! I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all the people; for unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, even the Messiah.”
Martha. Can this be true?
Salome. But how shall he be known?
Anna. In Bethlehem, did you say? But there is no palace in Bethlehem, where a prince should be born.
Leah. Wait a little: I have not told you all. “This,” said the angel to the shepherds, “shall be a sign to you. Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And, when he had thus said, there suddenly joined him a multitude of the heavenly host; and presently they burst forth into this song,—“Glory to God in the highest; on earth peace and good will towards men!” And with this song they departed.
Anna. This is indeed wonderful!