SET: fairly stark living room; a fireplace, an end table with a nativity crèche and Bible; on the wall a light switch, a cross, a standard tacky American Protestant portrait of Jesus and some framed homily like “God Bless This Home.” Initially dimly lit (enough to make out characters) by a night light.
SANTA CLAUS in traditional garb with sack
REVEREND in pajamas and robe
(Enter SANTA through fireplace with some difficulty and obvious effort; looks around in some confusion)
SANTA This is the right address, isn’t it? Now, where’s my book? (searching about himself)
(Enter REVEREND with shotgun from side; takes up position near table facing SANTA)
REVEREND (fumbling for light switch) Hands up or I’ll shoot! What are you doing in my house? Stealing?
SANTA (putting up his hands in mock alarm) Stealing?! Ho, ho, ho. Quite the opposite, good man, quite the opposite. But where’s your Christmas tree?
REVEREND Tree?! Pagan rites and blasphemy! (finally finds the switch and turns on the light; surprised, he drops the gun and picks up the Bible) You! Spawn of Satan!
SANTA (lowering his arms) Well, spawn of Mr. and Mrs. Johann Claus actually.
REVEREND Do not try to ensnare me with your lies, Evil One. Get thee behind me!
(SANTA starts to move around REVEREND to get behind him, but stops when REVEREND holds the Bible out before him)
REVEREND Stop! You are helpless before the Holy Writ, and Jesus resists you as effortlessly as he did by the waters of Galilee. The signs of evil are manifest to the eyes of the righteous.
SANTA The signs?
REVEREND Do not play the innocent with me. Do you not wear the suit of scarlet, the color of the Devil, the hue of revolution, communism and godlessness, the evil red of spilled blood and violence?
SANTA (looking at himself) I always thought it was merry.
REVEREND Do you not possess the bloated body of the glutton? Are you not a helpless slave of the flesh?
SANTA (patting his belly and chuckling) Perhaps I do carry a few extra pounds, but it’s come to be part of the image – “shakes like a bowlful of jelly” and all that. And the table set by Mrs. Claus.
REVEREND Bride of evil! Whore of Babylon!
SANTA Now wait a minute. Mrs. Claus has never even been to the Middle East, and…
REVEREND Of course she never leaves your vile palace. She is the concubine of the Devil, barren and loathing the company of good women. She shuns the light…like you, whom no man has seen abroad in the bright sun of the day.
SANTA Well, it’s true that I work at night, and in any case it’s usually too cold at the North Pole for me and the missus to want to go out.
REVEREND (contemptuously) North Pole, you say? In truth it is Hell wherein you dwell, the frozen waste that is devoid of light and warmth, that is the lowest circle of perdition. Even heathens, deprived of the Word, have recognized Hell for what it is, a darkling plain of ice and cold and hopelessness. And there you rule, served by your demons.
SANTA (taking a seat on his bag and pulling out a traditional long white clay pipe) Demons, you say?
REVEREND Your evil minions. Your elves. The stunted misshapen creatures you have fabricated to toil in your workshops of greed and temptation. (he strikes a match to light his pipe)
REVEREND (holding up his arms) In the name of Jesus, I command you to stop!
SANTA Oops, sorry. (he puts out the match) I forgot I was in the United States.
REVEREND You’ll not frighten those of God with your fire and brimstone, Sandy Claws.
SANTA That’s Claus, Santa Claus. Or old St. Nick, if you will.
REVEREND (even more animated) Behold, before the righteous he cannot but reveal his true name – Old Nick! You are indeed the Beast, the Evil One who seeks to set his claws in the innocent and to corrupt, especially the children.
SANTA I bring gifts to the children…
REVEREND You fly through the night with your enchanted animals, sneaking into the houses of Christian folk and tempting our children to sin with the toys created by your demons.
SANTA Not at all. I judge who’s been naughty and who’s been nice, and then I…
REVEREND (pointing at SANTA, triumphant) You admit it then, you are the fallen angel! You usurp the power of God, the power to decide good and evil! You dare to judge peoples’ lives, to approve and condemn our deeds, a power that is God’s alone… (he is interrupted by a stomping sound from the roof)
SANTA (looking up) Hold your water, Blitzen. (rises and looks at REVEREND, speaking patiently) It appears that you have never recognized the true spirit of Christmas.
REVEREND (almost raving) Christmas! What blasphemy! Celebrating the birth of the Savior with Mammon, with trees and logs and mistletoe, with greed and gluttony. What have these to do with the Christ? Sweet Jesus, the heathen Japanese even practice your foul rites.
SANTA (gently) Let me give you a gift. (he pulls a toy train out of his bag)
REVEREND (with a bitter laugh, but his eyes are riveted on the train) You seek to tempt me with a child’s plaything?! A toy made by demons?
SANTA Oh, it’s the perfect present for you.
REVEREND (his voice and demeanor are becoming softer, hesitation and doubt become apparent) But I am become a man clothed in righteousness and serve the Lord. I…I need no such silly amusements. I have long ago put aside childish ways.
SANTA Maybe that’s the problem. (extending the train to Reverend, who follows it with his eyes and begins to reach for it) Go ahead. Take it. It’s for you.
(REVEREND hesitates, looking sheepish and beginning to grin; with wide eyes and a big smile he finally, quickly snatches the train and goes down on his knees to play with it on the floor, making appropriate noises)
SANTA (watches for moment, smiling) Merry Christmas, then.
(SANTA picks up his bag and turns toward the fireplace, sizes it up, muttering, then turns back to REVEREND, who is completely absorbed in his playing)
SANTA Hey, sonny, where’s the front door?
(not even looking up, REVEREND points off stage and SANTA exits; fade to black)