Women of the Manger
A Retreat to Christmas
Goal: Our goal is to take a journey to the manger to renew our faith in the hope, peace, joy and love of Christmas.
Preparation: Set up the room with three to four chairs in small circles so people can share in groups.
Worship Center: Provide a candle so it can be lit to invite in the presence of God. Use your own creativity to add other thoughtful symbols to welcome a meditative atmosphere and encourage reflection.
Readers: Leader, Narrator, Innkeeper’s Daughter, Wife of the Shepherd, Wife of the Wise Man
Supplies: Colorful paper for sharing and keeping thoughts, pens and pencils; whiteboard and dry-erase markers or newsprint and markers for group sharing; a Christmas card, envelope and stamp for each person (card supplies to be handed out as people arrive)
- “Joy to the World,” United Methodist Church Hymnal, page 246, words by Isaac Walts, 1719; (Psalm 98:4–9); Music arrangement from G.F. Handel, 1741, by Lowell Mason, 1848
- “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”
- "There Is A Spirit of Love in this Place"
- “For Everyone Born” from Global Songs for an Emerging Church, page 50, words and music by Mark A. Miller
The Retreat to Christmas: Women of the Manger
Call: O, come. O, come. O, come!
Prayer to Collect
Glorious God, creator of the light of the star, the songs of the angel and the babe in the manger. Gracious God, guide and bless us as we once more journey to the stable with the shepherd and the wise men. Give us the courage and power to share the gifts of the manger so the world will know your glory through the hope, joy, peace and love of the manger through your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Gather (read by Leader):
Welcome to the Retreat to Christmas, Women of the Manger.
We journey to the manger for a fresh look at the story.
We journey to find our manger moments.
Now stand and greet one another with the peace of Christmas.
Find someone you don’t know and take a few moments to share answers to these questions:
What is the true gift you want for yourself this Christmas?
What gift will you take from the manger?
Write down your answers and keep this paper to use later.
Psalm 96, “Declare His Glory”
The Message, by Eugene Patterson
Sing GOD a brand-new song!
Earth and everyone in it, sing!
Sing to GOD—worship GOD!
Shout the news of his victory from sea to sea,
Take the news of his glory to the lost,
News of his wonders to one and all!
For GOD is great, and worth a thousand Hallelujahs.
His terrible beauty makes the gods look cheap;
Pagan gods are mere tatters and rags.
GOD made the heavens—
Royal splendor radiates from him,
a powerful beauty sets him apart.
Bravo, GOD, Bravo!
Everyone join in the great shout: Encore!
In awe before the beauty, in awe before the might.
Bring gifts and celebrate,
Bow before the beauty of GOD,
Then to your knees—everyone worship!
Get out the message—GOD Rules!
He put the world on a firm foundation;
He treats everyone fair and square.
Let’s hear it from Sky,
With Earth joining in,
and a huge round of applause from Sea.
Let Wilderness turn cartwheels,
Animals, come dance,
put every tree of the forest in the choir—
An extravaganza before GOD as he comes,
as he comes to set everything right on earth,
Set everything right, treat everyone fair.
Hymn: “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing”
Scripture reading: Luke 2:4–7
Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
One again we have come to the familiar story.
The child and the manger will always be the center of the story.
Today we look deeper and step back to the edge of the scene.
We listen to the women at the edge:
At the crowded inn, the innkeeper’s young daughter tells us of the night in the stable.
“Yes, my dad said those famous words: ‘There is no room at the Inn.’ It was very busy. I didn’t want to work. I wanted go out into the streets to see all the excitement. I knew the couple was in the stable. I heard my mother whisper, ‘She had the baby.’ I ran out of the house and snuck into the stable. I found a hidden corner and could see the mother’s face. I heard the man call her Mary. Her face was glowing with just a hint of a smile. Gosh, she was barely older than me! The baby was beautiful. I think he smiled at me. A soft light was everywhere. People came from everywhere to see him. Some told of choirs of angels singing glory to God. A star beamed brightly above and some men followed it to the stable. I can’t believe I was there and heard the proclamation: joy, hope, peace and love for all people. Even someone as young as me! Wow—the possibilities! I will share this awesome event! It has changed me. I am a woman of the manger.”
From the fields, the wife of the shepherd shares her story:
“A bright light came into the window as I was cleaning up from the evening meal. I ran up the hill and joined the others. The sky was filled with heavenly bodies telling us of a baby, a messiah, the son of God, born in a manger. The angel said, ‘Go, praise him and honor the baby. He is the new joy, hope, peace and love for all people.’ The angel said all people—even my people, a poor and hardworking people. My husband and the other shepherds decide to go to this place the angel had told them about. Yes, I went with the shepherds. We shared our story with everyone at the manger. I saw the baby and the mother. I heard the promise of joy, hope, peace and love. I found a way to the manger, glorifying and praising God. I am a woman of the manger.”
From the far light of the star, the wife of a wise man begins a new journey:
“My husband and his friends were puzzled by an unusually bright star. They spent many hours studying the charts, looking through scopes and talking about a trip. I was restless and anxious. If he was going on the trip, I was going with them. So three wise men (and I) traveled from the east following the star. The star stopped over a stable. The room was brightly lit by the star, and in the manger was the baby. I saw the pride of the father and the calm of the mother. I heard the story of shepherds, angels and the Glory of God. I heard the message of joy, hope, peace and love for all people. I was changed that night as I received the gift of the manger. I will always share the story. I am a woman of the manger.”
The Manger Today
Three bold women share their story, each from a different culture, each a different age of life. The three women were changed by their journey to the manger and God’s message for all people. The humble place calls us back each year to hear the story of miracles, the mystery and the simple message. The mission of United Methodist Women is inspired by the message of the manger. The love of a justice-seeking God is reflected in the face of the baby. As we live out manger moments we strengthen our faith and our humanity.
During this time of year we all get caught up in the clichés of Christmas: shopping, spending too much money, stressing, wasting time. We lose the message of Christmas. Even the message can become a cliché. We lose Christmas.
Let us share with one another in small groups (of three to four persons) and find a way back to the manger. Let us share our manger moments and once again find the message of Christmas.
Discuss these questions:
- How do you find your way to the manger?
- Share your faith experience of Christmas and the message of the manger.
- Are there manger moments in your life?
- What Christmas event in your life has brought you close to God?
- What signs today lead us to the manger?
- How can we transform the manger message into everyday life?
Come back together to share and discuss answers as a group. Make a list of the top answers.
Find the answer to the following question: How can we find and keep the true message of Christmas?
Personal Manger Moment and Personal Gift of Christmas
At the beginning of our retreat you were asked these questions: What is the true gift you want for yourself this Christmas? What gift will you take from the manger? Take a moment and review your answers. You can add to or change your answers.
Now insert your answer papers into the Christmas card given to you earlier. This card is a gift you are sending to yourself: the true gift of Christmas. Return the card to the leader and she will mail it for you.
Leader: It may not be an angel.
People: It may not be a shepherd.
Leader: It may not be a star.
People: It may not be a wise traveler.
Leader: It is the message of Jesus Christ in the manger.
People: The gift of joy, hope, peace and love of Christmas and always.
“Joy to the World” from The United Methodist Hymnal
or “For Everyone Born,” Global Songs for an Emerging Church, page 50, words and music by Mark A. Miller.
Each year we travel to the manger in Bethlehem to a place of joy, hope, peace and love.
We pray that the light will guide us slowly through this season so we may take the time to fully immerse our beings into the joy, hope, peace and love.
We pray the light of the star will illuminate the corners of the world so we may see the need for the joy, hope, peace and love of this season.
We pray to the light of the star for the peace of the season in our lives, in our families. Peace to all nations and peoples of world.
And gracious God, we pray we go from here with thankful hearts of your blessings that we find at the manger.