I often plug products that I’ve found beneficial, especially in the ministry of The Special Gathering, a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  The Christmas musical, A Stranger in the Manger, is a well-written and joy-filled musical that becomes an excellent presentation.  Uplifting and fun songs make the music sparkle.  However, the ballad, “This is Such a Strange Way to Save the World,” is touching enough to leave half of the audience in tears.

The musical is written for children; but it is easily adapted for the disability community, especially for the mentally challenged population.  While the words and music may be more difficult than anything you have tried, it is easy to learn because everyone loves the music enough to work hard.   With children, you can supplement the recorded voices.  However, with a choir of intellectually disabled adults, you will need to leave out the extra voices recorded because the children’s voices will not blend with an adult choir.

Arrangers Johnathan Crumpton and Sue Smith have done an excellent job in translating the gospel story of Jesus’ birth into a fun, teaching experience set to music.

As a “hook” this year, I have used the winter waves on the east coast of Florida that our surfers love.  This makes our play regional.  However, you can insert any event that is peculiar to your area. There may be a Christmas tour for which your community is known or some regional arts festival, the rodeo.  In addition, we are using youth from several local churches.  They are the speakers who are leaving rehearsal to go surf.

This play is divided into 1) speakers–these are the people at the beginning of the play who are reading or speaking the modern-day part of the play. i.e. the surfers and decorators. 2) actors–they are the people who are portraying the  Biblical part of the play, Mary, Joseph, wise men.  3) choir 4) readers–they are the people who read the narration.  Our readers are usually choir members who have not been given solo parts.

Our music and words have come from the wonderful children’s play, Stranger in the Manger, by Jonathan Crampton and Sue Smith, published by Brentwood-Benson Music Productions.   I have included the words to the songs.  They are copyrighted by Brentwood Choral.  You will need to buy the Demo CD and the Split-track practice CD.  There is also a great orchestration CD and books available.  This music is certainly worth the expense.  The music is wonderful.  The words are not childish but can adapt to adults who may have a difficult time learning the choral parts.  Your members will love upbeat, big band sounds. 

A Florida Christmas

By Linda G. Howard

All the actors, speakers, choir, readers and helpers should be out front getting their costumes on.  Speakers who are youth should be helping to do different tasks.  The play will begin at set time but everything (costumes, etc.)  will be out front in full view, rather than in a backroom.  Choir should be ready to get into position on the side of the stage opposite where the actors will be entering and exiting the stage. Everyone is hurrying to get things cleaned up and out-of-the-way at the time that the play begins. 

Speaker 1 (comes out with a bathing suit–possibly a wet suit—swinging in mid-air  and a surf board under his arm and shouts)—Surf’s up!

Several people begin to get up as though they are leaving. They gather up surf boards.  Shouting:  All Right! Let’s go!

(As the Speakers are talking, the choir gets into place. People finish getting actors seated and all the boxes out-of-the-way.)

Speaker 2—(stands)  Wait a minute!  Are you getting ready to leave?

Speaker 1 (coming over to Speaker 2)—Yeah!  This is Florida, Man.  There is surf and we can catch at least a full hour of waves, if we hurry.  (Motions to everyone to leave.)

Speaker 3—(Stands in the way of the surfers.)  You promised to help with our Christmas play.  It’s time to start.  (Sarcasticlly and motioning to the audience.) The audience is here, parents, friends.

Speaker 4—(Standing with speaker 3)  You can’t leave now!

Speaker 5You don’t understand.  We wait all year for the winter waves.  This is Florida.  That’s what a Florida Christmas means waves, waves and more waves.

Speaker 2Come on.  We know better than that.  Sure, Christmas in Florida means waves but it means a lot more.

Speaker 6—He’s (or she’s) right.  We can’t forget the real meaning of Christmas.

Speaker 7—Big deal, a baby, a stranger in a manger.  How does that compare with waves, real winter waves.

Speaker 2—It’s the story telling how much God loves us.  That’s way better than waves.

Speaker 5—Okay, we’ll stay but this better be good!

(As the speakers put their surf boards away, the choir begins to sing.)

1.  Tell Me the Story of Christmas

(chorus)

Tell me the story of Christmas. I love to hear it told.

Every detail of that incredible night.

Never, no, never, ever grows old.

I love the part where the angels are singing

and the shepherds and wise men are worshiping.

I’m ready to hear all the wonderful things That happened in Bethlehem.

So tell me the story of Christmas once again.

 

Good Christian Men Rejoice

Good Christian men, rejoice With heart and soul and voice.

Give ye heed to what we say:

News! News! Jesus Christ is born today!

Ox and ass before Him bow And He is in the manger now.

Christ is born today, Christ is born today.

 

(Back to top and Repeat Chorus)

 

I really love to hear the story get repeated, cause every time you tell about the birth of Jesus,

If someone else can hear about it and believe it,

They’ll find his love.  So if you wait until the middle of November

Or if you sing it from December through December

Just tell the world about His coming and remember the way it was.

(Repeat Chorus)

Hark! The Herald Angels sing

Hark! The herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King;

Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!

Joyful, all ye nations, rise, join the triumph of the skies.

With Angelic host proclaim, Christ is born in Bethlehem!

Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King.

(Repeat Chorus)

Tag–So Tell me the story of  Christmas once again.  Again!

As the song ends, the curtains should open half way.  Mary and Joseph should be on stage by the end of the song.  Holding hands, smiling.  

Speaker 1 to Speaker 5—(They should be carrying the final box of costumes out of the stage area. They stop in the middle of the stage area but on the floor.)  Ahh, maybe this won’t be too bad.  I guess the waves can wait.  (They continue to stand-off to the side on the floor area.)

Joseph:  (Joseph comes to the edge of the stage.  He puts his finger to his mouth and says) Sh-h-h.  (Everyone joins him, including the choir. Joseph puts his hands on his waist and walks to the side of the stage.  Angel walks up to Mary and begins to talk to her.)

Reader 1:       God sent the angel Gabriel to a virgin girl who lived in Nazareth, a town in Galilee.  The girl was engaged to marry a man named Joseph.  Her name was Mary. 

(Mary’s angel leaves. Mary goes to Joseph to talk.  They walk to center stage.)

Reader 2:       Mary was engaged to marry Joseph.  But before they married, Mary learned that she was pregnant with a child by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Mary’s husband, Joseph was a good man.  He did not want to bring shame to Mary before the people.  So he planned to divorce her secretly. 

Speaker 1 to Speaker 5:  (They should be standing on the floor area but still in view of the audience. Speaking loudly.) This is my favorite part.

Except for Mary and Joseph, everyone–including the choir–says:  Sh-h-h.  (Speaker 2 comes and helps them to sit down.)

Mary walks off stage.  Joseph goes to center stage.  He is confused, hurt, and angry.  He sits down and drops his head as though asleep.  Joseph’s Angel comes on stage wakes him up and talks to Joseph. 

Reader 3:  While Joseph thought about these things, an angel of the Lord came to him in a dream.  The angel said, “Joseph, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the baby in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son and you will name him Jesus.

As the Joseph angel exits, Joseph goes and gets Mary.  They stand together talking as the choir sings.

2. The Answer is “Yes”

 (Verse 1)  What do you say to an angel who suddenly appears

With news that’s so surprising you can’t believe your ears?

Do you have to think awhile, or do you tell him with a smile

(Chorus) The answer is “yes” to whatever God says. His plan is all right with me, wherever He leads.

Anytime, any place, I’m gonna obey. He knows that I know that He knows best.  That’s why the answer is Yes.

(Verse 2)  What do you say if you find out

The Father’s calling you for something very special  He’s planned for you to do?

Do you try to run away or bow your head and simply say:

(Repeat Chorus)

(Verse 3)  The answer isn’t “Maybe” or  “Come back and ask me later.”

When you choose between your own will and the will of the Creator

(Repeat chorus)O-o-oh  He knows that I know that He knows best.  That’s why the answer is Yes.  Yes!

Reader 3:  And Joseph did exactly what God’s angel commanded in the dream.  He married Mary.

(Joseph puts his arm around Mary.  Mary and Joseph walk off the stage. Close curtain or the stage should be empty.)

(Shepherds move into place at the front of the stage on the floor.)

Reader 2:    At that time Augustus Caesar sent out an order to all people.  The order said that all people must write their name in a book.  All people traveled to their own towns to be registered.  So Joseph went to Bethlehem in Judea.  Joseph went with Mary.  While Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to have the baby.

(The Angels come out to the shepherds.)

Reader 4:       Some shepherds were in the fields watching their sheep.

Reader 5:       An angel of the Lord stood before the shepherds and said,

Reader 6:       “Don’t be afraid.”

Choir sings “Angels We Have Heard on High.”

3.  Angels we have Heard on High

Angels we have heard on high,

Sweetly singing over the plains

And the mountains in reply,

Echo back their joyous stains.

(chorus) Gloria in excelsis Deo.

Gloria in excelsis Deo.

Come to Bethlehem and see

Him whose birth the angels sing.

Come, adore on bended knee

Christ the Lord, the newborn king.

(repeat Chorus)

Tag:  In excelsis Deo.

After the choir sings, the curtains open, Mary, Joseph and the baby are there.  Choir sings “A Stranger in the Manger.”  Some of the shepherds who can go up the stairs and kneel go up and kneel by the baby.

4.  Stranger in the Manger

(verse 1) There’s a crowded inn in a little town,

At the barn out back shepherds gather around.

As they go inside, they are all bowing down.

What can it be?  Come look and see.

(chorus) There is a Stranger in the manger, out where the animals are fed.

There is a Baby in the hay, we’ve seen, who’s using that manger for a bed.

Why are there songs of joy praising this little Boy?

Telling the reason that He came?

There is a Stranger in the manger, and King

Jesus is His name.

(verse 2) It was long ago. It was far away but we’re still surprised

When we hear it today.

Could the Son of God be asleep on the Hay?

Yes, it is He.  Come and Believe!

(repeat Chorus)

Why are there songs of joy praising this little Boy?

Telling the reason that He came?

There is a Stranger in the manger, and King

Jesus is His name.

Jesus is His name.

Jesus is His name.

Angels should move on to the stage. 

As the music begins for “Walkin’ Like a Wise Man,” the wise men begin to move from the back. 

At first, they should be looking up into the sky, as thought they are  wandering around. 

Then Speaker 7 should come out carrying a large paper star on a stick. He will walk from the floor onto the stage and stand behind Mary and Joseph with the star held hight.   Then WiseMen see the star, point to it and come to the place where Mary, Joseph and the baby are.   They come on stage and kneel on the floor before the baby.

5.  Walkin’ like a Wise Man

(verse 1) Just another moonlit night like many they had seen

But there was something different about the sky above them.

It had to be the brightest star proclaiming heaven’s King

And if they follow, they would surely find Him

(chorus) Three men out searching in the night,

Who walked by faith and not by sight.

Woh-h-h-h   Walkin’ like a Wise Man.

Woh-h-h-h   Walkin’ like a Wise Man.

 (verse 2) Just a humble village where nobody would have guessed

The men would bow in honor of the little Baby.

But as they knelt before the child to offer up their best,

They knew they found the reason for their journey. (Return to chorus then “We Three Kings”)

We Three King

We three kings of Orient are.

Bearing gifts, we traverse afar

Field and Fountain, moor and mountain

Following Yonder Star.

Now everyone who follows Him

Is really walking just like them.

Woh   Walkin’ like a Wise Man.

Woh   Walkin’ like a Wise Man.

 

In the darkness, faith is the key.

When you trust Him, you’ll find you’ll be

Woh   Walkin’ like a Wise Man.

Woh   Walkin’ like a Wise Man.

Woh   Walkin’ like a Wise Man.

Woh   Walkin’ like a Wise Man.

 

Speaker 7 with the star should be on stage standing behind everyone.  Joseph should take the baby and hold him walking around the stage or just standing looking at the baby.  Choir sings, “A Strange Way to Save the World.” All of the speakers should come on stage and bow before the manger during the song.  

6.  A Strange Way to Save the World

(verse 1)  I’m sure he must have been surprised

At where the road had taken him cause never in a million lives

Would he have dreamed of Bethlehem.

And standing at the manger, he saw with his own eyes

The message from the angel come to life.

And Joseph said,

( Chorus) Why me?  I’m just a simple man of trade.

Why Him? With all the rulers in the world?

Why here? Inside this stable filled with hay?

Why her? She’s just an ordinary girl.

Now I’m not one to second guess what angels have to say,

But this is such a strange way to save the world.

(verse 2) To think of how it could have been if Jesus came as He deserved.

There would have been no Bethlehem, no lowly shepherds at His birth.

But Joseph knew the reason love had to reach so far.

And as he held the Savior in his arms

He must have thought,

(repeat Chorus)

Tag:  But this is such a strange way to save the world.

Joseph puts the baby back in the manger.  Speaker 1 goes to Speaker 2 and puts his arm over his shoulder. 

Speaker 1:  You are right this is much better than surfing.

Speaker 2 and everyone else:  Sh-h-h.

Choir sings “When I think of Christmas.”  As each new verse is introduced the person mentioned will leave. 

Verse 1:  Speaker 1 and the other youth (except Speaker 7)  will come and give the baby to Mary. 

Verse 2:  The youth will take away the manger and wave. 

Verse 3:  Joseph will wave and leave.

Verse 4:  Mary will wave and leave.

Verse 5:  Youth holding the star will wave and leave.

Verse 6:  The Angels will wave and leave. (Youth should help them where necessary.)

Verse 7:  The Shepherds will wave and leave. (Youth should help where necessary.)

Verse 8:  The Wise Men will wave and leave.

Verse 9 and 10 the Youth with the star should come back at the star verse.  Last time one of the SpG speakers will pull him off the stage area.

7.  When I Think of Christmas

When I think of Christmas, I think of how God’s only Son came to earth.

When I think of Christmas, I think of how the manger was empty

Till God’s only Son came to earth.

When I think of Christmas, I think of how Joseph was thankful, the manger was empty

Till God’s only Son came to earth.

When I think of Christmas, I think of how Mary was smiling, Joseph was thankful,

the manger was empty Till God’s only Son came to earth.

When I think of Christmas, I think of how a new star was shining bright

Mary was smiling, Joseph was thankful, the manger was empty

Till God’s only Son came to earth.

When I think of Christmas, I think of how the angels sang “Glory,” a new star was shining bright.

Mary was smiling, Joseph was thankful, the manger was empty

Till God’s only Son came to earth.

When I think of Christmas, I think of how the shepherds were frightened,

The angels sang “Glory,” a new star was shining bright.

Mary was smiling, Joseph was thankful, the manger was empty

Till God’s only Son came to earth.

When I think of Christmas, I think of how wisemen came searching,

the shepherds were frightened.

The angels sang “Glory,“ a new star was shining bright.

Mary was smiling, Joseph was thankful, the manger was empty

Till God’s only Son came to earth.

When I think of Christmas, I think of how the whole world is different cause

wisemen came searching.  The shepherds were frightened,

The angels sang “Glory,“ a new star was shining bright.

Mary was smiling, Joseph was thankful, the manger was empty

Till God’s only Son came to earth.

When I think of Christmas, I think of how God’s love is the reason the whole world is            different cause wisemen came searching, the shepherds were frightened,  The angels sang “Glory,” a new star was shining bright.  Mary was smiling, Joseph was thankful, the manger was empty Till God’s only Son came to earth.

Choir Sings:

8.  Finale–Joy to the World

It was, long ago, It was far away but we’re still surprised

When we hear it today

Could the Son of God be asleep on the hay?

Yes, it is He.  Come and Believe!

(chorus) There is a Stranger in the manger, out where the animals are fed.

There is a Baby in the hay, we’ve seen, who’s using that manger for a bed.

Why are there songs of joy praising this little Boy?

Telling the reason that He came?

There is a Stranger in the manger, and King

Jesus is His name.

Joy to the World

Joy to the World, the Lord is Come

Let earth receive her king.

Let every heart prepare Him room

And Heaven and nature sing,

And Heaven and nature sing

And heaven and heaven and nature sing.

He rules the world with truth and grace

And makes the nations prove

The glories of His righteousness

And wonders of His love,

And wonders of His love,

And wonder, wonders of His love

Today is a day I will NOT remember.  I got up at my usual 4:30A.M.  After my prayer time, I went into the kitchen to start a pot of decaf; but instead, I had a text message from my son.  I sat down on the couch to answer the message.  After I pressed Send, I closed my eyes and went back to sleep.

The rest of the morning is a bit of a fog.  I woke up a few minutes before 9A.M. to the sound of cable news.  Sometime during those four hours, I’d turned on the TV and fallen back asleep.

Perhaps this is a good thing that I’m having a forgettable day because the last three days were pretty significant.  In fact, I was so excited about the happenings of Friday, Saturday and Sunday that I awakened at 1A.M. each day and I couldn’t seem to get my mind to stop revolving and rehearsing the events of the coming weekend.

To others, there may not be much significance regarding what happened.  I was directing one of the Special Gathering choirs on Saturday and again on Sunday.  The Special Gathering is a ministry within the intellectually disabled community.  Our mission is evangelism and discipleship.  I’ve been a choir director for a Special Gathering choir for about 22 years now; and I’ve not lost the joy of experiencing their performances.  In addition, they share my excitement about being given the privilege to minister and sing for the Lord.

In contrast, last night, I watched an extremely painful interview with Whitney Houston by Oprah Winfrey.  The painful thing was that Ms. Houston had lost the joy of singing.  Again and again, Oprah tried to pull from her some recognition of sorrow for having lost the opportunity to sing for almost 10 years.  But the only response from this extremely gifted woman was “I had all I needed.  I didn’t need money.  I had everything.  I didn’t need to sing anymore.”

Of course, Ms. Houston wasn’t singing for the Lord and that may have made a difference.  Nevertheless, I could not help but compare the joy The Special Gathering choir has in worship and ministry to this sad woman who “had everything.”

To be honest with you, The Special Gathering choirs are “better felt, than telt.”  Some of the choir members would even be put into the category of  Tone Deaf.  Yet what they lack in talent, they make up with joy and excitement to be serving the Lord.

Forgettable days should happen on occasion and I’m glad that for me it means a day of rest.  But to lose the joy of a new day would be sad beyond imagination for me.

What are the things that give you the most joy in your life?  Are forgettable days times of rest for you?

Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/simplelife/#ixzz1myQZ6EIm

One of my greatest pleasures in life is singing.  My mother came from a singing family.  She, her sisters and brothers sang in harmony all of their lives.  Mother was able to sing a wide range of notes.  She could harmonize in high tenor; but she had been the alto in her family’s singfests.  Some of my fondest memories are when we would sing while washing dishes.  I wasn’t good at carrying the melody when she switched into alto; and that frustrated her.   But I loved singing with her anyway.

My children used to complain that I had a song for every occasion.  If I didn’t know a song that fit the situation, I would make one up or change words to a familiar tune.  By the time my son was a teenage, he had surmised that I always sing when I’m angry, sad or confused.

As I look around Special Gathering, I find that singing within our population doesn’t always mean quality.  Leslie was by far the best choir member I’ve had in many years.  However, the quality of her voice was not great.  She had five or six notes that she could hit perfectly.  Because she had never learned to access her “head voice” which allows you to sing the higher notes on the scales, her range was limited.  Yet, she made up for it with grit, hard work memorizing and staying focused whenever we were singing, either at practice or during a performance.  After the initial training, I don’t ever remember having to say, “Leslie, watch me.”

Yet, Leslie brought what I call the charm factor to the choir.  Her face shined whenever we sang.  She would tilt her head slightly as though she could focus more clearly with her ears at different levels and she would smile.  Hearts of people in the audience would melt seeing the love of the Lord in her face and eyes.

Brenda was the first choir member who taught me the value of attitude and relationship in our singing.  Frankly, she was not a good singer.  In fact, her voice was pretty miserable.  However, her smile was priceless.  Whenever our choir sang, I would put her in front of me trying to shield the audience from her vocal tones.  Then I realized that everyone was coming to her and telling her how much she had blessed them.  I would smile and think about her pitiful singing.  Finally, I realized that her relationship with the Lord was what was blessing the people, not her ability to sing with perfect pitch.

I am constantly working to “build a choir.”  However, it is our members’ relationship with Jesus that blesses people, not their perfect pitch.  Their relationship with Him has taught me the importance of seeking God, not perfection.  When do you think that God is more pleased with us, when we have a bad attitude but perform perfectly, crossing every T and dotting every I? Or when we function out of love and adoration for Him and perform to the best of our ability?

I would have never thought of having a choir retreat.  However, about five years ago, our executive director and the choir director for our Brevard programs felt that there was a need for the choirs to come together for teaching and to learn new music.  It was a great success and made a dynamic impact on the two choirs that I direct.  For the next two years, we coupled our retreat with our teacher/volunteer retreat.  We held the choir event on Thursday and Friday morning and teachers’ retreat on Friday evening and Saturday. 

As the summer approached the next year, we realized that we could no longer afford to pay the expenses of a choir retreat because of rising prices of hotels and meals.   We felt that our choir gives all year; and they should not have to pay for anything.  Sadly, we announced to the choir that we would no longer have our annual  retreat.  The members of our choir came to me and explained that they wanted to have a choir retreat and they would pay their own expenses. 

Last year, we coupled our retreat with a free Saturday excursion to one of Florida’s attractions, planned by the Brevard County Rec Department.  Our South Carolina choir has continued to attend.  This year, the South Carolina choir wanted to go to The Holy Land Experience in Orlando, which cost $35 entrance fee.   Our choirs voted to also pay to attend the park. 

The past two years, we have rehearsed our Christmas music.  Then the combined choirs have sung one of the songs they learned at a church on Sunday morning.  The schedule for the event has been wrapped around scriptural teaching regarding the importance of Praise and Worship and learning the new music.  This concentrated time of teaching has been extremely benefitial. 

The retreat choral practice schedule is deliberately planned.  Our schedule has been:

Friday

  1. Noon–Lunch at the retreat center/unpack luggage and equipment
  2.  1:30–Rehearsal
  3. 2:00–Devotions
  4. 2:10–Rehearsal
  5.  2:30–Refreshment Break
  6.  2:45–Rehearsal
  7. 3:15–Devotions
  8. 3:25–Rehearsal
  9. 3:45–Break and preparation for dinner
  10. 5:00–Dinner
  11. 6:30–Devotions
  12. 6:45–Rehearsal
  13. 7:30–Swimming and Fun time

Saturday

  1. 6:30am–Rise and shine
  2. 7:00–Load luggage
  3. 8:00–Breakfast
  4. 9:oo–Rehearsal (This became an improptu mini-concert for the college students who attend the Bible college at the Retreat Center.)
  5. 9:30–Leave for Holy Land Experience

We tried to keep our rehearsals short, interspursed with breaks and devotions.  Using an education model, with short, intense choral teaching times, people learn more quickly and easily.  By the end of these concentrated rehearsals, it is amazing how much the choirs absorb and learn. 

The choir retreat combines many educational elements which boast the choir members’ ability to learn.  This continues to be an education and inspiration event that lasts during the entire year.  Here are several of the benefits that we have seen grow from this retreat.

  1. The choirs are rewarded for their hard work during the year.  Even though the choir members have offered to pay most of the expenses of the retreat  for the past two years, this experience has given them a sense of joy knowing that the Lord is pleased with their efforts.  This positive reinforcement encourages the choir all year long.
  2. The choir is taught scriptural benefits and importance of praising God.  They begin to understand that their effort have eternal consequences.
  3. The concentrated rehearsals enhance their ability to learn.
  4. Our schedule of alternating hard work of learning words and music with a relaxing break–singing, break–makes this learning experience fun and effective.
  5. We are able to teach them that even during the times that they are not standing in front of an audience, they are worship leaders.
  6. They are impressed with the importance of the ministry God has entrusted to them.

Working with a choir is one of the most beneficial things I do within Special Gathering.  In fact, over the years, I separated my choir times and counted them as part of my personal ministry rather than my ministry for which I am paid. 

What is something that you have learned that enhances your ability to teach your choirs?

Today, 28 people traveled to Hudson, Florida for our choir retreat.  Our members were overwhelmed by the positive and wonderful response that they received by the Bible College student at Word of Life.  We could never thank them enough for their gracious response to us.

While our population is a cloistered sub-culture, it is not always by their choice.  Yes, they love being together and sharing among themselves.  However, when people show them gracious and loving hospitality, they are exceptionally complimented and feel that love. 

We will never be able to thank the students from Word of Life enough for singing with us for hours.  Playing pool and swimming with us was so much fun.  We hope that they will come to visit us.  Of course college students are always strapped for gas money.  However, we never know when God is truly working in the hearts of people and perhaps even drawing people toward ministry within this important population.

In the meantime, thank you, students for loving us and showing such hospitality!

Here is the play that The Special Gathering of Indian River will be using this year.  It may be a good steal for you.  The music is taken from other stuff and doesn’t seem to be a good fit for learning.  However, you can plug in Christmas Carols.

Arise, Shine

by Linda Howard

copyright 2009

Choir is in place.  The choir sings, “Arise, Shine.” (Shepherds will cross the front area or move across the stage.  Some shepherds come in pairs.  Some of the shepherds should walk alone.)

Shepherds leave.

Reader 1:       For many centuries, the Jews had waited for the Messiah to be born.  Even Isaiah spoke about the Messiah.  He prophesied to Judea, “Arise, shine for your light has come.”  God had a plan to send His Son to earth in the fullness of time; but only God knew when that would be.  Few people understood that the Messiah would come as a baby, born in a small village town, a few miles from Jerusalem.   Even more, God intended that a virgin girl would give birth to this wonderful child.

Reader 2:  God sent the angel Gabriel to a virgin girl who lived in Nazareth, a town in Galilee. 

Mary comes out and kneels in prayer against the bench.  She should be facing the audience.)

Choir sings, “On Bended Knee”

Angel will come on stage.  He will be facing the audience but he will be facing Mary’s back.  She will not be able to see him.

Angel will touch Mary’s shoulder and help her stand.  They will stand together.  As the choir sings verse 2 two times.

The Angel leaves.

Reader 3:  The girl was engaged to marry a man named Joseph.  Her name was Mary.  

Mary sits on the bench.  Joseph comes out and Mary goes to him and gestures to explain about the angel.   As they talk to each other, they move around the stage.

 

Reader 1:       Mary was engaged to marry Joseph.  But before they married, Mary learned that she was pregnant with a child by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Mary’s husband, Joseph was a good man.  He did not want to bring shame to Mary before the people.  So he planned to divorce her secretly.   

Sadly, Mary leaves the stage.  Joseph paces around but finally puts a blanket on the floor and goes to sleep.  An angel comes on stage, Angel motions as though talking to Joseph.  Joseph acts surprised.

Reader 3:       But an angel came to Joseph in a dream.  The angel said, “Don’t be afraid to take Mary to be your wife.” 

Choir sings,  “Fear Not.”

When choir finishes, the Angel leaves.  Joseph walks to the back of the stage to get Mary.  They walk to center stage.  Joseph puts his arm around Mary and points to heaven.  They hug.  Then they walk off the stage.  The curtain closes.  Mary and Joseph walk on to the floor to the center of the room.  Back stage crew should set up table and three chairs.

Reader 2:    At that time Augustus Caesar sent out an order to all people.  The order said that all people must write their name in a book.  All people traveled to their own towns to be registered.  So Joseph went to Bethlehem in Judea.  Joseph went with Mary.  While Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to have the baby.  She gave birth to her first son, Jesus.

On the floor, Mary and Joseph come out carrying a cloth bag.  They walk across the front.  OR THE WALK IN FROM OF THE CURTAINS ONSTAGE.   They stand together as the choir sings:  “More of You.” 

Mary and Joseph walk toward back stage.  They disappear behind the stage area.

Curtain opens.  Three shepherds are on stage sitting at a table with three glasses.   An  inn keeper comes on stage.  The innkeeper has an apron on and she is carrying a pitcher and pretends to refill the glasses.  As she refills the glasses, they begin to talk.

Shepherd 1:       It’s going to be another long night out in the fields watching our sheep. 

Inn keeper:        Watching sheep would be better than staying here with all these people coming in to town to register to pay their taxes. 

Shepherd 2:       What was Caesar thinking?  All these people commanded to come to our small town of Bethlehem. 

Innkeeper:         It’s the best year at the inn that I’ve ever had.  I’m completely full.  No one else can get into this inn or any other inn in town. 

Shepherd 3:       Yeah and I’ve been selling my sheep to the visitors.  Business is booming.

Shepherd 1:       Well, I don’t like having all these strangers here in Bethlehem.  Anything could happen.

Shepherd 2:       Oh, sure, the heavens could open up and angels could give us a message from God.

Shepherd 1:       Don’t be dumb.  That’s not what I’m talking about.  I mean thieves and robbers.  I don’t like strangers. 

Shepherd 3:       Come on, Caleb.  Enjoy the extra money all these visitors have brought to us.  Don’t be so gloomy. 

Shepherd 1:       (turning to innkeeper) Sarah, if you are full, what will you do if there were an emergency?  What if someone comes in and is about to have a baby?

Innkeeper:         Like that is going to happen.  Hey, if it does, I’ll send them to the stables.  After all, it’s warm and clean.  They would even have some privacy.

 

Shepherd 2:       Well, we have to leave.  Don’t want to miss the angels. 

 (Everyone laughs.)

Innkeeper:         You shepherd have been in the fields too many nights.  You are acting crazier every day.

Shepherds leave.  Mary and Joseph come on stage into the inn.  The innkeeper points them to off stage.  The curtains close.  Choir sings “Salvation Lies in a Manger.”

 

During song, as soon as possible, then manger is set up.  Mary and Joseph return to the stage.  As soon as the manger is set up and Mary and Joseph are settled, open the curtain.  Mary should be holding the baby but, after the curtains open, she puts the baby in the manger.

Salvation Now Lies in a Manger

Salvation now lies in a manger,

Surrounded by straw and beasts of the field

And He shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor,

Almighty God, Eternal Father, the Prince of Peace.

He’s the Messiah.  He’ll reign forever.

He’s the Messiah.  He’ll reign forever.

He’s the Messiah.  He’ll reign forever.  Amen

As the choir sings, shepherds should move to the front area off stage.  When shepherds are in place, the reader begins.

Reader 3:       Some shepherds were in the fields watching their sheep.

Reader 4:       An angel of the Lord stood before the shepherds and said,

Reader 5:       “Don’t be afraid.”

Choir sings “Glory” (Song 6)  

Glory

Song 6

 Al le lu ia, Glory to God.

Glory to God and Peace on Earth. (2xs)

Go to Bethlehem and find the babe

Yes, let us rejoice with gladness

For our God now dwells on earth.

 

During the song, all the angels appear.  They should point the shepherds to the manger.  Shepherds go to the edge of the stage.  The three speaking shepherds SHOULD NOT go on stage and the choir sings, “No Higher Calling.”

No Higher calling

Song 7

Down at your feet, O Lord, is the most high place,

In your presence Lord, we see your face. 

We see your face. (2xs)

There is no higher calling, no greater honor than to bow and

          kneel before you, Lord.

I’m amazed by your presence, embraced at your meekness,

O Lord, I live to worship you.

 Some of the angels and shepherds  will go on stage.  The shepherds on stage kneel before the baby.  (IMPORTANT NOTE:  Be sure to choose shepherds who can kneel to go on the stage!)

Reader 3:       Wise men came from the East to worship the new born king.

As the music begins for “We Journey Afar.” The wise men begin to move from the back.  They come on stage and kneel before the baby.

We Journey Afar

Song 8

We journey a-far to find a new babe.

The King of the Earth has been born

His star has appeared in the vast western sky

The King of the Earth has been born.

We will find him, find him

Our journey won‘t be in vain.

We will find him, find him,

The king of the earth has been born

From the shepherds on the floor come the three talking shepherd and the innkeeper.  They walk to the center in front of the stage

Innkeeper:      You will never believe what happened to me tonight.  A young woman came into the inn and she was about to have a baby.  I had to rent out the stable to them. 

Shepherds (together):  Oh, we believe you. 

Innkeeper:      Hey, why are you back here?  Aren’t you supposed to be in the fields with the sheep?

Shepherd 1:    Hey, you will NEVER believe what just happened to us.  Remember, the prophet Isaiah said, “Arise, Shine.  For your light is come. The Lord’s glory will shine on you.”  WE can hardly believe what just happened to us.

Choir sings, “Arise, Shine.”  Choir moves from their places and shakes the hands of the people.