Summary: When Christians get caught up with the traditions of Christmas, we have a tendency to forget the real reason behind this special celebration - LOVE. If we removed the commercialism from Christmas, would it be the same? I don’t think the world would know w
Illustration - For Always
In 1994 two Americans answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics (based on Biblical principles) in the public schools. They were invited to teach at prisons, businesses, the fire and police departments, and a large orphanage. It was nearing the holiday season for the orphans to hear for the first time the traditional Christmas story. They told them about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem and finding no room in the inn, the couple went to a stable, where Jesus was born and placed in the manger.
Throughout the story, the children, according to one of the Americans, “sat in amazement as they listened. Some sat on the edges of their stools, trying to grasp every word.”
As a follow-up activity to the story, each child was given three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manager.
• Each child was also given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins which the children tore into strips the paper and carefully laid them in the manger for straw.
• Small squares of flannel from a thrown away nightgown were used for the baby’s blanket.
• From pieces of tan felt a doll-like baby was made.
As they made their way around the room to observe the children this is what one of the Americans noted, “All went well until I got to one table where little Misha sat. He looked to be about 6 years old and had finished his project.
As I looked at the little boy’s manger, I was startled to see, not one but two babies in the manger. Quickly, I called for the translator to ask the lad why there were two babies in the manger.” The observer goes on to note that Misha very accurately recalled the story that had been told until he came to the part where Mary put Jesus in the manger.
“Then Misha,” it is noted, “started to ad-lib. He made up his own ending to the story as he said, “And when Maria laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him I have no momma and I have no papa, so I don’t have any place to stay. Then Jesus told me I could stay with him. But I told him I couldn’t because I didn’t have a gift to give him like everybody else did. But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. I thought maybe if I kept him warm, that would be a good gift.
So I asked Jesus, “If I keep you warm, will that be a good enough gift?” And Jesus told me, “If you keep me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave me. So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and he told me I could stay with him – for always.”
As little Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found someone who would never abandon or abuse him, someone who would stay with him – FOR ALWAYS!”
Last weekend I was blessed to play the part of Isaiah in a live nativity production. As I was taking this particular family on a walking tour of the recreated ancient city of Bethlehem, the two small children were impatiently running ahead and peering into spots and places that really weren’t supposed to be part of the tour. The little boy impatiently chased a cat while the little girl stayed fairly close to her momma. After the cat ran off, knowing what was good for him, the little boy was darting about like a dragon fly in mid summer on an open pond. A few calls from dad brought the young lad back to the center of what at least I thought was important.
We went past the Bethlehem Inn where there was no room for the expectant mother of the Christ child. As we approached the live animal stable, I thought this would surely be where I could capture their undivided attention. The little girl stood in amazement at the gentle one month old baby goats. The little boy noticed the small eight month old donkey and they both jumped at the chance to pet the animals. Within two shakes of the goat’s tail, the little boy was off again. He proceeded to the manger scene where Mary and the baby Jesus were.
The little girl was still mesmerized at the preciousness of these little animals and didn’t seem to notice that her brother had left again. I wanted this to be the BIG surprise for the group but now he had jumped ahead of my plans yet again. I watched carefully as the little boy approached the manger. His dad and I slowly walked up behind him to take in his first impression. He walked past Mary and peered right into the eyes of baby Jesus. About half a second later he loudly exclaimed “he’s a fake, he’s not real!”