The Babe in the Manger
Three Christmas stories
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
Remembering the Giver
One Christmas a pastor received a telephone call from the school principal, who was a member of his church. His voice was choked with emotion as he asked his pastor for his assistance. On the last day before school was dismissed for the holidays, a six-year-old boy came into his classroom with a note pinned to his tattered coat. It was from his father. The note read, “Please help my son if you can. His mother recently ran off and left us, and last week I lost my job. I’m swallowing my pride for his sake. I have never had to ask for help before, but could you make it possible for him to have a gift for Christmas?”
As the pastor heard that story, he identified with that father’s pain. He agreed to help, and decided to get his own children involved in sharing the gift of giving. That afternoon they went to a grocery store and purchased food for the man and his son. Next, they went to a toy store and each child bought a present for the boy and then went home and wrapped it. Later that afternoon they drove to the small frame house in need of paint and repairs and knocked on the door. When the man opened the door and saw the pastor and his children bearing groceries and gifts, his moistened eyes betrayed his stolid posture.
The little boy, whose eyes were as big as saucers when he saw the gifts, did not first reach out to accept them but rather reached out to the pastor and gave him a big bear hug. He looked up at his face and said, “Thank you, mister. My teacher said you would come. He said that you would come.”
The little boy was just so on target. His attention wasn’t on the gifts but on the giver.
I think the little boy in the story got it right. I can learn from him. This Christmas, not only do I remember the gift of life that the babe in a manger has brought, but I remember the babe in the manger. It is in that relationship with him that I am made whole. It’s in the connection with him that I have my hope. It’s in my yielding to him that I have the promise.
The Camel Had Wandered
Our family has always enjoyed a Christmas tradition of setting out a ceramic nativity scene complete with wise men, camels, shepherds, sheep, and, of course, Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. Each season the nativity scene was the same.
One year when my children were young, I carefully unwrapped each piece and set up an artistic display representing the first Christmas. The children gathered around to watch. We talked about the birth of Jesus and the visit of the shepherds and Magi. Then I cautioned the children, as always, not to touch the pieces, explaining that they were fragile and easily broken.
This year, however, the temptation was too great for my two-year-old daughter, Elizabeth. The day we set up the nativity scene, I noticed several times, with some irritation, that a camel had wandered from its appointed place or a sheep had strayed from the watchful care of the shepherd. Each time, I returned the piece to its rightful place, then tracked down the culprit and admonished her to leave things alone.
The next morning, Elizabeth awoke and went downstairs before I did. When I walked into the living room, I noticed right away that the manger scene had been disturbed again. All the pieces were clumped together in a mass, as tightly as they could be fitted together. Impatiently, I stepped forward to put things right; but I stopped short as I realized that some thought had gone into this new arrangement. All twenty-three figures were grouped in a circle, facing inward, pushed together as if to get the best view possible of the figure resting in the center of them all—the baby Jesus.
The spirit touched my soul as I pondered the insight of a two-year-old. Certainly, Christ should be the center of our holiday celebrations. If we all could draw in around our Savior, not only during the Christmas season but during each day, what a better perspective we would have. The love he offers to each of us would be easily shared with others who have not ventured so close. I left the nativity arranged according to Elizabeth’s design that year. It served as a poignant reminder during the rest of the season of what Christmas is all about.
Two Babes in a Manger
In 1994, two American volunteers answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach Bible-based morals and ethics classes in several schools and institutions, including a home for about 100 orphaned, abandoned, or abused children.
Shortly before Christmas, the volunteers told the children at the home the story of the first Christmas—a story that most of them had never heard before. The children listened in rapt amazement as Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem, found no room in the inn, and ended up taking refuge in a stable, where Mary gave birth to baby Jesus and laid Him to sleep in a manger.
Afterwards the volunteers organized an art project. They gave each of the children a small piece of cardboard to make a manger, part of a yellow napkin to cut up for straw, a piece of beige felt from which to cut baby Jesus, and a scrap of fabric to wrap Him in. As the children assembled their mangers, the volunteers moved around the room, interacting with the children and offering a little help where needed.
When one of the volunteers came to six-year-old Misha, she found that he had already finished his project. But as she looked closer, she was surprised to see two babies in his manger. When she asked him about this, Misha crossed his arms, knit his brow, and began explaining very seriously. For such a young boy who had only heard the Christmas story once, he related it all quite accurately, until he came to the part where Mary put the baby Jesus in the manger. Then he started to ad lib.
“Baby Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told Him I have no mama and 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. But I wanted to stay with Jesus very much, so I thought about what I could maybe use for a gift. 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 said I could stay with Him for always.”
As little Misha finished his story, tears filled his eyes and splashed down his cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, he dropped his head to the table and sobbed. Misha had found Someone who would never abandon or abuse him, Someone who would stay with him “for always.” (Stories sourced from http://homeandholidays.com.)
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