In 1994, two Americans answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics, based on Biblical principles, in various institutions. One place they visited was a large orphanage. It was nearing the holidays, and they introduced the orphans to the traditional Christmas story for the first time. They told them about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem and finding no room in the inn, and that Jesus was born in a stable and placed in the manger.
Throughout the story, the children sat in amazement as they listened. Some sat on the edges of their stools, trying to grasp every word.
As a follow-up activity, each child was given three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger. Each child was also given a small square of paper, cut from yellow napkins which the children tore into strips and carefully laid in the manger for straw. Small pieces of flannel from a thrown away nightgown were used for the baby’s blanket.
As they made their way around the room to observe the children, one of the Americans noted that all went well until he got to the table where little Misha sat. He looked to be about 6 years old and had finished his project. As the American looked at the little boy’s manger, he was startled to see not one, but two babies lying there. Quickly, he called for the translator to ask the boy why he had reconstructed the story in this way.
Misha spoke through the translator and very accurately recalled the story that had been told until he came to the part where Mary put Jesus in the manger. Then Misha started to ad-lib. He made up his own ending to the story and said that when Mary laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at him and asked if he had a place to stay. Misha told Jesus that he had no mama or papa, and no place to stay. Then Jesus told Misha that he could stay with him. Misha said he couldn’t stay with Jesus, because he didn’t have a gift to give him like everybody else did. But Misha told the translator that he wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so he thought about what he had that maybe he could use for a gift. Then he had an idea.
He asked Jesus, “If I keep you warm, will that be a good enough gift?” And Jesus told Misha that would be the best gift anybody had ever given him. “So,” Misha said, “I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and he told me I could stay with him — for always.”
As Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed. The little orphan boy had found someone who would never abandon or abuse him, someone who would stay with him — for always.
This manger scene was different. But it fits right in with the story of Christ’s birth. As the Bible says, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
Did you get that? You and I are orphans, but Jesus has come to adopt us.
I don’t know what you got for Christmas, but it doesn’t compare with what the Christ of Christmas has for you.