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« One for the World | Main | Critical Truths About Jesus »

Christmas for Me

Two Babes in a Manger

by: Author Unknown, Source Unknown

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. About 100 boys and girls who had been abandoned,abused, and left in the care of a government-run program were in the orphanage. They relate the following story in their own words:

It was nearing the holiday season, 1994, time for our orphans to hear for the first time, the traditional story of Christmas. We told them about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem. Finding no room in the inn, the couple went to a stable, where the baby Jesus was born and placed in a manger. Throughout the story, the children and orphanage staff sat in amazement as they listened. Some sat on the edges of their stools, trying to grasp every word. Completing the story, we gave the children three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger. Each child was given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins I had brought with me. No colored paper was available in the city.

Following instructions, the children tore the paper and carefully laid strips in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel, cut from a worn-out nightgown an American lady was throwing away as she left Russia, were used for the baby’s blanket. A doll-like baby was cut from tan felt we had brought from the United States. The orphans were busy assembling their manger as I walked among them to see if they needed any help.

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. Crossing his arms in front of him and looking at this completed manger scene, the child began to repeat the story very seriously. For such a young boy, who had only heard the Christmas story once, he related the happenings accurately-until he came to the part where Mary put the baby Jesus in the manger.

Then Misha 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 mamma 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 nor abuse him, someone who would stay with him — FOR ALWAYS.

And so, I would like to speak to you this morning on this subject:


Re-Writing the Christmas Story

We have Rudolf, Frosty, the Little Drummer Boy, Santa Claus, Amahl and the Night Visitors, …we even have Mrs. Claus (if you don’t believe it, ask Sis. Carls) Now we have two babes in the manger. I think we can re-write the Christmas story.


Luke 2:7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Matthew 2:9-10 “And, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

Of all the stories, essays, research papers, poems and songs that have been written about the true meaning of Christmas, one point of view seems to be espoused by the author or composer. They all want to tell you what they think, and therefore, what you need to think about Christmas. This can be a problem. It’s not that I don’t understand them, or even that I don’t agree with most of them.

In fact, all of their viewpoints may be correct. Or, some of them may fit. Or, none of them work. We could even say that one view may work for you today, but another one may work tomorrow.

No, the problem is that it is impossible to assign someone else’s view point to yourself, sort of as a one size fits all garment. We are all different from one another. Some of us are really different! And, anytime someone says to you, “That’s different,” don’t take it as a compliment!

Sometimes, I am overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the differences in people. Red and yellow, black and white. Tall and thin and short and…pleasingly plump. Big ears, little noses, bowlegs and knock knees. Curly, straight, combed and…bedheads! Black hair, red hair, white hair and no hair. Straight teeth, crooked teeth, false teeth and no teeth! Freckled, wrinkled, bumpy and smooth.

And that’s only a few things on the outside.

On the inside, there are people who are happy, sad, smart, dull, light-hearted, serious, loving, hateful, generous, stingy, pleasant, grouchy, neat, messy… and on and on.

Sitting with us today, maybe right next to you, are people who may look like everyone else on the outside, but on the inside they are confused, hurting, tired, troubled, sick, worried, disappointed, abused, scared and lonely.

If you are one of those people, there is a special meaning for Christmas for you, and you alone. All I am asking you to do today is look close enough. Somewhere, you will see yourself in the familiar plot we call the Christmas story. Listen close enough and you will hear God speaking into your life.

But how would you write yourself into this story of two millenniums ago? Where do you fit in? Maybe you can’t see yourself lying in the manger with the Holy Child, like little Misha, but you can see yourself traveling with the entourage of the Magi. Maybe you are the Fourth Wise Man.

The Priesthood of the Medes

The ancient Magi were a line of priests of the Medes who supposedly had profound and extraordinary religious knowledge. The Persian King Darius established them over the state religion of Persia. Some think that the prophet Daniel revealed a Messianic vision (to be announced in due time by a “star”) to a secret sect of the Magi for its eventual fulfillment.

One of the powers of the Magi, was to make the absolute choice and election of the king of the realm. It was a group of Persian—Parthian “king makers” who entered Jerusalem in the latter days of the reign of Herod. Herod’s reaction was understandably one of fear because he knew they had this power. Not only that, but Herod was a sick man, and at the time of the birth of Christ, he may have been close to his final illness. He knew that he was vulnerable, and that any moment he could be overthrown and lose his kingdom.

Now, here come these wise men, traditionally named Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, probably accompanied by an armed escort. It was enough to alarm King Herod and all of Jerusalem.

But, it doesn’t really matter what Herod thought. What mattered was that three men, educated, intelligent, yet spiritually sensitive and seekers of truth, were on a pilgrimage to find the ultimate answer.

How many times had they been disappointed in the past? How many times had they chased other stars that led to nowhere? How many times had they been turned off by people and ideas that held out great promises but delivered nothing but shallowness and ignorance? Was this going to be another exercise in futility?

I wonder if anyone here today identifies with the wise men?

One of the goals I’ve always had in my ministry was to try to reach out to the questing minds of people searching for truth. When I have preached or taught, I have always been aware of skeptics in the audience who were analyzing every word I said. It is very possible that there are people listening to me right now who taking everything I say with a grain of salt. You’ve been there, done that, didn’t want the tee-shirt. Even when you’re not trying, you still manage to poke holes in every sermon, every song you hear.

How to reach the wise men: It’s always been a problem. Paul tried, but couldn’t reach them on Mars Hill in Athens.

“Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.” Acts 17:18

In fact, Paul wrote to the Corinthians about it.

“For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-29.

If you are a high IQ person, you may have a tendency to doubt matters of faith. This Pentecostal experience is the last thing you would consider for yourself. You may be put off by emotional responses or by worship that seem over-the-top to you. You pride yourself in not being gullible or shallow.

But underneath that stony exterior, you know you are restless and unfulfilled. You still have a deep-seated hunger to know truth. You know you could be moved if God spoke to you in some unmistakable way.

The problem is that you have steeled yourself against that moment for so long and with so much effort, that to give up seems more like betrayal than enlightenment.

The Apostle Paul found himself in the same boat. Intellectual, skeptical of anything different, invested in his career…he needed something more than chiding or scolding. He needed an experience with God. That’s exactly what God had in mind.

“And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” Acts 9:3-6

I want to assure someone today that you don’t have to abandon your ability to think in order to receive the gospel. You can be a doctor, a lawyer, a professional in your field and be filled with the Spirit of God. You can pursue a higher education, you can be a successful and accomplished person in this world and still be a disciple of Christ’s. The only thing you have to do is recognize that Jesus is the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, the only wise and true God. God has an experience for you that will eclipse the highest goals you’ve ever reached.

Maybe you say, Pastor, that’s not where I’m at. Don’t confuse me with the wise men. I’m more like the shepherds who pulled the night shift, watching their flocks in the field while everyone else slept. Maybe you are one of the Other Shepherds.

Middle Eastern Shepherds

I think some of us would be surprised if we knew the truth about the shepherds in those days. They weren’t wealthy sheep farmers or high-tech animal experts. These shepherds were not even like the Good Shepherd that we read about in John 10.

In the Middle Eastern culture at that time, many shepherds were either slaves of wealthy families who hired them to care for their herds of sheep or they were gypsy-like vagabonds traveling from region to region selling their sheep. Either way, shepherds in those days were barely noticeable, rarely loved and largely societal outcasts. In fact, many people were highly suspicious of shepherds, and the common stereotype thrown around was that there were really thieves and should not be trusted. That is why, most often, shepherds rarely ventured into town.

I read recently where one man wondered if the angel Gabriel might have questioned God about making this all-important announcement to a band of shepherds who were more accurately described as gypsies? “O Majestic One, why shepherds? Can’t we go and tell the political leaders, the pontificating preachers, or at least the pious believers? Can’t we go and tell people who really matter?”

A lot of us are saying, “You got it right, Pastor. I’m a lot more like the shepherds than anyone else.

You don’t think you matter.

You live a hand-to-mouth existence, just trying to survive.

You work hard, raise your family, don’t expect special attention, and just hope you can make it one more night with the sheep.

You’re here today, but you live life on the ragged edge.

Miss one paycheck, fail to make one mortgage payment and you’re in serious trouble.

You drag yourself out of bed when you’re grimacing from pain or shivering with a fever because you can’t afford to miss a day of work.

Christmas is a tough time for you. You can’t make it as nice and festive as so many others can. You say “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,” but you’re thinking that Christmas is anything but merry and a “happy new year” is a joke.

But wait. These ragtag dregs of humanity, these outcasts from proper society, these shepherds were in full view of the purpose of God that fateful night. Why? Why did the message of the One born in Bethlehem, go out to the shepherds instead of Kings and Princes? Because God knew that the shepherds knew how to respond.

“And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.” Luke 2:15-17

You see, shepherds, abiding in the fields were trained to look into the evening sky. They knew the star formations and the brightness of the moon, the significance of the cloud cover. They could predict the weather by the direction of the winds and could recognize when things were different. They had the time. They made time to gaze at the wonder of the galaxies and majesty of the evening sky, to see the natural, to anticipate the supernatural.


God counted on the shepherds to go. The shepherds were unhindered. They owned little, had no agendas, no social obligations, indeed they didn’t even have to register for the census which brought Mary & Joseph to Bethlehem for they were not considered as people to be counted in the Roman tally. They were insignificant.

Can you see yourself huddling with the shepherds? It does not matter to God what your past is as long as you are willing to give him your future. He can reach down to any level. He can rescue you from any depth. He can cleanse you from any sin.

God is not interested in your pedigree, or your achievements, or your influence.

God doesn’t care whether you’ve passed your tests, shook the president’s hand or have two nickels to rub together.

“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Revelation 22:17

Bethlehem’s Innkeeper

But, you can’t see yourself with a flock of sheep. You can’t see yourself riding on a camel from the East, or sharing the manger with Jesus. Maybe you are the Assistant Innkeeper. Maybe, instead, you can see yourself cracking open the window of your room in the inn and peering down on the commotion below in the stable, with considerable irritation, I might add.

Yes, you just showed Mary and Joseph to the barn and bolted your door shut from the inside, safely hidden from the mass confusion out there. “I sure am glad for my own, cozy little place,” you smile.

Life is good. Full house, full stomach, full treasury. You feel bad about people who are down on their luck, but, as the saying goes, “the failure to adequately plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”

You don’t anticipate going to bed hungry anytime soon. You have enough clothes to last a lifetime, and you wouldn’t buy any more if it weren’t for keeping up with the fashion world, or at least, with the Joneses.

You haven’t prayed a whole lot in recent years. You haven’t had to.

You haven’t fasted much lately, because, to be honest, it makes you too hungry.

You haven’t come to church that often, because…oh, you just keep forgetting what day of the week it is. I mean, life is really, really busy.

And, you just don’t get that much out of reading the Bible.

You have dropped off paying your tithes and offerings in the last year or two, because…well, the church seems to be doing okay without your money.

I wonder if you identify too much with the innkeeper.

I’m guessing that word eventually did reach the innkeeper. He heard about the shepherds and angels and kings. He heard about the star, and about the identity of the little urchin that the woman from Nazareth was going to have that night.


Richard Ruddle’s play, “No Room in the Inn” has an interesting part about this”


Concierge: (Approaches desk again): I’ve got a “lulu” for you this time. There’s a guy out back with an extremely pregnant wife and no cash. I don’t think their donkey will make another mile. He’s asking for whatever room we have available.

Manager: Tell him there is no room in the
Inn! I feel for him, but I couldn’t squeeze another person in here if he was the Messiah himself come to save me.

Concierge: Okay boss. (Leaves talking to self) I really hate to turn him down though. Oh well!

Bell Man: (Returns from Donkey Daves’ and again approaches the desk) On the way in, I noticed that the hotel limo needs a wash job.

Manager: There’s always a group of shepherds abiding in the field next to the
Inn. Take the chariot down there to them and have it detailed. And tell that little drummer boy to stop beating that thing underneath my window every night. It’s making me crazy!

Funny. But not. I want to speak to someone hiding out in the inn today.

Are you in your self-sufficient, no-problem suite on the first floor of life? Are you thinking, “Why do I need God?” The very one you are squeezing out of your life is the very one who gives you life. The one you have no room for is now “preparing a place for you” that where he is, there you may be also.

I am appealing to someone today. You know who you are. You have aligned yourself with a world that has successfully forced God out of its life and it seems that it’s okay.

But, I’ve come today to issue a clarion warning to all:

You cannot thrive without God in your life, and, ultimately, you will not survive.

We live in a nation that has coasted for years on the power of its moral past.

But we haven’t put any money in the moral bank for a long time.

We’re running out of cash.

The Judeo-Christian foundation that has kept us afloat is on its last legs.

Our colleges and universities have declared war on morality and they have won.

The entertainment industry has blasted our moral foundations until they no longer exist.

The corruption of Western civilization is nearing completion.

This is painful for a Christmas message, but it’s necessary.

If you don’t have room for Jesus, you’d better build one.

Better yet, it’s time to surrender your own room to him.

Yes, you are there.

Somewhere, in the fields, on the roads, in the inn, among the animals or in Bethlehem’s streets, you are there. Out of the midst of a traditional, well-traveled story, a unique voice speaks to you today.

God sees you in your special set of circumstances today. Like little Misha, he may be looking at you from the manger. Or, he may be looking at you from his altar in the Garden of Gethsemane. Or, he may be looking at you from his cross. He knows where you are. His eyes seek you out, even though you may think you have made yourself invisible from everyone.

God sees you in your world.

You need to see yourself in the world.

What you really need today is to see God in God’s world.

You need an Isaiah experience.

“In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.” Isaiah 6:1-8

Three chapters later, this same prophet, Isaiah, wrote these immortal words:

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” Isaiah 9:6-7

When you find yourself in the Christmas story, you will find God. When you find God, you will discover that he has already found you.

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