One of my most vivid Christmas memories is from my teenage years growing up in Conroe, Texas. Our church always had a “live” nativity scene on the Saturday night before Christmas Eve. The youth played all the characters from the Christmas story. We even had real farm animals; they frequently tried to run amuck, so we really did need extra shepherds to wrangle them. One year I was particularly excited because I was finally old enough to portray Mary and we had a real baby for our Jesus. Five month old Gabe Fisher was just the perfect size for our production, what a cutie he was with his bright red curls. The moms had worked overtime getting the costumes made or repaired. Those Burger King crowns for the wise men were quite spectacular with the jewels glued on. We had several rehearsals, and everything was running according to plan. That was until the night of our production arrived. Temperatures in late December typically hover around a balmy 70 degrees in Conroe; this year we had a crazy cold front blow in and temperatures were closer to 34 degrees. How perfect was that? The temperature was much closer to that in the desert where our Savior was born that holy night. We made our way across the parking lot with our animals in tow; we arrived at the manger in front of the church and I deposited the baby in the manger per the script. Only our baby cried as soon as I put him the straw-filled bin. In that moment, I forgot about the script, ignored the stinky animals and the bright light from the tinsel star overhead. My only concern was to cradle that little baby in my arms, comfort him and keep him warm. Could my pretend experience be so different from what young Mary had some 2,000 years ago? I felt a kinship with her that I never had before or again until I was expecting my own children.
In this beautiful season, where it is so easy to be distracted by shopping, cooking, wrapping, decorating and parties I pray you will make time to find the manger. Imagine what it must have been like to bring that child into this world. Not just any child, but one that would save the world. His time on earth changed everything, but that night He just needed to be cradled and loved.
Wishing you a blessed Christmas season,