It was Christmas time and I was five years old. Many children in the church had been given a verse to recite during the Christmas play, and I was terrified because I’d been given two. I can still remember sitting on the stage – on the hills surrounding Bethlehem – waiting for the curtain to open. There were fake trees behind me, stuffed animals around me, and just offstage there was a real baby Jesus wrapped in a blanket, lying in some hay.
I was positioned behind the center of the curtain, where the two pieces met; and of course, they were parted just enough to reveal a thin line of faces as far as my 5-year-old eyes could see. Pretty scary. I was an angel, wearing a white flowing sheet and gold Christmas garland wrapped around my head. I was dressed. I was seated. And my little heart was beating a mile a minute.
As the curtain finally opened, I was amazed at how big our church looked from the stage. Hundreds... no, thousands of smiling faces looking right at me. Okay, the church could only seat 250, and they weren’t all looking at me. But as I sat there on my boulder, it sure felt like it. And then, it happened. The narrator began reading the Christmas story from the book of Luke, chapter 2, and that was my cue to make my way to the microphone. The little boy before me recited verse 5 without a hitch (did you ever notice how short verse 5 is?). Then it was my turn. It may come as no surprise that I've chosen verses 6 and 7, those verses I recited, to get our focus today. And because I recited them from the Old King James, let's look at these verses from that translation.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first-born Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:6, 7
I wish I could tell you that I rhymed it off without a hitch. I didn’t. I messed up half way through, and in my frustration, started all over again. This, of course, brought chuckles from the crowd and a nervous giggle from me. But I did it. As soon as I sat down, I quickly looked over at the baby. He didn’t seem to mind that I’d messed up, and that made me feel a lot better.
Since that day, I've messed up many times. And each time, I've come back to that Baby, grown into a Man, named Jesus. And instead of bowing before a manger, I've knelt before a Cross. For although God presented Jesus to the world through a wooden manger, Jesus presented me to God through a wooden Cross and the Christmas story just wouldn’t be complete without it. In both places there is hope. And in both places there is grace. But it’s only at the Cross where there is forgiveness.
And that’s exactly what this timid child needs. Not only on Christmas day… but every day.
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