Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "Silent Night Holy Night"1 (Lyrics)
Matthew 2:9b-11 – And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. (ESV)
My first student church was in the small village of Vermilion Bay in northwestern Ontario, Canada. During my ministry there, I became acquainted with a dear old woman from Denmark. One hot summer afternoon in 1976, she shared the following story with me about Christmas. Although I'm not sure of its authenticity, it could have happened this way, and I have told this story at almost every Christmas Eve service since then.
Every Advent, in a large downtown Presbyterian church, the choir was responsible for setting up the manger scene as part of decorating the sanctuary for Christmas. Prior to the first Sunday of Advent, they retrieved the boxes from the basement and methodically reconstructed the manger scene at the front of the sanctuary.
It was the tradition that all the pieces were put in place except the baby Jesus. The doll representing the newborn King was placed in the manger on the Sunday before Christmas Eve.
The fourth Sunday of Advent arrived, and the baby Jesus was placed in the manger. All was set for the celebration of the birth of Jesus on Christmas Eve.
The choir arrived early to practice for the Christmas Eve service, and following the practice, two choir members went down to check on the manger scene. To their horror, the baby Jesus was missing. They looked high and low for that doll but it could not be found. There was no time to find another before the service began.
The organ began to play O come all ye faithful, and the choir processed down the aisle, walking past the empty manger. The minister welcomed everyone to the service and announced that there would be no baby Jesus in the manger that night. It seems that someone might have stolen the doll.
During the opening prayer, there was a loud banging at the back of the church. Someone was pulling something up the stairs. The church went silent as a little boy walked down the centre aisle pulling a red wagon. As he neared the front of the sanctuary, people could be heard whispering. In the wagon was the baby Jesus. When the boy reached the front of the church, he reached into the wagon, picked up the doll and gently placed it in the manger.
The minister, who by now was standing beside the boy, looked down on him and asked why he had stolen the baby Jesus. Did he not know that it would not be Christmas without Him being there?
The little boy looked up at the minister with his big brown eyes and said, "In our house, we get to open one gift after dinner on Christmas Eve. I opened this red wagon. When I was here on Sunday, I went up to baby Jesus and told Him that if I got a red wagon for Christmas, I would give Him the first ride in it. It's His birthday, you know."
With tears in his eyes, the minister gave the boy a big hug, the congregation cheered, and the organ sounded the beginning notes of Away in a manger. Jesus was returned in time for Christmas.
This story touches at the heart of Christmas. It is about the birth of the Saviour of the world, and it is about giving. The Magi came from afar to offer gifts to the King for Whom they had been searching their whole lives. This boy offered the gift of the first ride in his new wagon.
May this story touch our hearts that we might share it with others and remember the impact that this boy had on others by putting Jesus first in his life.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, once again, we celebrate Your birth in Bethlehem those many years ago. As we hear the familiar story, sing the music of Christmas, and give and receive gifts, may we rejoice in You, the greatest Christmas gift ever. You are the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Amen.