So The First Noel, the angels did say, was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay . . . was accompanied by a scene showing the shepherds and an assortment of restless little angels bringing the Good News of the Saviour's birth.
Next we sang, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Glory to the New-Born King, and we chuckled at the very serious young angels who took up their position on the stage.
All went smoothly until near the end of the service, when we came to the pièce de résistance which caused the congregation to rock in their seats with tears running down their cheeks.
It was the final carol, that well-loved, Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head . . .
A few minutes before the start of the service, a frantic teacher had come up to me with the news that the mother who was supposed to bring the doll who would represent the Baby Jesus had forgotten it at home! How could we have a nativity scene without Baby Jesus?
Except we hadn't thought of little Joanie* At two-years-old, she was sitting with her mommy in the congregation. During the singing of the carol, she decided to take a closer look at the baby. She toddled to the front, and stood on tip-toe to look into the manger. Without a word, she frowned, turned round and rushed as fast as her chubby legs would take her, down the aisle and into the baby room at the back.
Bump! Bump! Bump!
The baby's head thudded on the floor as the toddler hauled it up to the manger. The little girl proceeded to try and bundle the doll into the straw-filled crib.
Following a nudge from one of the teachers, her shepherd-brother came forward reluctantly. He grabbed the doll and dumped it unceremoniously onto the straw.
And there the Baby Jesus lay for the rest of the service, his curly plastic head sticking out the one end of the manger, and his large pink toes peeping out the other.
Satisfied, little Joanie made her way back to her mother, and slowly the congregation's laughter came under control.
The little girl had brought the message of the day. Without Jesus, there is no Christmas!
In mathematics, the symbol X means an unknown quantity, so how can we as Christians write "Happy Xmas"?
It may be a holiday period, but is this all it's about? A "Happy Holiday"?
Let's take a lesson from that little two-year-old and put Jesus back into the manger.
Happy Christmas everyone!
And may God bless you each and every one as you head towards the year, 2016.
* not her real name
SHIRLEY CORDER lives on the coast in South Africa with her husband, Rob. Her book, Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer contains 90 meditations based on her time in the cancer valley.
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