Almost thirty years ago, when political tensions were not high, two Americans answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics based on Biblical principles. They were invited to teach in the public schools, at prisons, businesses, the fire and police departments, and a large orphanage.
As it was nearing the holiday season, the orphans got to hear for the first time the traditional Christmas story. They were told about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem and finding no room in the inn, taking shelter in a stable, and there Jesus being born and placed in a manger. The children sat on the edge of their seats in amazement as they listened, trying to grasp every word. As a follow-up activity to the story, each child was given three small pieces of cardboard and told to make a manger. They were also given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins, to be torn into strips and carefully laid in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel from a thrown away nightgown were used for the baby’s blanket. From pieces of tan felt a doll-like baby was made.
As the two Americans made their way around the room to observe the children, all was going well until they got to one table where little Misha sat. He looked to be about 6 years old and had finished his project. As they looked at the little boy’s manger, they were startled to see not one, but two babies in the manger. They called for the translator to ask the lad why there were two babies in the manger.
Misha very accurately recalled the story that had been told until he came to the part where Mary put Jesus in the manger. It was then that Misha began to ad-lib and make up his own ending to the story: “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 momma 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.”
Misha had found someone who would never abandon or abuse him; someone who would stay with him – “FOR ALWAYS!”
In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the Christmas Season, I pray you will take the time to recall the story, experience the warmth of the Savior, and give him the greatest gift of all – yourself.
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be on his shoulders; and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.”