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Emmanuel, God With Us

Two American missionaries were invited by Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics in an orphanage. This orphanage has hundred boys and girls who had been abandoned, abused, and left in the care of government run program. And I want to read this story in the words of one of those missionaries. She writes like this.

“It was nearing the Christmas season, 1994, time for our orphans to hear for the first time the story of Christmas. We told them that Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem. Finding no room in the inn, the couple went to a stable where the baby Jesus was born and placed in a manger. Throughout the story, the children and orphanage staff sat in amazement as they listened. Some sat on the edges of their stools, trying to listen attentively and grasp each and every word.

Completing the story, we gave the children three small pieces of cardboard to make a manager. Each child was given with a small paper square cut from yellow napkins I had brought with me. No colored paper was available in the city.

Following the instruction, the children tore the paper and carefully laid strips in the manger for straw. Then small squares of flannel, cut from the worn-out nightgown an American lady was throwing away as she left Russia, were used for the baby’s blanket. A doll-like baby was cut from thick crafting sheet we had brought.

The orphans were busy assembling their manger as I walked among them to see if they needed any help. All went well until I got to one table where a little boy was sitting. His name was Misha. He looked to be about 6 years old and he had finished his project. And as I looked at the little boy’s manger, I was shocked and surprise to see not one, but two babies in the manger.

Quickly I called for the translator to ask the little boy why there were two babies in the manger. Now crossing his arms in and standing in the front of the manger, the six-year-old boy Misha began to explain his story. He began to repeat his story very seriously. And for such a young boy who had only heard the Christmas story once, he related the happenings accurately — until he came to the part where Mary put the baby Jesus in the manger.

Till that time the story was accurate. Then he began to add his story. He said like this “And when Mary laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked if I had a place to stay. I told him I have no mama, 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 could not, because I did not have a gift to give him like those three wise men and everybody else gave Him. But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much so 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 for you?” 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 as the second baby and then Jesus looked at me and told me I could stay with Him — for always.

As he finished his story his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he cried and cried. The little orphan had found someone who would never abandon or abuse him, someone who would stay with him always — for always. Immanuel.

The Good News of Christianity begins with this assurance that Jesus is Emmanuel, “God with us.” The Christmas story summarizes the incarnation of God with this one name, Emmanuel, for God is with us forever.

As we go through this season of Nativity and going to celebrate this feast of Nativity, let us not forget that God is with us. Why don’t we allow this promise of Emmanuel to strengthen and comfort us even when we go through the darkest and difficult and saddest time of our life? As Archbishop Anastasios of Albania says, “If the truth that “God is with us” becomes the very atmosphere in which we breathe and move every moment of our lives, we will be transfigured through this joyous feast and deified – becoming like Jesus by His grace. Let me repeat and close. If the truth that God is with us becomes the very atmosphere in which we breathe and move every moment of our lives then we will be transfigured and transformed during this joyous feast of Nativity. Not only that we’ll be defied, will become like God by His grace.

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

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