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Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

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Christmas Eve - December 24, 2006

I came across a story, a true story I think, that I thought would be good to share this afternoon.  Back in 1994 two Americans answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics based on the Bible, in some of the schools there.  This was not long after the break up of the Soviet Union so there was more openness to religious ideas.  These two were also invited to go to places like prisons and orphanages.

It was getting close to Christmas that year so they thought it would be appropriate to tell the Christmas story to about 100 children in a government run orphanage, all of the children having been abandoned or abused.  So they told them the story you just heard; about shepherds and angels, about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem, finding no room in the inn so they stayed in the stable where Mary gave birth to a son who was wrapped in bands of cloth and laid in a feed trough. 

The children sat transfixed with amazement and wonder at this story.  Imagine hearing it for the first time!   Like most children, the ones at the orphanage liked to do crafts projects.  There was a shortage of art supplies but each child was given three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger.  There was no colored paper so they found some yellow napkins so the kids could tear some strips off to make straw for the manger.  They had some tan felt so each child was given a piece of that to be the baby and little pieces of a worn out flannel nightgown were use for the baby’s blanket.

As the children assembled the mangers the two Americans and other orphanage workers circulated about the room to see if any needed any help.  After a few minutes one of the workers called one of the Americans over to where little 6 year old Misha sat.  He had finished his project, but inside the manger he had made was not one, but two pieces of tan felt, two babies.

Questioning him through translators, they asked him why there were two babies in the manger.  Well, he folded his arms on his chest and very seriously began to repeat the story he had just heard a few minutes ago.  He’d only heard it once but he related it very accurately as kids can often do when you tell them a story.  But when he got to the part where Mary put the baby Jesus in the manger, he had a different ending.  He said, “Right after Mary put Jesus in the manger he looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay.

“I told him no.  I said I have no mother and no father so I have no place to stay, no home.  Jesus told me I could stay with him.  But I said I couldn’t because I didn’t have any gift for him.  But I really wanted to stay with him so I thought and I thought about what I had that maybe I could give as a gift.  I thought, maybe I could help keep him warm. Maybe that would be a good gift.

“So I asked Jesus, ‘If I keep you warm, would that be a good enough gift?’  And Jesus told me, ‘If you keep me warm that would be the best gift anybody ever gave me.’

“So I got into the manger and Jesus looked at me and told me I could stay with him…for always.”

In the magic and wonder of the Christmas story, that little boy had found someone who would never abandon or abuse him, someone who would stay with him…for always.

          There is much deep, theological significance to the birth of Jesus, the Incarnation of God.  It lies at the center of our faith as Christians.  But a six year old Russian orphan boy may have found all that any of us ever need to know.

Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor

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one such child in my name
welcomes me, and whoever
welcomes me welcomes
not me
but the
one who
sent me.”


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