The manger in the hand (continued!): an all age talk for Christmas morning 2020

We've done one crib - and we are now going to make a second
The setting for this crib scene is our hand

Place your thumb into the palm of your hand

Your thumb is the baby Jesus, the Son of God, born on that first Christmas day.

He comes into our world of uncertainty, fear, sickness, sin and death.
He became Emmanuel, God with us.
God who is the creator of time, beyond time, comes into time. 'The ancient of days is an hour or two old', as in the old hymn.

God, in his love for us, comes to us as King, as Saviour, as Deliverer: he comes to set us free from sin and death. He comes to give us purpose, freedom, peace and hope.

But he does that not by standing over us and compelling us to believe with acts of wonder and power - although that is in his locker and he can do that - but instead by stripping himself of power and coming among us as a tiny baby, defenceless and vulnerable: dependent on the love of a mother and the protection of a father.

He comes in love for us, and he invites us to receive him - not because we must, but because we freely choose to want to love him.

So look at the tiny child in the manger of your hand. 
You might like to draw him.

And look at the people who came to him. Because your hand is going to become a second crib scene this morning. 

Joseph: who is called to be human father of Jesus. And if you read the first two chapters of the gospel of Matthew, Joseph is the key player. At first he is confused, but then he is given a job to do.

He comes to Jesus because God grabs him, and gives him a specific task to do. He is told to marry Mary. He is told to name the child Jesus. He is given the warning dreams that king Herod wants to destroy the child. He takes Mary and the baby to Egypt and then brings them back to Nazareth.

In the icon of the nativity he is shown brooding in the corner. But that is not how he is portrayed in the bible. In the bible he comes to Christ and takes on responsibility to be the one who humanly protects the child and his mother.

Shepherds. Out in the fields minding their sheep, minding their business. Some of them would have been very experienced. They had seen it all.
But then an Angel, a messenger from God, tells them of the birth of one who will be Saviour and King in Bethlehem.
And, says the angel, this will be a sign to you: He will be wrapped in in cloths and laid in a manger.
And so they come to Jesus out of curiosity: ‘let us see this thing that has happened’.

Wise men. It is their study and thinking and observing that leads them to Jesus. They are the theologians, thinkers, scientists. Their thinking does not take them away from Jesus but leads them to him. And they come to worship him.

And then lastly, in our hand nativity scene, we have the little finger.

This represents Mary
Mary has nothing to offer. She is probably young, inexperienced and quite vulnerable.
But the angel Gabriel comes to her and tells her about the coming of Jesus. 
And Mary simply says yes. She comes to Jesus.
Or more to the point, she allows Jesus to come to her. She receives him. And he comes into her in a quite literal way.

The Orthodox vespers hymn for Christmas states:
What shall we offer Thee, O Christ, who for our sakes hast appeared on earth as man?
Every creature made by Thee offers Thee thanks. The angels offer Thee a hymn; the heavens a star; the Magi, gifts; the shepherds, their wonder; the earth, its cave; the wilderness, the manger: and we offer Thee a Virgin Mother, O pre-eternal God, have mercy upon us.
The icon on the front of our order of service shows Mary. It is called the Yaroslavl virgin of the sign. Mary is looking out and praying. 

And at the centre of her being is Jesus Christ. And he is blessing. 

Maybe you are here, you have come to Jesus, because you have had a specific call.
Maybe you are just curious - what is this Jesus all about?
Maybe you’ve done a bit l of thinking, and you have come to the conclusion that here lies the Son of God
And maybe you are here because you want to receive the gift that God has given you and to offer yourself - your body and your soul - to God.

But whatever, imagine that, in the palm of your hand lies the eternal son of God

I wonder what the most precious thing is that you ever held in the palm of your hands
A jewel, a piece of amazing technology?
Or maybe it is something else - that does not have financial value but it is precious because of what it means to you. Perhaps it is a token of someone’s love. 
There is the story of little girl who wraps up a box for her father. He opens it and finds it empty. He is about to throw it into the bin when she says, 'No Daddy. It is not empty. I filled it with kisses for you.'

And the child who was placed in the manger, is the most precious gift that we could ever have. God bending down and kissing earth.

And so I pray that the child in your hand will become the child in your heart.
That, like Mary, you ask him to come into the very centre of your being

There is a poem which goes,
I used my hand to make a manger, a place for Jesus to lay.
I'll use my heart, so full of love, as a place for Jesus to stay.


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