It was in one of these that we put our manger scene.  It was glass encased down the floor.


We heard the Pastor say as he had said so many times before that God was with us as Father Son and Holy Spirit and we responded with Amen
We heard the old battle cry turned into a Gospel of peace from Isaiah – 5For every trampling boot of battle and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. 6For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be upon His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor,Mighty God, Everlasting Father,Prince of Peace.7Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from that time and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of Hosts will accomplish this.…
The little ragged church became many things that night. It was an outpost in the old Judean hills where, as one poet has written “David waited for the dawn a thousand griefs ago”. It became a stable where cold shepherds with rude hands came and worshiped the prince of peace. We became shepherds if only for a while that night and we gazed in adoration on a manger in a dunking pool for baptisms. It was strange and surreal and appropriate at the same time. The new birth of baptism is made possible and made powerful by this birth in the manger and the prince of peace, born to die, begins the work of reconciling the world to God. We became part of the whole mass of humanity lost in sin and so we confessed as we always do.

Even though part of the mass of sinful humanity the message always goes back to you and me. Individuals. God so loved the world always needs to be miniaturized to God loves me. There is room at the manger for me. He is born in that manger for you and for me – simple wayward, sad, joyful, folks that need that prince of peace.

WE all spoke together Psalm 98. (Psalm 98) I had a place in the back of what I guess could be called the stage. I could see the dunking pool and I could see the congregation. Transformation was rampant that night and even the crusty, cranky old miners seemed to be transfigured by the light into happier and more joyous creations. Our Pastor was animated and excited and everyone seemed anxious to hear and respond. Even those who had bad years and illness, tough times and set backs were smiling and seemed happy. They were ready to listen and to hear the message again because they understood that God was speaking to them –

Hebrews 1:1–6 (7–12) Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”?
Or again,
“I will be to him a father,
and he shall be to me a son”?
6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,
“Let all God’s angels worship him.”
And they did. We didn’t have many angels for out presentation of the story – we had no wise men, they would wait for epiphany, we had a Shepherd and Mary and Joseph. Nestled down in the dunking pool. From where I stood I could see that one of the angels had fallen into the pool. No harm done. She stood adoringly staring at the baby in the manger standing on top of a bunch of feather pillows that surrounded the scene. Evidently our teachers had imagined children falling head first into the drained pool and figured out the pillow concept after living in fear of what could happen for a couple of weeks
Don’t we all. We live in fear. The old ones called it darkness and the shadow of death but it is the same old thing -fear. Fear of past and present and future, fear of war and pestilence and death; just plain old fear. If something can go wrong it will, even on a holy night when we celebrate God’s gift. And so we live and yet we have the angel announcements about Jesus – Life and light to all he brings ………

I got to stand where I stood and watched from where I watched because I had one job. I had no costume. I was to simply read that beautiful Gospel message while standing above and behind the dunking pool manger. I was told to read it but my mother would have none of it. She said I would memorize it and that was that. And so I did and still have it in my head and my heart.
Luke 2
2 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed,[b] who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.[c]
The Shepherds and the Angels
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[d]
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them
And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. That is what we had in the bedraggled little church a log time ago and that is what we should have now and all the days of our life – wonder – it is a great and mighty wonder. Remember the old spiritual “I wonder as I wonder”
I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
That Jesus my Savior did come for to die.
For poor on’ry people like you and like I
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

So that church long ago and far away became Bethlehem for a while. All our churches should become houses of bread where the bread of life is offered and received. They should be places where the hungry receive good things and food is without price. And because God made the night to shine with the greatness of the one true Light and given us our Savior, we can reflect the brightness of His appearing and live as witnesses to His saving glory, doing the good he desires and avoiding the evil hes forbid. Here we receive the Holy Spirit, to show forth our faith in lives of repentance, seeking that which is good and right and true in accordance with God’s Word and promise.