Away In A Manger
Prop: A Nativity Set, preferably made of something sturdy. During the course of the story, you will distribute the nativity figures to the children, except for the magi. Place the magi figures in the far east side of the sanctuary, on a window sill, on a small table, or being held by someone in the pew.
Good evening, girls and boys! I see by our Advent wreath that tonight is Christmas Eve! All of the candles have been lit; even the white Christ candle in the middle. I think this is the perfect time to tell the story of the very first Christmas--the night Jesus was born. I'm going to ask for your help. I'm going to give each of you one of the figures from the nativity set. When we come to the part of the story that mentions the figure you are holding, will you please place it in the creche? I'll help you know when, OK? Alright. Here we go.
Many, many years ago, the emperor Augustus required that all the people of his kingdom be registered in the town of their ancestors. Joseph went with Mary to the town of Bethlehem, because that's where his family was from. Mary was expecting a baby, who was due at any time. When they arrived in Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph tried to find a place to stay, but all of the inns, or motels, were filled with other travelers. So they had to spend the night in a stable, (Point to the stable structure and invite the children holding the Joseph and Mary figures to set them in their places.)
It was a good thing Mary and Joseph had a roof over their heads, even if it was the place animals were kept. (If there is a donkey figure, invite the child holding it to add it to the creche.) Yes, being inside was a very good thing because that very night, Mary's baby was born! She wrapped him in swaddling clothes, which were strips of cloth that bundled the baby tightly, helping him feel snug and safe, and placed him gently in a manger. (Add Jesus to the manger.) She and Joseph named the baby Jesus.
Now while all of this was going on, there were some shepherds who were taking care of their sheep in the fields outside of town. It was night, and so they were on the lookout for hungry animals or thieves who might try to steal the sheep in the dark. Suddenly, the whole sky lit up and an angel of God appeared to the shepherds. They were terrified, as you can imagine! The angel said to the shepherds,
"Do not be afraid, for behold I bring you good news
Of great joy which shall be for all the people.
For to you is born this day in the town of David
A Saviour who is God's Anointed.
This will be a sign to guide you:
You will find a baby in swaddling-clothes lying in a manger."
Then the angel was joined by many more angels, who all praised God together and sang, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace; good will to all."
The angels left the shepherds and returned to heaven. The shepherds then looked at each other and said, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this wonderful thing that God has told us about." So they went to town, where they found Mary and Joseph, and Jesus was lying in the manger, just like the angel said he would be. (Add shepherds and sheep to the creche.)
As you know, there is another part to the Christmas story. We have Mary, and Joseph, and the Baby Jesus in our creche. We have shepherds and sheep and animals. Who is missing? Oh, the wise men!
The book of Matthew tells us that wise men were studying the heavens and saw a new star in the night sky that they had never seen before. They thought the star must mean something very important, so they decided to follow it. Now, these men lived in a country far, far to the east of Bethlehem. Does anyone know which direction is east? The sun rises in the east, so that would be that way (point east). Robert and Emily, could you please go to the east and see if you can find the star studiers, or magi? If you have trouble finding them, I'm sure some of those nice eastern people sitting on that side of the sanctuary can help you. Did you find them? Great! Now bring them back here, please, and place them in the creche.
And when the wise ones saw the baby Jesus, they knew that he was someone special sent from God. They bowed down and worshipped the baby. Then they opened their packs and gave him precious gifts of gold, francinsense and myrrh.
The Bible tells us that God loved the world so much, that God gave us the only son, so that anyone who believes in Jesus would not die, but enjoy everlasting life, or heaven. Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the wise men were the first people to hear this Good News. And now we have heard it, too. Thanks be to God! Merry Christmas!