"For Always" - A Russian Christmas Story
by Will Fish
In 1994, two Americans answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics (based on
biblical principles) in the public schools. They were invited to teach at prisons, businesses, the fire and police departments and a
large orphanage. About 100 boys and girls who had been abandoned, abused, and left in the care of a government-run program were in the
orphanage. They relate the following story in their own words:
It was nearing the holiday season, 1994, time for our orphans to hear for the first time the traditional story of Christmas. We
told them about 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 grasp every word.
Completing the story, we gave the children three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger. Each child was given a small
paper square, cut from yellow napkins I had brought with me. No colored paper was available in the city. Following instructions, the
children tore the paper and carefully laid strips in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel (cut from a 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 tan felt we had
brought from the United States.
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 little Misha sat--he looked to be about 6 years old and had finished his project. As I looked at the little boy's
manger, I was startled to see not one, but two babies in the manger.
Quickly, I called for the translator to ask the lad why there were two babies in the manger. Crossing his arms in front of him and
looking at his completed manger scene, the child began to repeat the story very seriously. 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.
Then Misha started to ad lib. He made up his own ending to the story as he said, "And when Maria laid the baby in the manger,
Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told Him I have no mamma and 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 couldn't, because I didn't have a gift to give Him like everybody else
did. But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. 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?"
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, and then Jesus looked at me and He told me I could stay with Him---for always."
As little Misha 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 sobbed and sobbed. That little orphan had found someone who would
never abandon nor abuse him, someone who would stay with him--FOR ALWAYS.
Showing Us The Way
There was once a man who didn't believe in the incarnation or the spiritual meaning of Christmas, and was skeptical about God. He
and his family lived in a farm community. His wife was a devout believer and diligently raised her children in her faith. He sometimes
gave her a hard time about her faith and mocked her religious observance of Christmas. One snowy Christmas eve she was taking the kids
to the Christmas eve service at church. She pleaded with him to come, but he firmly refused. He ridiculed the idea of the incarnation
of Christ and dismissed it as nonsense. "Why would God lower Himself and become a human like us?! It's such a ridiculous story!"
he said. So she and the children left for church while he stayed home.
After they left, the winds grew stronger and the snow turned into a blizzard. As he looked out the window, all he saw was a
blinding snowstorm. He sat down to relax before the fire for the evening. Then he heard a loud thump, something hitting against the
window. And another thump. He looked outside but couldn't see. So he ventured outside to see. In the field near his house he saw, of all
the strangest things, a flock of geese! They were apparently flying to look for a warmer area down south, but got caught in the snow storm.
The snow had became too blinding and violent for the geese to fly or see their way. They were lost and stranded on his farm, with no food
or shelter. They just fluttered their wings and flew around in circles around the field blindly and aimlessly.
He had compassion for them and wanted to help them. He thought to himself, "The barn would be a great place for them to stay!
It's warm and safe; surely they could spend the night and wait out the storm." So he walked over to the barn and opened the barn
doors for them. He waited, watching them, hoping they would notice the open barn and go inside. But they just fluttered around aimlessly
and didn't notice the barn or realize what it could mean for them. So he started whistling and calling to them. Nothing. He shouted,
jumped up and down, waved his arms. They didn't pay attention. He moved closer toward them to get their attention, but they just moved
away from him out of fear. He went into the house and came back out with some bread, broke it up, and made a bread trail leading to the
barn. They still didn't catch on. Starting to get frustrated, he went over and tried to shoo them, run after them, and chase them toward
the barn. They only got scared and scattered into every direction except toward the barn. None of his attempts to get them into the barn
succeeded. Nothing he did could get them to go into the barn where there was warmth, safety, and shelter; nothing he did could make them
enter the one place where they could survive.
Feeling totally frustrated, he exclaimed, "Why don't they listen to me! Why don't they follow me! What's wrong with them!
Can't they see this is the only place where they can survive the storm! How can I possibly get them into the one place to save them!"
He thought for a moment and realized that they just won't follow a human. He said to himself, "How can I possibly save them?
The only way would be for me to become like those geese. If only I could become like one of them! Then I could show them the way! Then
I could save them! They would follow me, not fear me. They would trust me, and I would lead them to safety."
He stood silently for a moment as the words that he just said reverberated back to himself in his mind: "If only I could
become like one of them--then I could show them the way--then I could save them." He thought about his words, and remembered what
he said to his wife: "Why would God want to be like us? That's so ridiculous!" Something clicked in his mind as he put these
two together. It was like a revelation, and he began to understand the incarnation. We were like the geese--blind, gone astray,
became like us so He could show us the way and make a way available to save us. That is the meaning of Christmas, he realized in his heart.
As the winds and blinding snow abated, his heart became quiet and pondered this epiphany. He understood what Christmas was all
about. He knew why Christ had come. Suddenly years of doubt and disbelief were shattered, as he humbly and tearfully bowed down in the
snow, and embraced the true meaning of Christmas.