Christmas Carol Service 2002


It was the day of the Nativity Play. Wally was nine that year, but was in a class of seven-year-olds. Most people knew that he had difficulty in keeping up. He was big and clumsy, slow in movement and mind. Still, Wally was well liked by the other children in his class, all of whom were smaller than he. He was always helpful, the natural protector of the underdog.  Wally fancied the idea of being a shepherd with a flute in the Christmas Nativity that year. But the director of the play, Miss Lumbard, assigned him to a ‘more important’ role. After all, she reasoned, the innkeeper didn’t have too many lines.

So it happened that the usual large audience gathered for the annual extravaganza of crowns and haloes, shepherds’ crooks and beards, and a whole stage full of squeaking voices. But no one on stage or off was more caught up in the magic of the night than Wally Purling. Then the time came when Joseph appeared, slowly, tenderly guiding Mary to the door of the inn. Joseph knocked hard on the wooden door of the painted backdrop.  ‘What do you want?’ Wally said, swinging the door open.  ‘We seek lodging.  ‘Seek it elsewhere.’ Wally looked straight ahead and spoke vigorously. ‘The inn is full.’ ‘Sir, we have asked everywhere in vain. We have travelled far and are very weary.  Wally looked stern. ‘There is no room in this inn for you. Joseph put his arm around Mary. ‘Please, good innkeeper, this is my wife, and she is heavy with child and needs a place to rest. Surely you must have some small corner for her.’

For the first time, Wally the innkeeper relaxed his stiff stance and looked down at Mary. There was a long pause— long enough to make the audience a bit tense with embarrassment. A prompter whispered from the wings, ‘Your line is “No!  Be gone!”   Wally repeated automatically, ‘Be gone!’ Joseph sadly placed his arm around Mary, and the two of them started moving away. Wally stood there in the doorway watching. Suddenly his eyes filled with tears. And suddenly this Christmas pageant became different from all others.  ‘Wait!’ Wally the innkeeper suddenly blurted out. ‘Don’t go, Joseph.’ His face broke into a wide smile. ‘You can have my room.”  Many people thought the programme had been ruined. A few, however—the thoughtful ones— considered it the most meaningful pageant of all.

Bishop Riah in
Nazareth tells how at this time of year they plan their Nativity play at the Anglican School. He is overwhelmed by Moslem families whose children attend the School who ask if their child can play Mary or Joseph. Unfortunately there can be only one. In Nazareth as here most parents have to settle for their child to be a shepherd, a lamb or an angel.

I asked this morning how many people have played the part of Mary or Joseph in a Nativity play? Did you ever want to?  As a child I can remember asking my Sunday School teacher why God picked Mary to have baby Jesus. She said it was because Mary was the best mother in the world. I knew that wasn’t true because my mother was.

What is it about Mary that makes her so intriguing? so attractive? Who was this Mary, who held the Saviour of the world in her arms? She was no prophetess of renown. She wasn’t world famous. She probably wasn’t even known beyond the small neighbourhood where she grew up. Men and women didn’t seek out her wisdom and advice. She was a simple young woman. A teenage girl. She wasn’t a princess, and never enjoyed a fairy-tale life. The rich and influential paid her no heed. In their minds, it was as if she never even existed. She wasn’t a brilliant scholar. She may not even have been able to read or write. She never had the benefit of sitting among the best teachers and philosophers of her day. To be sure, Mary did have the blood of kings running in her veins. She was of the house of
David and certainly was neither untaught nor unskilled. The song of praise which burst from her lips. The song generations have known as the Magnificat—tells us that she had a bright mind and a heart full of praise. But the point is, Mary, the young virgin chosen from thousands to be the mother of the Saviour, was just a simple peasant girl. But oh, so available to God! “I am the Lord’s servant…”

Even though her position was humble, God had chosen her above all the other women to be blessed in a very special way. Christ the King would be born to her, and that was an honour far beyond any title, certificate, or prominence in the social register. Does that speak to you today? You may not have had the benefit of going to Bible College. You may not be very well known. There may not be very many who even know your name. You’re not particularly wealthy or wise. People don’t knock on your door, seeking your advice or counsel. No titles, certificates, or honours distinguish you from the crowd.  You’re just... typical.  With a normal job and a so-so standard of living. Nothing extraordinary. 

You may even have identified with Wally. But there is something extraordinary about Christmas. That is the promise that Christ may be born in your heart. There is something special and unique about having Jesus live within you. And although you may not be wealthy or wise in the eyes of the world, the very riches of His kingdom have been promised to you. The Word of Christ can dwell in you richly, giving you His very mind.  The Spirit of Christ can fill you, giving you His very power to become like Him. And if you remain available to Him, He will use you to accomplish His wise and mighty plans in this dark world. When you think about it, what worldly honours compare to these? What privileges stack up alongside those privileges?

Like Mary, you have something to sing about this Christmas! Because God has chosen you. Because you’ve been blessed. Christ the King has been born—not just in a stable, but I pray also in your heart.
 Tonight is the night to welcome Him in as your Lord and Saviour, your brother and friend. Tonight is the night to worship the Christ Child who was born to be the Saviour of the world, and make it your passion to live for Him in 2003. One thing is guaranteed on the basis of the promises of God’s Word. If you receive Him, He will never ever leave you, nor forsake you. Life will never be boring. You will never be lonely. You will never be bored.   You will never be unemployed.

With grateful thanks to Max Lucado for some of the ideas and content used.