December 7th, 2021 by Dr. Larry Selig
Every Advent, our church in Pittsburgh held an outreach for the children and families in the community to explain the real meaning of Christmas.
Up to 7,000 children and adults came each year during the four days we called “The Joy of Sharing Christmas.” Tour guides led groups of 25-35 through a series of rooms where live actors in costume would share the REAL Christmas story.
So what does the real Christmas story look like?In the first room, Gabriel appeared to Mary. Next room, the angels appeared to the shepherds. This was followed by the inn/stable scene with Joseph, Mary, and a live baby Jesus.
Further on, three wise men showed the gifts they brought for baby Jesus. A full-size camel was tethered outside their tent. The children had an opportunity to interact with all the storytellers.
One year, our church member, who worked with children in the inner city of Pittsburgh, asked if we could plan a special presentation Saturday morning. She wanted to bring a busload of African American children through the tour as part of their Saturday morning Bible club program.
On reflection, I was concerned that all of our actors were white. This could present a significant barrier to these children in understanding that Jesus belonged to them as well.
I asked if she could find a young black couple with a baby who could learn the drama script, so they could play the part of the Holy Family. Oh, and also find at least one black shepherd and a black wise man to work with our regular white actors on the other sets.
She was successful. After quick rehearsals with our various room coordinators, some 70 children arrived by bus and began the tour. I followed the first group as they entered the stable in Bethlehem. They knelt in silent awe before the black Joseph, Mary, and wiggly baby Jesus.
Joseph and Mary began to tell the children what it was like that first Christmas night. In the back row, one of the children turned to his buddy and whispered, “Look at baby Jesus. He looks just like us!” As Joseph and Mary led the children in quietly singing “Silent Night” to baby Jesus, these African American children were able to “see” that He belonged to them!
That very moment, I thanked the Lord that He was born in Israel, the land bridge between Asia, Africa and Europe, with skin color which could easily blend with many cultures.
He truly came authentically human for every tongue, tribe, race, culture, and nation. We could all visualize Him looking just like us!
Yes, the miracle of the Incarnation: He became like one of us so that we could know and forever be with Him!
Have you ever been impacted by seeing/hearing the Christmas story? Let us know in the comments below!