A large crowd followed [Jesus] and pressed in on him … Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” – Mark 5:24b, 30b-31 (NRSV)
On Christmas Eve, the children of our congregation help tell the story. Before worship, each chooses a character from the hodgepodge of nativity figurines we’ve assembled to make sure there are enough to go around. Shepherds, angels, magi. And everyone’s favorite: the animals.
At the front of the sanctuary, the stable awaits their arrival, and at the appropriate moment in each scripture, we invite them to bring their pieces forward.
Mary, Joseph, and Jesus arrive in relative order. But by the time the angels come up, things are off the rails.
The stable sits on a long table, plenty of room to spread out, create a beautiful tableau. But the kids aren’t interested.
The angels edge in on the cradle, crowding out the new parents with their wings. The shepherds follow suit, bringing their animals with them. Sheep are tucked under the manger. A cow steps on Mary’s feet. The llama that someone snuck in knocks down two members of the heavenly host.
Finally, the kings, giant remnants of some vintage set who can barely clear the ceiling, duck their heads and make everyone else push down.
That’s how I always find it at the end of the service. An otherwise empty table and a stable without an inch of floor space. All those holy figures, cheek by jowl and horn to halo.
Just as it should be.
The kids seem to know what everyone in the Gospels knows: if you are lucky enough to meet Jesus, it’s no time to hang back. Press in, reach out, get as close as you can.
The kids help tell the story: the God of Love has come to earth; this is our chance to draw near.
O Come, let us adore him.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.