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Outgrowing His Swaddling Cloths

December 10, 2019

In Cedarfield tradition, the Pastoral Care Team created this compilation of holiday memoirs by team members and residents. We will share one a day through the holidays. Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Myra Nagel, Resident

During the years that I served as Associate Minister at Emmaus United Church of Christ in Vienna, Virginia, my favorite Christmas service was their White Gift Service. This popular tradition dramatized Matthew’s story of magi who came from the east, bringing gifts to the newborn Christ child.

As the pageant began, the Holy Family (the congregation’s youngest baby and his or her parents) walked slowly down the aisle. Mary cradled her infant in her arms. After they had taken their places behind the rough-hewn manger, elaborately costumed magi (the choir’s three best male soloists) entered one by one, each singing a verse of “We Three Kings.” When the tableau was complete, the congregation was invited to approach. Family by family, they knelt at the altar and presented gifts of toys and books, wrapped in white. The gifts would later be delivered to a charity who would distribute them to needy children.

I always loved this service. I remember all the different Holy Families with affection. Sometimes “Jesus” slept blissfully through the whole thing. Sometimes the baby watched intently as people presented their gifts. The service I remember most fondly is the one that took place in the year when the congregation’s youngest offspring was over seven months old. That baby Jesus sat up in the manger contentedly eating rice crackers!

I smiled then, and I smile now at the memory. Yet my amusement did not detract from the feeling of reverence that always came over me as I participated in this pageant. Indeed, it reminded me that the real Baby Jesus also outgrew his swaddling cloths, and that the events of Good Friday and Easter lay ahead. Christmas was just the beginning.

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