Sunday, December 24, 2006

Stations of the Manger Service

Many of our small group was away or busy for Christmas Eve, but our unique meeting which was a self guided tour through the Stations of the Manger was the perfect service for the evening. Below I will post the statements which preceded each station. The stations wre not artistic renderings of the events upon whicb a person would meditate, but rather the person themself became the art. Through their actions they performed something which was designed to draw thm into anm emotional attachment to life of Christ. The first few verses of Luke 2 were used as the basis for the Stations of the Manger.

Welcome: Given to people as they entered.

Welcome to The Gathering

Tonight we are holding an experiential tour through the Stations of the Manger. In contrast to our typical gathering, you will experience this by yourself instead of with the whole group.

One by one you will visit the 5 stations we have set up, and see, hear, taste, feel, and perform activities which will remind you of the meaning behind the birth of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Some of the activities may seem a bit peculiar. You may feel childish behaving in the manner prescribed, but we believe that people learn through a variety of mediums, and each activity is designed to help you feel, and experience the meaning behind the birth and life of our Lord.

At the end of the experience, we have a seating section in the back corner of the room, where you can sit with others to talk about what you have discovered about the birth and life of Jesus.

Station 1 - Jesus was Oppressed for Us

Living as the Oppressed for the sake of the Oppressed

"And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus" (Luke 2:1)

Jesus lived as we do. He lived not as a ruler, but as one of the ruled. He was under the hand of an oppressive government just as many people are today. The King of the Universe became a common man under the hand of an oppressive regime. He understands our struggles with powerlessness and limitation.

"For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." (Hebrews 2:10)

Participating in Station #1:

Jesus came to deliver the oppressed. Watch the video on the large screen, and consider the work of Jesus as our Deliverer, and consider His desire to make us deliverers of others as well. (The video is already loaded below o the previous post.)

Station 2 - Jesus was Taken Advantage of

"this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David: To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child."

This station remembers the Son of God who was treated with disdain in this world. He came to this world he created, and yet he was taxed as we all are. People took from Him and did not give back. We remember Jesus who gave His all until there was nothing left to give.

Identification with Station 2:

If you have a purse, empty the contents of your purse into the box. If you are tithing or giving to the church tonight, now is the time to do so. If you have a few loose coins jingling around the bottom of your purse, you may want to place them into the offering box. Having emptied your purse and given those few coins, look into your purse and contemplate the how everything was taken from Jesus, even His robe at the time of His death. He came to the world to give His all, and the world took everything from Him.

If you only have what is in your pockets empty your pockets into the box, and follow the pattern above with your loose change. Pull your pockets inside-out, and let them hang out. Look at them and consider the Son of God Who gave everything or you. Consider how the world took everything from Him.

This station is in the middle of the room for all to see, because our struggle with being taken advantage of often is a public struggle.

"He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not." (John 1:10-11)

Station 3 - Jesus had Nowhere to Lay His Head - He lived as a Nomad

"And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; because he was of the house and lineage of David"

Mary and Joseph had to leave their home while Mary was due to have her child. This moment of the birth of Christ foreshadowed the life He would live. His ministry was nomadic, and He had no place to call home. This station remembers the Son of God Who had no home, yet prepares one for us with His Father.

""And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head." (Luke 9:58)

Identification of Station 3:

Take a sleeping bag, or a mattress and a blanket, and set it on the ground. Lie down an pull the covers up around your neck. As you lie there for the next couple minutes consider that Jesus spent his ministry as a nomad. He was homeless so that you might have place in heaven with Him. (While the person layed down, the song "Beggar" by Eli played queitly in the background.)

Station 4 - Jesus was Poor for Us

"And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger"

Action of Station 4:

Sit upon the stool and face the wall. Eat a small crust of bread, and have a little bit of watery soup. Consider the Son of God who became poor for you, that you might live an eternity without lack.

"For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich." (2 Corinthians 8:9)

(The person was isolated in a tent, and sat on a stool facing a wall wiith a spotlight at their back which projected their own shadow against the wall. The song "Seek Up" by Dave Matthews was playing in the background.)

Station 5 - Jesus Experienced Isolation for Us

"And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke 2:7)

There was no room for Jesus in the inn. There was no room for Jesus in the world. Sometimes this is still true today. The world hated Him, and He experienced isolation and rejection because of this.

"If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you." (John 15:18)

Identification with Station 5

Sit alone in the silent, dark vault for one minute and contemplate the isolation, and rejection which Jesus experienced. He became isolated to save us from the permanent isolation of death.

(We have a large vault in our meeting place, and we closed the door on the person sitting in the vault, and left them in it for one minute. It is so dark that you can not see your hand in front of your face. We were seeking as complete an experience of sensory deprivation as we could provide.)

These were our 5 Stations of the Manger. Many people shared about the impact of each of these stations. I wondered if they would be as powerful as they had potential for, or if they would come off hokey, but a good number in the group were brought to the edge of tears. Typically station 4 with the bread and soup was most impacting, followed closely by the closing of the vault door, but there was not a station which did not provide significant impact for someone.

This was our first attempt at creating stations in this manner, and we were deeply moved by the experience.

Thanks to Jeff, Carlos, and Kevin who helped lead people into the experience, and offered advice at points of development.

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