The Best Present Ever
Come, let us go even now to Bethlehem with the shepherds and the angels and see Mary and Joseph, with the baby lying in a manger.
Invitation to Confession:
Jesus, we come to worship the baby in the manger.
Lord, have mercy.
Jesus, we come to offer ourselves and our own gifts.
Christ, have mercy.
Jesus, we come to absorb your love.
Lord, have mercy.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."  Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,  "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."  When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."  So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,  and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
All children should have previously have been invited to come to the service dressed as angels or shepherds. If two children have dressed up as Mary and Joseph, they should stand or sit by the crib for the whole of the gospel reading.
If you have crib figures, invite any children who haven't dressed up to carry the figures through the church and place them in the crib, then to stand or kneel at the crib for the gospel reading.
During the gospel reading (which should be read slowly, with plenty of space for movement), invite the shepherds to sit together on the floor. Provide an artificial camp fire for them. At the right point in the story, invite the angels to come out and stand around the shepherds. Then angels and shepherds can process to the stable and join the other children round the crib to worship the baby.
Blessing of the crib:
Lord our God, bless this crib, all who have helped to make it and all who worship at it. May those who see this crib receive your love and your blessings deep within their hearts this Christmas.
Light the first four candles on the Advent Wreath, and light the final candle. The final candle represents the Christ.
A prayer for lighting the Advent candle:
We light this candle for our Lord Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. Thank you God, for Jesus, born as a tiny baby at Christmas. May we grow to become like him in all our ways, and especially may we learn to love as he loves us. Amen.
The children might like to sit round the "fire" for the story, and return to the crib for the prayers.
If your Crib Service is on Christmas Day, you might like to start the story by asking whether anybody has brought any of their Christmas presents to church, and if so, asking them to show their presents to the congregation. This usually produces some interest.
The Best Present Ever
Donny knew exactly what he wanted for Christmas. He'd been dreaming about it for weeks, and he'd sent a letter to Father Christmas asking especially for a Rocket Launcher.
He ran along to the postbox with his letter, and called on Mrs Billings on the way back. He liked Mrs Billings. She was terribly old and rather bent and she walked with a stick, but she always had a stock of sweets for Donny and she was always delighted to see him. He chattered on to her about the Rocket Launcher, and she nodded and smiled as though she knew exactly what he was talking about.
Donny had seen the Rocket Launcher on television and it was so cool. Donny had wanted it immediately he'd seen it, and was already making all sorts of plans to use it with his Lego and his favourite Action Man. Donny figured that by building a high platform for the Rocket Launcher with his Lego, he would probably be able to launch his Action Man way up into the sky. He could just picture the faces of all his friends. They'd be so impressed.
Donny dropped lots of hints about the Rocket Launcher to his Mum and Dad, just in case Father Christmas couldn't manage it. He thought he saw a twinkle in his Mum's eye, but he couldn't be sure. It might have been a tear; Donny didn't know.
On Christmas morning Donny woke up while it was still dark. For a moment he wondered whether he'd woken so early that Father Christmas hadn't come yet, but then he noticed the bulging sock lying on the foot of his bed stuffed full of all sorts of exciting presents. Donny could hardly get the paper off all the presents quickly enough. He tore and ripped, pulled and struggled. Out came a notebook, pencils with his name on, felt-tip pens, a calculator, sweets, two wooden puzzles and a metal puzzle, three books, a GameBoy game, chocolate money and two CDs of his favourite band. Donny was very excited. He played with all his new toys until he heard his parents beginning to stir, then he went downstairs with them.
The main presents were under the Christmas Tree, and Donny's Dad read the labels, then handed the presents to Donny to pass round. Donny opened present after present after present. They were all wonderful and he was thrilled, but he kept hoping the next present would be his Rocket Launcher. When all the presents were opened and no Rocket Launcher had appeared, his face fell. But he saw his Mum watching him anxiously, so he did his best to hide his disappointment.
Donny couldn't concentrate on the morning service at church. Despite all his lovely presents, he felt in the depths of despair. He'd only really wanted a Rocket Launcher, and it hadn't come. Why hadn't God made sure he'd got what he wanted? All the other presents put together couldn't make up for not having a Rocket Launcher.
"Are you going to call in on Mrs Billings to wish her a happy Christmas?" asked Donny's Mum on the way home from church.
Donny frowned and shook his head. He didn't really feel like talking to anyone. But then he remembered that Mrs Billings would be all alone, so he changed his mind. He ran round the back of Mrs Billing's house, rang the bell and opened the door, calling out "Merry Christmas, Mrs Billings!" in the most cheerful voice he could manage. Then he spotted Mrs Billings, and he went rigid. To his horror, Mrs Billings was lying on the kitchen floor with her eyes closed. Donny thought she must be dead and his heart filled with tears. In that moment he discovered how much he loved Mrs Billings.
He ran through to the telephone in the hall and dialled 999. Then he rang his own home and told his parents what had happened. They came at once, shortly followed by the ambulance. Mrs Billings was loaded onto a stretcher and carried into the ambulance. One of the ambulance men listened to her chest with a stethoscope and lifted up one of her eyelids. Then he winked at Donny. "Don't worry, son," he said, "I think she'll be alright. You got there just in time."
Christmas lunch was subdued, because they were all worried about Mrs Billings. After lunch, Donny's parents took him to the hospital to visit Mrs Billings. Donny went into the ward dreading what he might see. But to his amazement, Mrs Billings was sitting up in bed smiling. Donny couldn't help himself. He rushed over to her bed and flung his arms around her.
"Merry Christmas, Mrs Billings," he shouted. "You know what? You are my best Christmas present ever!"
God, who was born into a tiny baby, be born again into our hearts this Christmas. May your world-wide Church discover again the love which tiny babies generate, and express that love towards all human beings.
God, who was born into a tiny baby, may we who have plenty remember with concern those who have nothing this Christmas. We pray for those who are hungry, for those who are homeless, and for those who are lonely, asking that they too may feel your love.
God, who was born into a tiny baby, we pray for children the world over and especially for children here in our own community. May they know the joy of Christmas in their hearts not only now, but all year round.
God, who was born into a tiny baby, touch those who are sick with your healing power, and touch those who are sad because of the death of someone they love with your comfort and your strength. This Christmas we pray especially for...
May the joy and the delight,
the humility and the gentleness,
the innocence and the peace
of the Christ Child
be yours this Christmas.
And the blessing of God almighty,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
be with you now,
be in your homes and in your families
and with all those whom you love
and all those for whom you pray,
this Christmastide and always.