Sunday, December 12
Decorating for Christmas last year, I came upon a dreadful discovery. Even though I pat myself on the back about the care with which I wrap up my ornaments, wreaths, and table decorations following Epiphany, I apparently rushed through that task in January of 2009. My pride suddenly took a dismal turn as I opened the box which held my most cherished nativity set, only to find that underneath the layers of tissue paper and styrofoam the most important piece was missing. Suddenly my holiday turned into the year I lost baby Jesus.
I cannot believe for one moment that I had left the Christ child out the previous year. After all there is no story without him. I can also say with some confidence that I'm certain I didn't throw him away, because that would have been unfathomable. Yet deep within the box which I turned, twisted, and turned upside down there was no baby for the manger. I found all the other cast members right down to the tiny lambs and bits of straw. It was almost as though Mary was scornfully glaring at me from the sideboard and Joseph's brow seemed to take on an appearance of condemnation.
I decided after about a half hour of searching through the other boxes to take a break, so I logged onto my favorite social network site. One friend had posted how smoothly her decorating was going and had left a comment on my wall that she wanted pictures when I finished mine. Someone left a note about any new ornaments I had purchased and another wanted to know how many trees I was going to have. (Yes, trees... I go all out!) A family member requested the best website for decorations and asked why I hadn't made any comments in a few hours. "Is anything wrong?" she asked. Anything wrong! I'll say - I had lost Jesus!
A younger friend who is a member of our church and a coworker burst into laughter when I told her my plight when I arrived at work. (I won't say exactly who she is but her father holds a rather important position in our congregation and their dog had eaten part of their nativity set purchased in Cuba the previous year.) She and I decided if I had not found Jesus by the next day I should post the news on my website wall and see what comments it would provoke. Alas, by bedtime that night the cradle was still empty and before I went to sleep I shared the news to my 367 friends. Mary scowled at me even more severely and Joseph just seemed to shrug his shoulders.
The comments people made on my wall ranged from the hilarious to the sublime. My Catholic friends reminded me Jesus didn't need to be found until Christmas Day because we Protestants don't set up our nativity sets the way they do. One added that this reminded her to move her Holy Infant from the china cabinet drawer to the curio shelf because her family always moves him a step closer each day. Several told me they knew where I was going to wind up for misplacing the Savior of the world - jokingly, of course! One had once broken the Christ child's head off, and another had shattered the angels. Many told me that if I ever found him they would supply me with - what else - "I Found Jesus" bumper stickers. More passionate, or dare I say, more pious friends informed me that my comments and those of others were sacrilegious and we should be ashamed of ourselves. (They received a new ranking - "blocked and deleted.") One told me to move the one from my cat nativity to the other one, but I declined because I was in enough trouble with Mary already. All in all it provided several days of mostly good humor and ever so often a friend would inquire if I had found him.
Almost a year later and almost time to pull out the decorations, that porcelain infant is still missing. The mystery of whatever happened to it will likely never be known. The other part of this story is one I shared last year with a close-knit group of women who are like family to me. The face of the true Infant Child of Bethlehem is shrouded in mystery. What did he look like? Do we really need to know? Do we find Jesus or does he open the doors that find us where we are in broken spirits, in weakened despair, in depths of anguish? Will we hold the Christ child or will we allow the Christ child to hold us? Will we begin anew living as a new child of God? Do we dare lay ourselves in the warmth of the cradle? Are we willing to let go and see his face? May we all radiate in the eternal love of the wee infant of long ago for he was there all along.
- Janis Lewis