Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Baby Is Missing!

When our oldest daughter was two, we had just made a major move and had welcomed another daughter into our family. It appeared we were now living in what appeared to be another country, instead of another state.  I was accustomed to a climate of frozen tundra in December, but where we lived now, it was 65 degrees, and I was hanging up garlands outside without even a jacket.

Preparing for Christmas, the first box we always open is our Nativity set with its plastic figurines depicting the birth of Christ.  This particular year, when I passed by the Nativity a few days after decorating the house, I noticed that Baby Jesus was missing from the manger.  I retrieved the cardboard storage box from the attic.  Nothing was left in there.  I got down on my hands and knees, looking under the table and a few chairs.   I looked over the little stable carefully, thinking maybe the baby had fallen behind one of the other pieces.  Mary, Joseph, and the others appeared no longer to have a look of awe and worship on their faces, but now astonishment and their hands up in the air as in shock. There had been a kidnapping.  The Christ Child was missing!
Our two year old wandered into the room.  "Beth, have you seen Baby Jesus?"
She looked up, questioning me with her little brown eyes.  I thought that maybe she didn't understand what I was saying.  I repeated myself.   "Baby Jesus is missing.  Do you know where He is?"

"Not time for Him yet," she responded like an ancient prophet.

She knew, even at that age, that we were waiting for Christmas to arrive.  And the main event was this baby in a manger bed.  And so, the Christ Child waited in a wooden drawer until Christmas morning when Beth retrieved Him and put Jesus where He belonged.

My friend Claire told me thirty years ago that she always placed her Nativity set "front and center," the very first thing that others would notice about their house at Christmas.  I have always remembered that.  The Nativity is not just a sweet little tag-along to the festivities, nor just another holiday story to put the children to bed at night, nor yet another seasonal decoration, but what prophets promised for hundreds of years beforehand, the story of the Anointed One who has come to save the world.  And so, even with little ones we can say, "What do the sheep say?"  Baa.  "What does the cow say?"  Moo.

"What do the angels say?"   He has come!!

And that changes everything.

For unto us a Child is born,
    unto us a Son is given...

                             Isaiah 9.6

For God sent the Son into the world,
not to condemn the world,
but that the world
   might be saved through Him.

                            John 3.17

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