Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Absent Infant

Our home is coming alive with holiday charm. In an eight hour decorating frenzy, my family and I took down the “regular” decorations and replaced them with festive snowmen, wreaths, garland and twinkle lights. Our tree is up. All that is missing are the gifts beneath it.

My favorite spot is “the nativity room.” That is what we’re calling our dining room where there are an assortment of crèches on display. There is one we bought many years ago. It didn’t cost a lot, but it was more than we could afford at the time. It is traditional with moss on the roof and ceramic statuettes. My sister loaned us a beautiful set. A missionary living in Africa, she was afraid to ship it overseas. It is elegant, a pearly white. Our newest addition was a stunning “Willow Tree” version, a gift from my mother-in-law.

In the course of setting out our nativity sets, I noticed that the oldest of them sustained some damage. Sometime after last Christmas several of the animals broke. The camel lost his hump. The donkey is missing one ear. One of the Wisemen was decapitated. A childhood Vacation Bible School project, I’ve owned these statues since I was a boy. So, in spite of the broken pieces, I decided to display what was left.

But when I set them all out I noticed that baby Jesus was missing. He was nowhere to be found among the shards of ceramic in the bottom of the bag. The infant was absent. I contemplated discarding the battered set, but then stopped. The fact is the baby is missing from many people’s Christmas. Lost in the hectic hubbub of the holiday is the reality that God’s Son came to earth to redeem mankind. Christ is at the center of Christmas!

So my incomplete nativity set remains in a place of honor as a reminder that whenever Jesus is missing, there is something that is just not right about Christmas. Hopefully all is well with you this yuletide season. If not, maybe you’ll discover the solution when you find the missing Jesus.

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