When my grandmother died five years ago. After she died, I was the recipient of her hand painted ceramic Nativity Set, carved into the bottom of the manger is her initials and the date she painted the set…a year before I was born. Needless to say, it is a cherished set that I love setting out each Advent season.
Last year, as Christmas approached, the tree went up, the various decorations were unpacked and then the time came to unpack the Nativity set. As I unpacked each piece from the old newspaper sheets, I carefully set them out and in (what I felt would be) their proper place: the wisemen and camels, the shepherds, sheep, donkey, Mary and Joseph and the manger. Then it was time to put baby Jesus hidden until Christmas Day.
As I reached into the box of empty newspapers, I discovered I had unpacked all of the pieces and Jesus was nowhere to be found. I took each piece of newsprint out of the box, I searched and looked for Jesus, but I just couldn’t find Jesus. Baffled to where the ceramic baby might be, I must admit that I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself at the irony of the Minister losing Jesus.
As the days went along, I continued to look… where could be be?! Because I knew I had time before Jesus would be placed in the manger, it quietly took a backseat, allowing details and plans, preparations, life, work and ministry became the priority. Occasionally, I would pause to wonder where the little baby Jesus would be, look through a couple boxes and move on.
It wasn’t until after Christmas, when it was time to take the decorations down and pack up the Nativity set, when I noticed a small crumpled up piece of newspaper. Reaching into the box, I squeezed it only to feel a something small inside. I quickly unwrapped the item to discover baby Jesus wrapped up inside! I had found Jesus!
Imagine the reaction of a few friends and family when I texted them the following text:
- Jesus had been there the entire time, I was just looking in the wrong spot!
- Jesus had been there the entire time, I had just allowed myself to be too busy to look!
- Jesus had been there the entire time, I just stopped looking!
It was on that night that Jesus was born, life continued. People were busy, life carried on, thankfully someone opened their door and found a way to create space for Jesus.
And even though, the shepherds were working, they paid attention and responded and ran to go see this baby they were told about. We read about their experience in the gospel of Luke:
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
“In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” Luke 2:8-20
And then! They proclaimed the story to everyone they say! I imagine if there had been social media and texting, they would have send similar messages:
These next few days, the days leading up to Christmas we often allow our lives to be filled with busyness, preparations, baking, cooking, cleaning, running in and out of stores, shopping, and decorating, etc. We make our lists, check them twice, we hunker down and become focused on everything we need to accomplish and forget about the entire purpose in which we celebrate, that of the love of God that came down in the form of a baby. We get tired, irritated and frustrated when plans change or things don’t go as planned. We lose sight of the reason why we are in this season…we forget why we celebrate. We forget that the baby we celebrate, grew up, walked among the people, noticed, cared for, healed, and loved people who were often overlooked and forgotten.
In the gospel according to Matthew, chapter 25:34-40, we read
“Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’”
In these last days of Advent, as we get closer to the manger, it is my hope and prayer that you’ll drop what your doing and reflect on the meaning of this season of why we celebrate…that you will remember God’s love that came screaming down that one night so long ago, that you will look around and be mindful of opportunities to witness Jesus and the presence of God’s love and light.
May you have a blessed and very Merry Christmas.
Grace and peace to you this day and always,