I love the nativity that sits on my mantle. It is not expensive and not even my particular style, but it belonged to my grandmother and so is quite special to my heart. As I was setting it in its’ place yesterday I suddenly realized aghast: There is nothing in the manger. Baby Jesus is missing. Baby Jesus. Is. Missing. I looked in the box and all around the floor where I had been steadily unloading my 4 tubs full of Christmas decor, but nothing. All that was left was an empty manger and somewhat horrifyingly, a little spike that apparently he rested (?) on to keep him securely affixed to the scene.
I considered the possible causes of the disappearance- our cat Norman. A likely culprit- he shows a general disregard for things we find important on a regular basis. (Get off the dining room table!!! Sleep in your bed!! What is wrong with you?!?) It would be nothing to him to chew up and spit out a plastic Baby Jesus- he remains a non-sanctified cat. Heathen.
My own lack of careful packing last year- another likely culprit. By the end of New Year’s Day the prospect of putting away four tubs of decor is met with a general lack of enthusiasm and often ends in things being shoved into places that they don’t seem to quite fit but Lord knows I am not going back to WalMart to buy another tub. My Christmas decor multiplies like loaves and fishes which is all fun and games until it has to be put away.
I began thinking about what I would do with my nativity without Jesus in the manger. It seemed like a sad thought to throw it away but…… what is a nativity without Christ in it? He is entirely the focus of the whole scene and his absence makes it nonsense at best.
To cut to the end, I will tell you we found our missing Baby Jesus. He was hanging out on the front door mat of all places. I have no idea how or why he was there, but with great relief and some super glue, I returned him to his place in the manger on my mantle.
Perhaps because I am a writer, or perhaps because God uses life stuff to point out spiritual stuff to me all the time- I have been thinking about the symbolism ever since. How many times have I prepared a beautiful Christmas scene in my home, but forgotten Christ? How much energy have I spent creating a holiday that is actual nonsense because I forgot the actual point and made it about family or food or nostalgia or shopping or any other good, but not Jesus, thing. Without Christ as the center of Christmas you may as well throw the whole thing out, because it no longer makes sense. He is the point and the amazing beauty of Christmas is this: even when we were far away, lost in our own pursuit of life found outside of Him, He came near. And when we are careless with our hearts and lives, He does not abandon us. He came to begin the journey to redeem and restore so we could be welcomed into His family. It began in a manger, it climaxed on a cross and ended in an empty tomb.
As we begin Advent today, let me encourage you- check your heart this season. If you know Christ- do not let anything about the holidays eclipse your adoration and joy in Him! He came to fill more than a manger. Let His love and peace fill every space in your heart as well.