The night before Thanksgiving we found Baby Jesus. He was in a box of toys that we took down for two small favorites of ours – the kids of our friends Eric and Lara. In a medium-sized box, scrambled among small and medium sized dolls, there was Baby Jesus.
When we took out the felt Nativity set last year we realized that Baby Jesus was missing. We looked everywhere for him without success. The Nativity set had been in our family since Cairo days. It was a perfect set for a family with five children. Made of bright colored felt and yarn, nothing could break. We had enjoyed the set since our third year in Cairo. So when we couldn’t find Baby Jesus we were distressed.
We looked everywhere but Baby Jesus was not to be found.
So when the kids found him on Wednesday evening we were overjoyed. He was safe in his manger, his felt body tucked in among hay made of wheat colored yarn. We separated him and put him on a shelf, away from the other dolls and toys, safe and ready to be placed with his mom, his dad, the shepherds, wisemen, angels, and all the animals.
The world felt right.
But in truth – we had forgotten that we had misplaced him. He was after all, only a little baby, and a felt one at that. And it got me thinking about the times when I misplace Jesus. When I put him where he’s not supposed to be, when I forget where I put him, when I forget all about him. We lost Jesus over a year ago but we haven’t thought much about that. We’ve just kept on with our lives and ended up pleasantly surprised when he popped up the way he did.
This is after all only a felt baby Jesus – not the real Jesus.
But the analogy holds. Sometimes I misplace Jesus. Sometimes I forget him. Even during Christmas – which is technically supposed to be his big day, I misplace him in lights and ornaments, in wrapping paper and expectation.
And sometimes I want to keep him a baby surrounded by wooden, or felt, or clay people and animals because he is safe that way. If I let the baby grow up, he could place demands on me that I’m not sure I want. He could ask me to enter into a life that I’d rather not have. He could change me in ways I’d never dreamed.
But the baby did grow up. He could never stay confined to the cradle, instead he grew up and changed people in ways they’d never dreamed. So now I can’t be content to leave him in the cradle, much less a toy box – he’s too small, too fragile there. I desperately need him to not be confined to the cradle, to love me, to see me as I really am and to change me. I need him to be who he has been all along – Emmanuel, God with us, Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, and Everlasting Father.
And all of this because we found Baby Jesus in a box of toys. Go figure.