We found Baby Jesus

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.

Second Friday of Advent: A Place at the Nativity

My eighth grade daughter’s Language Arts teacher is an interesting bird. She’s a little scatter brained, a little flighty. Last week she divided the class into pairs. She had each pair discuss time travel. If they could go back in time, to any spot in history, where would they go and why. I’m assuming it was an elaborate writing prompt of sorts.

Adelaide and her friend Taylor went back in time and boarded the Titanic. At just the right moment there they were on deck pointing out the imminent danger, “Look out! An iceberg”! Of course they saved the day, the ship and the 1,517 lives that would have otherwise been drowned. They were the heroes. It was a noble thing to do.

And then Adelaide and Taylor went back further in time. This time they showed upmanger scene, advent, nativity scene at the shed, out behind the crammed inn, where the new-born baby Jesus was nestled in the manger. They were there with the shepherds, the wise men, the mandatory camel, the cows, the sheep and of course the angel. I had this fleeting moment of mother pride, “Ah…what a sweet idea! To go to the manger, to worship, to be a part of that history-changing, grace-birthing, life-changing Holy space.”

My moment didn’t last long!

Adelaide further explained, “That way whenever a nativity set is displayed we’d be there— a little Adelaide and a little Taylor”!

My imagination laughed out loud. Here’s the tiny shepherd boy, here’s the Mother Mary and the little Joseph always looking so very serious and tired. Here’s the three stoic wise men each bearing their obligatory oddly shaped gift. There’s the sheep, the cows and that darn camel! Oh wait … and here’s the little Adelaide and the little Taylor!

When  you’re nearly fourteen, you have an amazing capacity to make almost anything all about you. The crèche might be sacred but with just a little creativity you might squeeze into that too!

The irony, I suppose is, that it is all about her. Jesus is thrilled when my Adelaide shows up at the manger. She’s one of the reasons he came. He welcomes her there; her and Taylor too. Really we are all invited! It’s for me and it’s for you. We can all show up.

So when you put out your nativity set this year, don’t be surprised if you see a couple of extra figures. Adelaide’s the one with boots on and her fingernails painted!

First Friday of Advent: Everything Changes When a Baby is Born

Many of you will know that Advent is marked off the calendar in Sundays. It’s the four-week season of expectation as Christians around the world wait for the Christ child to be born. Wikipedia describes it as, a season observed in many Western Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. The term is an anglicized version of the Latin word adventus, meaning ‘coming.’ It is the beginning of the Western liturgical year and commences on Advent Sunday”. This month Fridays with Robynn will feature four Friday Advent pieces. Friday is a day of worship for many around the world. Fridays are also the day I get to write! And when I’m not grumpy I really love the Advent season. Happy First Friday of Advent to all of you!

Yesterday was a miserable day. I stayed in bed most of the day and drank hot tea. I cried lots. I watched a couple of mindless TV shows. I read some. But mostly I just felt sorry for myself.

And finally I phoned my mom. My dad was there too…and he was full of wisdom and humour.

But really it was a day when you just want to talk to your mom.

On Monday some very dear friends, the Chamberlains, from our India days came through. We hadn’t seen them in nearly two years. It was a wonderful reunion. My kids enjoyed their kids. We enjoyed them. Of course we stayed up way too late, attempting the impossible, trying to catch up on all the stories with all the heart. Tuesday morning after getting our own three kids out the door to school, we helped reluctantly get the Chamberlains out the door as well.

Tuesday afternoon I spent all afternoon baking and grieving the shortness of their visit, the ache of such sweet friendships we made in that far off place.  I was baking for an event later that evening, where we say thank you to all our dear Alpha volunteers. That same afternoon Lowell and I realized that the Environmental Missions project we oversee was very nearly broke. We had submitted an expense account for some rather large expenses only to be told they would have to hold off on reimbursing us because of lack of funds.

So you can see that by Wednesday I was done. I sunk into myself and savoured long sips of tea and long moments of self-pity.

I was suddenly lonely again—having said goodbye to our old friends. I was suddenly tired again—having poured out for family and friends and church. I was suddenly overwhelmed again—having realized our bank balances are low and will likely be this way for a while and it’s Christmas. I was suddenly sad and full of sorrow.  I was gray and ground to a groaning, grinding stop and I cried.

And then the text message came: “He’s here! Kendall Jason. Born November 27 at 12:01pm. 6lbs 9 oz 21 ¼ inches long”.

Everything changes when a baby is born. Instantly colour entered where everything had seemed so dismal. Immediately optimism was born. New life infused new meaning and a sense of hope into my soul. I got up and took a shower. I put on clean clothes. I suddenly had purpose again.  I grabbed the camera and headed out the door. Unexpected energy and excitement came with me.

We had a baby to visit.

I held the new little mister. I hugged his mama. I kissed his fresh head. Tears came to my eyes and spilled down my face. Miracles still happen. God still makes new babies. He still writes new stories. Grace and joy still exist. Suddenly my Wednesday didn’t seem so despondent, my heart wasn’t so close to despair.  I left the hospital smiling, hoping, happy.

Because it’s true! Everything does change when a Baby is born!