Where is Jesus now?
by Kelly Pontsler, Major –
A few days before Christmas I read an article about a community that kept losing Jesus. In the spirit of Christmas, a large nativity scene is set up annually on a designated corner in town. And year after year, the figure of the baby Jesus repeatedly disappears. This year, one of the organizers got smart and put technology to work, placing a small global positioning (GPS) unit inside of the baby figure! When Jesus went missing again, he was tracked by satellite to the home of a neighborhood boy. Apparently the disappearance was nothing more than a childhood prank. I have a feeling someone had some explaining to do!
I chuckled when I read the story, because my mind flashed back to one Christmas when I was serving in Kinshasa (then-Zaire). Locally carved nativity sets were pulled out every year as part of household decorations and the handwork was something to be admired. My colleague Edna had a gorgeous set, with all of the main characters of the Christmas story, which she always set out carefully in her living room.
I’ll never forget Edna mentioning one day that Jesus had gone missing. It was a strange occurrence, with no logical explanation, as far as we could see. That was followed later by an update, saying that she’d found Jesus under the furniture in a corner. This happened several times in a row. Every time Edna placed the baby figurine back in the cradle, Jesus would disappear again. Talk about a mystery!
Several days later the culprit was caught in the act! Edna’s small, mischievous cat had taken up a new game: swatting Jesus out of the cradle and lobbing him across the room. We had a good laugh about that—and then Edna promptly glued Jesus into the cradle, thus ending the game! I’m not sure a GPS unit would have solved the problem, but it surely would have sped up the conclusion. And I can guarantee you we didn’t get much of an explanation out of that cat!
I love nativity scenes—of all shapes and sizes and styles. I’m not a collector; it’s just one of those things that always catches my eye during the Christmas season. Not only to see if Jesus is where he needs to be (firmly planted in the manger), but to try to imagine what it must have been like to be there on the night Christ was born.
A thought has been tugging at my mind in these post-Christmas days. Why is it that when the Christmas season is in full swing we keep an eye out for Jesus, happy to let him be on decorative display in our houses and offices—but when the presents have all been opened and the Christmas carols end, Jesus goes back in the box until next year? Why is that? Has Jesus become “seasonal?”
I suspect it’s not really about nativity sets. It’s about human nature: we have an innate tendency to compartmentalize life into manageable slices of time and information and activity. Most of us live at the level of overload most of the time, so finding room in our life for one more thing is challenging. From time to time, some things have to go “back in the box” for a season. Is the Christ of Christmas one of them?
The run up to Christmas was pretty hectic for me this year, and I’ll admit that only a few of my Christmas decorations made it out of the box. So I’ve decided to break with tradition. My own African nativity set is coming out of the box now, to live in my house in the “off season!” Not so much as an act of rebellion, but as my New Year’s resolution: to let Jesus be found by me all year.
May it be so!