If you haven’t unpacked them and placed them somewhere in your house, I am sure it will happen soon.  Somewhere down in your boxes or neatly packed (and labeled) in clear storage bins are those small figurines wrapped in tissue.  All of them have pretty much the same figures but come in all different colors and material.  Let’s see, there is the shepherd holding his cane and a lamb or two, a cow laying down, definitely a donkey, an angel proclaiming the news, the wise men (albeit a little early) each holding their gifts, Mary looking lovely, humble Joseph and packed away somewhere is the baby Jesus.  Who doesn’t love to unpack their Nativity scene?  If you are like most, there is one special spot in your house that receives the Nativity.  Be it on a counter, cabinet or front and center on the coffee table, it is surely put where all can see.  Store bought, handmade, or one passed down from generations past, our manger scenes are very much a part of our Christmas decorations as our trees.

It wasn’t too many years ago we began to unpack ours.  Everything was going just fine.  We had our little stable barn set up.  The bushes were out, the star was lit and the figures were being placed in their proper “Biblical” location.  Then the unthinkable happens.  As tradition must be in the Risinger family, Jesus must be placed last.  Reaching down into the box, he was gone!  That’s right, baby Jesus was MIA!  I couldn’t find him anywhere.  Not lost in the tissue nor under the box flap in the bottom.  Nervousness began to set in.  My kids were not going to like the news were I to fail.  They had already realized Jesus was the centerpiece to our middle eastern scene.  The search continued at a quickened pace.  I had to find baby Jesus.  I began to think maybe he ended up in another box.  I continued, but it was looking bleak.  I couldn’t find him anywhere.  Not found hanging out with the gingerbread man or Santa, nor looking for pecans with the nutcracker. The realization began to set in, baby Jesus was going to have to miss Christmas this year.

I told the kids.  The shock on their faces is embedded in my memory to this day.  “Baby Jesus is gone?” Bethany said. “Where’d he go?” was Andrew’s response.  As the discussion continued, I sensed their disappointment and sadness.  I tried as I could to console them as best I could.  I stressed that Christmas would be fine and we’d still set our manger scene out.  I told them that the manger should really be empty because Jesus didn’t come until Christmas Eve anyway.  I thought that would buy me time to find ours or buy another.

What intrigued me was what followed the days leading up to Christmas Eve.  Over the course of the next few days, I kept finding all kinds of “baby Jesus’ ” in the little manger.  Everything and everyone, from one made of paper and masterfully Crayola Crayon colored like Picasso, to Buzz Lightyear awkwardly laying on the tiny hay manger found its way to represent Jesus that year.  Christmas Eve came and went and baby Jesus was never found.  But what was found was a lifelong message my children left me that year.

Bethany and Andrew understood something that I wish to share with you today.  They realized that without baby Jesus, Christmas wouldn’t be the same.  In fact, without Jesus, we would have no Christmas at all.  At some point between now and Christmas Eve, you will see a nativity scene.  When you do, please look down at their baby Jesus and be thankful. Be thankful that they didn’t lose their baby Jesus and be reminded that without that baby Jesus we wouldn’t have Christmas.  The world wouldn’t be the same without the hope HE brings to all.

Merry Christmas!