If there is a story that flags our attention, it is the news of a missing child. Editors know that they can run stories of abducted children in newsprint and television for much longer than other tragedies without growing stale. Witness the persistence this fall in the media of the case of the young girl abducted from her Toronto home. Fortunately, our hearts have not been completely hardened by reports of senseless violence. We have not been totally calloused by the endless episodes of war.
The unexplained disappearance of a family member strikes terror into our innermost being. Ten years ago, friends of ours lost a young man from a summer camp. Lost, not in a drowning accident, but through an inexplicable disappearance, with no explanation even a decade later. That family, and many close friends, struggled for years with the questions of, “what happened?”, “where did he go?” and “why did this happen?” Their only solace was in committing the entire mystery to God and trusting that in some way, his will be done in the matter. Beyond that, there have been no answers.
NO BABE IN THE MANGER
Some years ago, newspapers carried the story of the theft of “Baby Jesus” from the nativity scene located on the front lawn of a church. The manger scene, the figures of Joseph and Mary, the shepherds and the animals in the stable were truly works of art, sculpted by a skilled woodcarver. But the thief had stolen only one of the figures – the central One – that of Baby Jesus. Happily, the story had a positive turn when the sculpture was anonymously returned to the manger in time for Christmas Eve celebrations.
We are approaching the Christmas Season. Again this year, our stores are beautifully decorated with the usual reds and greens in the form of wreaths and garlands. Twinkling lights of all colors adorn our community. Trees with all the bells and whistles (make that bells and angels trumpets) claim their place in the corner of our family rooms. All is in readiness to receive the gifts which soon will be opened with great excitement. In many homes and churches there will be a Nativity scene, displaying all the familiar figures – and of course – the Baby Jesus. Would you not think it strange, indeed unacceptable, if the Nativity scene featured a stereo system? Or tickets to the opera? Or a new sweater? Yet, in the minds of many, the Christ Child will have no place in their celebrations. For many, it may be alright to attend a Cantata at church, but the Baby Jesus has little place in their home and even less in their hearts.
MISSING IN THE SCHOOL HOUSE
This summer, my wife and I visited Upper Canada Village. We hadn’t been there for years and we thoroughly enjoyed reviewing the history of Eastern Ontario in that special setting. The one-room school house, though made of log, is not much different than the one I attended during the 1940’s. Man, am I getting ancient! It was fun to hear the “teacher” tell how the students of eighteen sixty-six would sing God Save the King (George III) and stand for health inspection. I remarked out loud that there was no Bible on the teacher’s desk, an absolute certainty in public schools up until only two decades ago. She admitted that the Bible was missing from the desk in deference to being politically correct. Amazing! Here is a museum that goes to great pains to achieve accuracy but stops short of displaying the Bible, so as not to offend the public. In that classroom, I went on to explain that the Scriptures were read and the Lord’s Prayer repeated every morning. A visitor in the room was so offended that she stormed out of the school in anger! I expect that home will not display the Baby Jesus on the mantelpiece this Christmas.
Christmas is rich with its many symbols. The evergreen tree speaks of everlasting life. Gifts symbolize the greatest Gift of all and encourage us to be generous with each other as He taught us. Even Santa Claus originated in Germany as Kriss Kringle which means by translation “Christ Child or Christmas Gift”. Ornaments of angels blowing trumpets announce the true meaning of the Day. And bells add to the joyous music which has become part of every culture touched by the Christian Gospel.
WHERE IS HE?
The challenge to properly understand Christmas is that it links the past with the present. Yes, there was a real baby. No, he did not remain a baby but grew up in his community two thousand years ago. In that sense, Baby Jesus has graduated from the manger scene. My wife says that when she was a little Quebec girl she was so focused on “Jésus dans la crèche” that she had difficulty understanding him any other way. She was told, “Be a good girl or Baby Jesus will cry”. Later on, she began to transfer her devotion to the suffering Jesus on the Cross. As she grew in her understanding of the Scriptures, it became clear that these symbols represented greater truths. Jesus is no longer the Babe in the Manger, nor is he any longer hanging on Calvary’s Cross. Our secular world would like to confine him to those places in history. This would perhaps serve a culture or a religion, but cannot nourish a living faith.
MY HEART – HIS HOME
The well-known painting of Christ standing at the door was inspired by the text from Revelation 3: vs 20: “Listen! I am standing and knocking at your door. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and we will eat together”. The resurrected Christ still offers forgiveness and life to all who open their heart by faith. This Christmas, perhaps you would like to take important steps forward in your faith journey. Invite the Christ, God’s gift to you, to make his home in your heart and life. Remember that the painting correctly depicts the Lord on the outside of the door, but the handle is on the inside!
Several years ago someone wrote a booklet entitled, “My Heart – Christ’s Home”. If you would like a complimentary copy, simply contact me: Wilf Wight, District Director, Canadian Bible Society, 315 Lisgar St., Ottawa, ON K0A 2Y0 email@example.com