Who Stole Jesus?
A minister from Chicago sent an email through during the week saying, “Jesus Kidnapped!”
The infant was abducted from the city’s nativity and from the reaction it sounded like Christmas would be cancelled.
Visitors to the downtown crèche discovered a bare hay-mound where the baby had previously laid. The television stations began round-the-clock coverage and every newscast started with the mayor, in a fit of outrage, indignant citizens demanding action, the police chief promising a complete investigation, and teary nativity committee members standing before the vacant manger pleading for the baby’s return – no questions asked.
For three days this went on and the said he expected to see artist rendering of Jesus on milk cartons. ‘Have you seen me?’ he would ask.
No doubt the tabloids would commission a computer projection of the baby at various ages, should the case go unsolved for some years. We would be provided with what Jesus would look like at age twelve. And here he is with facial hair.
The minister found himself fingering a bolt of black cloth at Wal-Mart and planning campaign of arm bands.
Then suddenly, unexpectedly, the baby Jesus was found in a locker at the bus depot. It was a squalid little grotto, unfit for such a fine work of art, but he was unharmed, not a hair painted on his head was mussed, and the city breathed relief.
With the baby safely strapped in his bed (thick locking metal traps with guards standing by), peace returned to a troubled people and Christmas came once again.
‘Jesus kidnapped. That’s how Advent can sometimes be.
We have all this activity about ‘the baby’, but where is the baby? Sometimes, Jesus gets lost in the holy hustle of the holidays.
Well, I want you to forget everything you don’t like about Christmas.
Try to forget the commercialism, the rushing, the exhaustion, the family politics, the balancing act of his and her family’s, and the sometimes awkward older generations.
Forget the astonishment that a baby born in a stable in Bethlehem thousands of kilometres away, could later cause traffic jams and lengthy queues in countless cities, twenty centuries later?
Forget also about the great challenge of finding the right gift for the right person. It’s too late now.
My wife once received from her brother a packet of corks, so from now on she is prepared for anything.
A study released during the week showed something interesting about Christmas gifts. People were asked to put a dollar value on the gifts they were given, and then said what they would have been prepared to pay for the gifts. The latter was invariably 25% less than what the giver paid. So think of the motivation, not the value!
And think of the value of the sometimes under-valued gift at Christmas.
Framed between the miracles of conception and resurrection is the life ministry and life-changing effect of the Lord Jesus Christ on this world.
And that reminds me to direct your attention to a toy.
It is a beautiful toy that has been around since your grandfather was a boy. It is called a kaleidoscope.
When you look into the light and turn it you see a multitude of beautiful shapes and colours. It doesn’t need batteries, is transportable and greenhouse friendly. What a toy!
And it reminds me of today. Let’s look for the beautiful colours of Christmas. The rich tapestries of grace, hope, joy, purpose and new birth. Forget the secondary stuff. Choose the attitude that blesses and give thanks. Between Matthew, Luke, John and Titus we see a rich kaleidoscope of Christmas colour. They tell us that we Christians don’t have a monopoly on this event. We are simply those who have responded in faith.
Christmas is not simply for Christians, it is something for the whole world. God so loved the World that He gave His one and only Son. God didn’t send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save it. Those are the colours we are to seek out in our kaleidoscope of Christmas meaning. The rich colours of Jesus’ doting and prayerful parents, Mary and Joseph. They were most likely very poor but concerned enough to seek accommodation in an inn before they were ushered to the room service of the cattle shed.
The colours of Joseph and Mary wondering what the future held for their miraculous child as they sat, puzzled by visiting, embarrassed shepherds, still trembling from meeting an angelic chorus.
There in a lowly cattle-shed, God makes his entrance to the world in the visible form, sharing the vulnerability of every infant.
J.B. Phillips reminds us that the Christian faith is founded upon a well attested sober fact of history; that quietly, but with deliberate purpose, God himself has visited this little planet.
There the generosity of God is on display for all to see. A baby becomes a Saviour, and all because of the gracious decision of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He the Lord was under no obligation, no compulsion to do anything like this for a rebellious race that specializes in forgetting about him. He chose to come through humble people, to all people, through Mary to millions, from tiny Israel to every civilization resting upon the 10 tectonic plates of the earth’s crust.
The birth of Christ is a secular event in a bar, surrounded by wordy, partying drunks, the poor and the lowly like the shepherds, a vocation no school-boy ever wanted to aspire to.
Jesus’ birth is still one for all people. Muslims see him as a prophet, but need help to see him as a Saviour. Buddhists can be helped to see that salvation does not lie within oneself but in knowing Jesus Christ, the only one who can change the self for good. And to the Hindu with a multitude of gods to choose from, who can hear the word there is only one god and He is seen and found in Jesus Christ.
Christmas as a theological event, highlights the utter distinctiveness of the Christian faith. Every world religion has a sense of sin which they try and deal with in different ways, but none says that God himself came upon earth to deal with it.
What will be your response be to the Lord this year?
The shepherds came, fresh faced, illuminated, with the fragrance of a shearing shed, breathless from rubbing shoulders with angels. They didn’t say or do anything worth recording, but they came, explaining in some embarrassed way what they were doing there. They were more at home with the animals in the shed than the people there. But they came.
Won’t you open your heart and come to Jesus today? The shepherds kneeled before the manger which would one day be reshaped into a cross, as the infant would become a Saviour.
Christmas began in the heart of God. It is complete only when it reaches the heart of man.
May Jesus be more than a baby to you and me, less an object of affection than one of devotion, less one we admire, than one before whom we kneel in our hearts, as he brings great joy to all who meet him.
By George Robert Iles