This morning a small group of helpers is in our church decorating the interior for Christmas. As they hang garlands and place Christmas trees they are making our church a beautiful setting for the the birth of our Savior.
Once when I was pastor in a country church, the adornment crew was making the finishing touches to the manger scene when someone in the group realized that the statue of the infant was missing. This was early on December 24th.
What are we going to do? Where are we going to find a replacement in time for Christmas Eve? We tried several other images which people brought from home. Each was somehow wrong. One image was simply in bad taste. No one liked it. Another was really nice infant but it was way too small for the crib. Our traditional “Baby Jesus” was life-sized. You could cradle it like a real infant.
About the time when our decorating group was losing hope of finding a proper replacement, the actual image showed up in the arms of a woman who had unpacked the manger scene several days before. Because the image of the baby had two fingers broken off, she had taken it to a local artist who fashioned two new fingers so that the statue was whole again.
That evening at the first Mass of Christmas, the deacon, raising the image of the Baby Jesus high over his head walked at the head of our procession. When we arrived at the altar, a young family met us and their little daughter gently placed the Baby Jesus in the manger.
What would Christmas be without the presence of Jesus? For want of a better way of saying it, we have to put Christ back in Christmas. Without his presence, the fractured world we live in remains unrepaired, unredeemed.
In my own life, I am preparing a place for Our Savior because the vacant manger of my heart, too, needs his presence this Christmas.