Editor’s note: There have been many articles in Light Magazine over the years, but this one is one of the best and never ceases to remind me that we have a good God who loves us dearly. It is reprinted this Christmas with the knowledge that we have all lost something important in our lives, and with the prayer that you will find healing from our Lord and Saviour, Jesus the messiah, born in a humble stable to take on our sins and bring us into relationship with our heavenly father. Blessings to you this Christmas.
When I was little and still sloshing through winter with my rubber boots on the wrong feet, a special Christmas gift was delivered to me and my older sister from our Grandpa.
It was a nativity he had made himself, complete with an ox, a cow, a lamb, a shepherd, a couple of wise men, two doting parents I was told were Mary and Joseph, and a little baby lying in some hay with outstretched arms – who, I was told, was Jesus. Hanging from a thread on the corner of the little roof was an angel, holding a drapery that said “Gloria.”
Grandpa was almost deaf by the time I was born in 1971, but for three things: low keys on the piano, knocking knuckles on the table, and the nearness of his grandchildren. We visited every weekend, and when we stayed home from school sick, we were transported from our home in White Rock to their place. Getting chicken pox was a breeze, good times even: in my pyjamas for days, scratching, munching Grandma’s eccles cakes and Grandpa feeding me ju jubes as we drew pictures back and forth.
My sister, Vicki, and I went to sleep in the attic bedroom while Grandpa sang from the bottom of the stairs “Good Night Ladies,” “Melancholy Baby” and “Clementine.” He did not hear us giggling and yelling, “Good night, Grumpy!”
A few years later, he renovated the manger. Vicki and I were delighted to see the young family and their friends now had a stall with a gate for the ox and cow, a bunk with some new hay, a little wooden well with a tiny wooden pail and even electricity – for on the ceiling hung a single golden bulb, giving the scene a warm glow. On the outside walls were little stones set in concrete that made it look ancient.
The best part about the new, five-star manger was the honoured guest. Unlike other baby Jesus figurines, this little melamine version was not moulded into one piece with his haybed. The two-inch likeness of Mary’s boy child could be picked up by my eight-year-old hands.
It was spectacular, and pageantry like this had to be shared! What good was the coolest little family scene ever if I couldn’t show it off to my school friends? I said this to my Mom when she said no, I certainly could not take the nativity to my grade three classroom. “Puh-leeze Mom!” I insisted, staring at her. She was breaking down, I could see it, and after ensuring it would be safe under my watchful eyes, she gave in. The nativity set was to reside in Ms. Hamel’s class for a whole week, until school let out for Christmas break.
It didn’t last two days. By Tuesday morning, baby Jesus had vanished.
Everything looked different now: the angel no longer floated at the corner of the roof, she just kind of hung there; and Joseph and Mary’s adoration looked more like dismay as they stared into the empty bed.
My heart sank, and fear coursed through me. What would I tell Mom? Worse, what would I tell Vicki? Oh, I was faint! Would Grandpa find out?
The car ride home that day was bad. I sat forlorn in the backseat, the nativity beside me, the manger empty. “Did you talk to everyone in your class?” Vicki said, looking at me from the front seat. Mom said: “I should never have let you take it to school.”
At home, we set the nativity up again and chose an understudy to replace the star of the show. We selected a clay Jesus tree ornament made the year before. It was a little out of proportion with the rest of the assembly, but it would do. It was decided that baby Jesus had been stolen, and although I did not do the crime, I took on the burden of guilt. There were tears: of anger that someone would do this; of shame that I had let my family down; and of frustration, that Jesus was not lying in his bed.
The one relief was that Grandpa said nothing. He was his over-emphatic self at the sight of me and Vicki standing in his doorway in winter coats and toques, waving our mittens wildly. “Well, look who’s here!” he exclaimed.
Christmas and all its festivities came and went as they did every year. Except that baby Jesus was gone. So when he ended up back in the palm of my hand, I was surprised to the point of tears. Ms. Hamel called me aside on the first day back at school. She said, “I have something for you,” and handed me the figurine. Her four-year-old daughter had pocketed the infant saviour and stashed him in her toy drawer.
It wasn’t the last Christmas I’d spend with a heavy heart. Decades later, I was so lost looking for answers, for goodness in places other than the Word and promises of God, I became addicted to alcohol, drugs and the lie that nothing ever works out anyway.
I was estranged from my Mom and my sister for most of my 30s, and kept only sporadic contact with my dad, and his wife, whose stress over my life had them praying to God to rescue me.
And, He did. Without explanation, by my late 30s, the name Jesus was on my heart and my lips. At this time, I could not have named the four Gospels, but I was crying out to God, and the spark of His hope started a fire inside me.
The power and grace of the Lord led me to Christian Life Assembly Recovery Church in Langley. I opened my mouth and asked Jesus to be the Lord of my life, and everything began to change. Jesus answered! And I grabbed on to Him with both hands – just like I had at eight years old when baby Jesus ended up back in the palm of my hand and the surprise moved me to tears.
The nativity lovingly built by Grandpa is still standing (they don’t build ’em like he used to), and is now under Vicki’s tree, where my teenaged niece sees it.
Laughter came to my family when, under God’s guidance, I reconciled with my Mom after 10 years, and she remembered The Year Baby Jesus Was Stolen
One of my prayers this Christmas is that all my family “grab on” to Jesus; that while they rejoice in the miracle of my new life, they know it is for them too, as it is for your families.
May His Spirit be upon us all this Christmas.