Written by Jane Scupham, principal
Long ago, or 19 years ago to be precise, in a city four hours away, by the name of Cincinnati, the Baby Jesus went missing. Thus begins a family Christmas story.
Amid the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations at my parents’ house, Hannah, a toddler of 18 months fell in love with the Christ Child. On the antique hall table in the entry way of my parents’ house, my mother had set out in its traditional place of honor a small crèche from Jerusalem, hand-carved from the wood of olive trees. The camels all leaned in rather precarious ways, as if they were struggling through some unseen, raging sandstorm. The cows were perpetually at rest, and the sheep seemed unnaturally large-boned. But nestled between the jumbo pinecone trees and random animals, the Holy Family took center stage. Mary and Joseph stood beaming upon the Baby Jesus, who lay in his manger with arms outstretched, as if inviting all who came to visit to pick him up and plant a kiss on the top of his head.
Hannah took this invitation to heart and picked up the Baby Jesus and carried him wherever she went, bestowing kisses upon his tiny head. This gesture was met with “oohs” and “aahs” by her parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. For the days before Christmas, Baby Jesus was lovingly carried throughout the house by Hannah, and only at naptime and bedtime did he get to rest in his own manger.
Then tragedy ensued. The Baby Jesus disappeared. “Where did you put the Baby Jesus, Hannah?” She answered as only an 18 month old can, with a smile and a point and a laugh, as we hunted throughout the house for Jesus. Did she put him in the dog’s dish? No. Was he hiding under the Christmas tree? No. Did he get mixed up in the wrapping paper debris? A search through the trash cans said no to that one, too. She couldn’t have possibly thrown him into the air conditioning vent in the floor, could she? No, Grandpa and Dad couldn’t find him in the vent after an hour of peering down the vent hole with a flashlight and a mirror, and poking around with a straightened coat hanger.
It was Christmas Eve, and Baby Jesus was fast becoming a cold case. The manger looked very empty and you could almost detect a forlorn look on the cows’ faces and a tear in Mary’s eye. Or maybe the sadness was coming from Grandma, who was bemoaning the fact that she would never be able to find another Baby Jesus from Jerusalem olive wood.
And like all good Christmas stories, this one has a happy ending, too…Baby Jesus was found…in the newspaper recycle bin…and kissed over and over again by Hannah before he was gently placed back in the manger, and we headed out to the 4:00 Christmas Eve Children’s Mass.
My wish for you and your family this Christmas is to find Baby Jesus once more in your life.