Tucked between holiday greetings of good cheer and warm wishes across the pages of social media are random posts with small voices of loneliness and grief. These tidings seem inappropriately wedged between jingle bells and halls decked with boughs of holly. “I am so tired,” sighed a frazzled mother with four young children in a post on Facebook. “Where are you, Christmas? I hope you find me.”
The commercial promise of Christmas ensures everyone will be rewarded with their hearts’ desire … if only they believe in the magic. We want to be filled with holiday spirit. We hunger for something that will stay with us longer than an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle.
A part of us yearns for a little Christmas sparkle that reminds us we are special. We want to believe that a part of the Divine we search for is within us. We want to believe that our story is part of the Christmas story, too.
No one can tell a story like Bill McClellan, columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. About 20 years ago, Bill described what appeared to be a theft of a plastic Baby Jesus from His manger that was part of an annual Nativity scene display in the front yard of Ted and Liz Laspe.
Every year, Ted Laspe carefully placed the Infant Christ in His bed next to His plastic Mother and Joseph at midnight on December 25th But Jesus disappeared from His manger shortly after His appearance in 1993. And Ted was furious.
Bill explained …
The people are convinced that the Baby Jesus will arrive again on Christmas Eve. He will come to a house where Ted Laspe used to live. Laspe died in October. He was only 47 and had been in relatively good health until he had open-heart surgery. After that, his health went steadily downhill.
He seldom talked about his own troubles. Maybe that’s because he was aware that many people had more severe problems. He spent much of his time looking after the neighborhood’s shut-ins. He was always available to do errands or take people shopping. He used to visit one elderly woman because he knew how much she needed company.
He had an old plastic Nativity scene he used to proudly display in front of his house every year. Three Wise Men, two sheep, one camel, one donkey, one shepherd, and, of course, Joseph and Mary. All were huddled around the crib that held Baby Jesus. It went up well before Christmas and it stayed up well after Christmas.
When Laspe was ready to pack up the nativity scene, he discovered that Baby Jesus was gone from His crib. In its place was a note. “Dear Ted, On vacation — Be back Christmas Eve.” Laspe talked to all his neighbors. They denied knowing anything about the missing Baby Jesus.
The Laspes received the first postcard a month later in February. It was from Colorado. “Having a great time. The mountains are wonderful — close to heaven! Gotta go. Hi to Liz. Love, Jesus.” Two weeks after that, another postcard came from Phoenix. The following week, the Laspes got a postcard from California. Postcards arrived from Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Arkansas. All were signed, “Love, Jesus. See you on Christmas Eve.”
In August, Baby Jesus appeared in photographs at the mountains of Utah, on the beach in Mexico, and casinos of Las Vegas. Postcards arrived from New York to California. One photograph was a stewardess holding Baby Jesus at the airport.
In October, Ted Laspe’s heart stopped beating.
Two weeks later, Liz received a postcard: “Took some time off to make sure Ted got settled in. He wanted me to tell you that he’s doing just fine and feels terrific. He loves you very much and he wants you to know he’s always with you. Love, Jesus.”
The day after Thanksgiving, Liz and her daughters reassembled the Nativity scene in the front yard. The crib, of course, was empty. Their neighbors were convinced that, while the children of the world watched for reindeer and dreamt of presents, Baby Jesus would find His way to the crib were He belonged in the Laspe’s front yard.
Liz and her neighbors gathered around the Nativity scene on December 24th and waited for His arrival.
A baffled cabdriver suddenly parked his taxi in front of the Lapse home. He said he had come from the airport. He led Liz to his cab and asked her, “Do you know anything about this?”
The plastic Baby Jesus was in the back of the cab. He leaned against a suitcase covered with teddy bear stickers. Liz found souvenirs and travel trinkets, a toothbrush and sunglasses, postcards and stamps within the worn suitcase. And there was a small box filled with miniature Baby Jesuses. Special instructions asked Liz to share the figurines with all of those waiting for the Baby’s return as a reminder to share the gift of love with one another.
The word Christ, or Christos, in Greek means “anointed.” Throughout the centuries, people used rites of anointing as an outward expression of our inward recognition of the Divine in one another. To be anointed is to experience holiness.
This season reminds us to see and hear holiness in and around us. To be Divine expressions of grace to one another.
“Blessed are the pure of heart for they will see God.” (Matt 5:8).
The kingdom of heaven is within you. Where it’s always been. And that’s where you will find Christmas.
How do you connect with holiness within you?
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