Ruth Harder is the pastor at Rainbow Mennonite Church in Kansas City, Kansas. Ruth grew up in Hillsboro, Kansas, and is a graduate of Bethel College (’01) and Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (’07). Ruth is married to Jesse Graber, a free-lance illustrator and they both do their best to keep themselves and their cats out of trouble.
It’s that time of year again — time to lose baby Jesus.
It happens every year. We set up the crèche, complete with Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, angels and shepherds, and usually within 24 hours poor baby Jesus goes missing.
With no children in the house and two feline, I think we know who the culprit is. Yes, Pepper, we are on to you!
Thankfully we haven’t ever lost baby Jesus completely. We usually find him, put him back in his rightful place, put Pepper in time out, and within 24 hours, Jesus is gone again. This hide and seek ritual continues throughout Advent and Christmas.
Last year as we were preparing for a group of church members to come over, I searched the entire house for baby Jesus, but Pepper outsmarted me. Some people noticed the missing Jesus and figured there was some theological reason for waiting until Christmas to put Jesus in his manger. I confessed that I wasn’t that sophisticated and that really, the cat burglar in the house was to blame for Jesus missing.
One of our seven-year-old house guests, who I didn’t even know was listening in on our conversation, piped up and said matter-of-factly “Maybe Jesus will come back at Easter.” Now it’s not just cats, but seven-year-olds outsmarting me.
Today as I set up the crèche, carefully placing Jesus in his rightful place, it’s tempting to want to glue him down. I might still do that, and yet, as much as we may want Jesus securely in the center of our lives and nativity scenes, it’s never that simple.
I wake up many mornings and sometimes in the middle of the night wondering where Jesus is. Often loss, hatred, illness, suffering, abuse and violence are like thieves, robbing us of the gifts Jesus embodied and still offers. So yes, I want a here-to-stay Jesus, but as seven-year-old Arri reminds us, even the Biblical story doesn’t have Jesus glued down, what with the resurrection and all.
Jesus is often found in strange, unlikely and miraculous places. Here, there and everywhere, and yet sometimes hard to find and never to be confined.
Now if we could just figure out a way to keep Pepper in his rightful place.
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