Our Christmas season ended with a crash.
A quiet family supper was progressing quite nicely when, somewhere between the mashed potatoes and the dessert, “there arose such a clatter”. Our heavily-laden evergreen had tipped over in the living room.
Dropping my fork, I rushed to the accident scene and was taken aback by the chaos before me.
The crèche scene formerly nestled beneath bottom boughs was now a mess scene. A wounded angel lay wingless, half under a nearby footstool.
Mary suffered the double humiliation of being pinned by foliage then beaned by a plummeting glass ball which now lay shattered around her. Joseph experienced third degree burns to his lower extremities after coming to rest against a blue bulb.
And the little Lord Jesus who, moments before had rested peacefully in a manger under the tree, was missing in action.
It was obvious to emergency personnel (a.k.a. family) that the tree was beyond rescue. Decorations were plucked from drooping branches and scooped from the floor, then stashed in boxes that were hustled to the garage.
The spruce was wrestled out the front door and planted unceremoniously in a nearby snow bank. We then returned to the table and dug into dessert pushed aside 30 minutes earlier. Mission accomplished.
The abrupt end to family festivities is remarkably similar to what unfolds outside our home each year as Christmas celebrations come to a screeching halt. Grinning Santas are stripped from store windows to make room for cupids armed with arrows.
Multi-colored light displays are unplugged, plunging streets into shadows once more. Jingle Bells no longer ring forth from radios. We flip our calendars to January, return to our figurative desserts, and “get on with life”.
But someone forgot to tell Jesus the celebration was over at our house – He keeps showing up. Remember the ceramic infant launched from the manger during our Christmas chaos?
A daughter rescued Him from under the piano, propping Him on a nearby shelf where He calmly observed the comings and goings of our hectic household.
Later that week, friends arrived to play Monopoly and an extra game piece was needed.
Jesus was recruited from his nearby perch and was soon sharing space with unlikely characters like a thimble and racecar. He didn’t seem to mind, maintaining his grin throughout. In fact, He seemed to be in His element when surrounded by friends and laughter and food.
It makes me realize again that the Divine just doesn’t fit well into our preconceived notions of where He belongs. Heaven must have been astounded when He announced plans to depart for Earth.
He then amazed humans by showing up in a manger of all places. The biblical Daniel experienced Him in a den of lions. Moses met Him on a mountain and King David in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Yes, He’s the Houdini of Heaven, appearing in unexpected places and times.
Church buildings can’t contain Him. Political regimes can’t eliminate Him. Doubters can’t reason Him away. Ignoring societal pressure to stay put in December, He burst into the New Year with a grin and a promise – “I will never leave you or forsake you”.
I think we’ll leave the ceramic Jesus unpacked this year as a reminder of His unending passion for involvement in the affairs of mankind. Besides, we’re playing the game Pay Day next week and just may need Him on the board.
Rod Barks is a Saskatchewan pastor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.