Jesus goes missing.
A reflection for the holiday season.
Once upon a time, in a poverty-stricken village in Ireland, everyone was excited about Christmas. The minister of the local Church together with some parishioners devoted time, effort, and loving attention to decorating the church and preparing the liturgical celebration. To emphasize the true meaning of Christmas and to celebrate the precious gift of the birth of Jesus, they arranged a magnificent manger scene, handcrafted and painted by talented villagers.
When Christmas morning finally arrived, the minister discovered the baby Jesus was missing from the manger.
News rapidly spread throughout the village. The minister and two other villagers went from door to door looking for the baby Jesus but he was nowhere to be found. As they rounded the corner of a house, they came face to face with Sean, a small red-haired boy with large brown eyes and little red cheeks glowing with a big broad smile. He was towing a large bright red wagon with the baby Jesus tucked in a bright red blanket that matched the color of his wagon. The minister asked Sean why he had taken the baby Jesus. The little boy said: “I prayed and prayed each night for this wagon and I promised Jesus that He would be the first to ride in it if Santa brought it to me. When I woke up this morning it was right by the Christmas tree. So I’m keeping my promise.” “You know,” he continued, “baby Jesus has been locked up in the church and I wanted to bring him out so all the people could see him.”
Sean’s simple act and response echoes a deeper wisdom of the heart. He wanted people to see Jesus in a very real way. While he was probably too young to understand the implication of the words of Jesus (Matthew 25:40) “In so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me,” Sean did know what it meant to keep a promise to Jesus.
As I reflect on the birth of Jesus and the innocent love of a child such as Sean, I must ask myself who or what is the focus of my attention this Christmas morning? In what ways do I confine Jesus to my worldview? Would my actions reflect that I see and treasure Jesus in the members of my family, my friends, my neighbors, the small child, the elderly man or woman, the poor, the disadvantaged, and the homeless of our community? Do I wholeheartedly offer gracious hospitality to those whose faith belief, ethnicity, or culture differs from mine?
On this Christmas morning, I invite you to reflect on this simple story and ponder your response. May we rekindle in our hearts the wonder and awe of a small child.
Sr. Brenda O’Keeffe
V.P. Mission Integration and Spiritual Care Services