Last night Jesus disappeared.
While eight heads were lying on eight pillows, four feet padded down the hallway towards him. In an instant, in the quiet of Christmas night, Jesus was abducted.
I slept on, oblivious to the danger. I must have been tired. I didn’t even hear the cry of triumph, the presenting of the gift.
When I got up this morning, Mary’s arms were empty. “Baby Jesus has been stolen!” I shouted to the girls. “Keep a look out for him.”
I should have known Jesus would be missing. You see, he’s soft and round, just like the two nativity sheep. They also know what it’s like to be carried away from the stable. During Advent, I awoke a number of times in the middle of the night, to the sound of persistent meows. Our cat had dropped her woolly gift outside my bedroom door and was crying, “Look what I’ve caught for you!” I got fed up with this nightly interruption so I hid the sheep in a drawer. I put an end to the cat’s game. But on Christmas Night she discovered Jesus…
Our baby Jesus has a tiny stuffed pale pink felt head. His body is a soft folded white tissue. He was made in a matter of minutes, unlike the Jesus who lies in our church manger.
Our parish church has a beautiful nativity scene. Mary, Joseph, a shepherd, the Three Wise Men and various animals, together with baby Jesus, were imported from Italy. They were made by skilled craftsmen. The statues are exquisite in their beauty. I think however they got one detail wrong.
“Baby Jesus has rather a lot of hair for a newborn baby,” observed Gemma-Rose on Christmas Eve.
She is right. Why doesn’t Jesus have a tiny wrinkled face with eyes which gaze myopically up at Mary and Joseph? Why doesn’t he have a wisp of hair on his head instead of long thick golden curls? Why does he look so old? This is, of course, not an isolated mistake. Have you noticed how artists often trade the precious beauty of a newborn baby for the prettiness of an older child?
But newborn or not, our hearts were certainly filled with the love of Jesus as we celebrated His birth at Midnight Mass. We arrived home during an early hour of Christmas Day, filled with joy and tiredness.
There was no danger our arrival would send Santa into a panic. He didn’t have to toss our gifts hastily under the Christmas tree, before struggling back up our chimney, as soon as he heard us coming through the front door at 1 am. For a start, we don’t have a chimney. More importantly, Santa isn’t real.
Or is he?
Many years ago, when Charlotte was very young, she said, “I know where Santa lives.”
“Oh?” I replied. “Where?” I rather expected my daughter to say, “The North Pole,” but she didn’t.
“He lives at the monastery.”
“The monastery?” I was perplexed for a short while, and then I smiled. “Father G isn’t Santa!”
Now it was Charlotte’s turn to look perplexed. “But he has a long white beard…”
Yes, if Father G were to dress in a red suit, he would indeed look exactly like Santa. And he sounds like Santa too: all friendly and caring and loving. He listens carefully. And his empathy ensures his line for confession is always as long as a line of children, waiting to tell Santa they’ve been good.
For many years, we’ve retold the story of how Charlotte thought Fr G was Santa, and we’ve giggled a bit too. Then a few months ago, I suddenly realised she was right. Charlotte hadn’t made a mistake at all.
Fr G is Santa.
Every priest is Santa. They bring us the greatest Christmas gift we could ever imagine. It’s not one of those gifts which start to fade, as soon as the wrappings are removed. No, this gift is priceless. It endures forever. They bring us Jesus. And all because of Christmas Day.
How was your Christmas Day? I hope it was full of joy and love and special moments. Ours was. I must admit mine also contained a little moment of pain.
Sophie gave me a gorgeous pair of earrings as one of her gifts. They are silver and dangly and very pretty. There was only one problem: I hadn’t worn earrings for a very long time. Would I be able to find the holes in my earlobes? You won’t want to hear all the gory details. I shall just report what Sophie said later:
“Mum! You’re wearing my earrings. You look so pretty!”
I’ve made an early New Year’s resolution. I’m going to avoid unnecessary pain, especially the variety that involves holes, poky wires and lots of prodding and pushing. I’m going to continue wearing earrings.
Yes, we’ll be heading into a new year in a few days’ time. I’m planning on sharing our resource discoveries of the last year in a podcast/ blog post. (Will you listen or read?) I’m going to do that very soon. But not today.
Today, I’m going to close my computer and pick up a book, and a glass of red wine, and maybe a chocolate or two. I’m going to smile at my family, maybe share a few hugs and whisper, “Thank you!”
I have been truly blessed. I hope you have been blessed too.
Oh yes, and I’m going to search for baby Jesus!
These are a few of our Christmas photos. Can you see something cool about the one of Andy and Callum?