Of all the decorations we put up at Christmas, what I treasure most is my collection of nativity sets. One goes on the mantel, one in the bookcase in the living room, and one on the bookshelf in the family room. Those are the main sets, but I have smaller ones that get tucked here and there, too. Each one plays a part in helping us stay focused on the reason for Christmas—the celebration of that point in time when Jesus Christ became flesh and made his dwelling among us (John 1:14).
For two years I was unable to find the Baby Jesus that went with a small terra cotta nativity set. Finally, the next year, I reluctantly placed the stable, Mary and Joseph into the give-away pile, because what good is a nativity set without its star? I hoped maybe someone else would be able to use what was left of my set to replace a broken figure or two.
But wouldn’t you know, the year after that, as I was unpacking the nativities, I noticed something in the corner of a piece of bubble wrap. There it was—the missing Baby Jesus in the manger. Now, of course, I had no Mary and Joseph to watch over him, I just had a little extra Jesus, measuring less than two inches long! What could I possibly do with a little extra Jesus?
It didn’t take me long to realize the answer to that question. Everyone can use a little extra Jesus. Certainly the grieving families in Newtown, CT, and everyone involved in that horrible tragedy could use a little extra Jesus this year. So could my friend undergoing cancer treatment, the homeless people in our community looking for a place to get in out of the cold, and those who wonder if they will be able to make their house payments in the new year.
But none of these people need the little terra cotta Jesus that now sleeps so serenely amidst my Christmas decorations. They need more of Jesus himself—more of his mercy, his love, and his peace. They need more of his compassion, his healing, and his power—more of the hope of eternal life that he gives us. We who know him, and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, are to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this world. If someone is to experience more of him, it may well be through us.
Now I know what to do with this tiny terra cotta babe in the manger. He’s not extra at all. I will keep him to remind me that we all need a little extra Jesus—not only at Christmas, but always.