Friday, December 25, 2009

Looking for Baby Jesus

Posted by Leona Bergstrom

Call me old fashioned. Lots of people will, including many worship leaders and pastors. But, I’m having a hard time getting into the “groove” this Christmas.

I’ve spent considerable time attending Christmas performances this year. I’ve also scanned the promotion materials to see what churches are doing to celebrate the birth of Christ. Words like “multi-media,” “fast moving,”  “rocking and jiving,” and even a “hip-hop Christmas experience” describe programs being offered in local communities of faith. Something gnaws at my soul.

I figured out what it was. I was missing baby Jesus. I observed spotlighted dancers, rocking drummers (aka little drummer boy) obscured from view by dry-ice induced smoke, video, and an array of light shows. I even heard most of the traditional Christmas carols, albeit the tunes often took off on unfamiliar trajectories of discord or off-beat rhythm.

But, no baby Jesus. No costumed teenagers portraying Mary and Joseph in their journey to a bustling city and a desolate stable. No little kids in bathrobes being awed by the bright and glorious light.

Yep, call me old fashioned, but there’s something comforting and joyously refreshing in seeing the nativity played out by the common folk of the church. As a pastor’s wife, I’ve directed my share of Christmas pageants – and in so doing, I secured the coveted roles of Mary and Joseph for my own kids. (One time we had to rescue my daughter from a near fall off of a real donkey spooked by the luminaria lighting the way to the stable!) I’ve laughed and cried over the “Best Christmas Pageant Ever” --because it is so real and so like my experiences.

So, I was startled last week as I left one of those contemporary, multi-media productions. I took the back hallway for my exit, and there sat the almost life-size crèche. Alone, in a dark hallway, Mary and Joseph were bending over the manger. And who was looking up at them? The little ceramic baby Jesus, wrapped in swaddling clothes – abandoned close to a seldom-used exit door. I paused, touched the well-worn figure, and reflected on the fact that I “found” baby Jesus at last.  He wasn’t in the middle of the noise or production. He was in the quiet of an abandoned place waiting to be noticed. Waiting to be brought on stage.

(Photo by Stinkie Pinkie, shared via Flickr)

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