This story just in. Baby Jesus was stolen right out of the manger. It happened right in front of Joseph and Mary, and the entire city of Healdsburg for that matter.
This is a true story folks. In fact, it happened at the church right across the street from our little chapel in Healdsburg. You can read all about it in the Press Democrat.
Here’s the skinny. The doll that was being used for Baby Jesus in the manger was removed. In it’s place was left…now are you ready for this? In it’s place was a yellow, stuffed duck with a red nose and blinking light. There was also a second “devil duck” painted black with horns.
Why on earth would anyone want to steal Baby Jesus out of the manger, and replace Him with two demonic ducks? Yes, I know. This was probably just another hoodlum prank. No big deal, right? But still, the thought of “stealing Jesus” really got me thinking.
A couple days before I read this story I experienced another incident.
I needed to run to Walmart to pick up a few things. Now, whenever I go to Walmart,I try to psych myself out a bit, knowing that it will probably be a crazy experience. Crowded parking lot. Wobbly wheeled cart that sticks and squeals. Screaming kids and angry moms. Long lines, and ultimately buying so much more than what I came in for.
On this particular outing, I pulled into the parking lot and much to my surprise, found a place to park rather quickly. I jump out of my car, running over my list in my mind and thinking to myself, “The faster I get in, the faster I get out.”
As I’m approaching the entrance I notice a man, probably in his late 30’s, leaning against the brick wall, smoking a cigarette. Not an uncommon sight in front of any American Walmart. Just then, a young mom walks past him. Her cart is laden with Christmas gifts…A rather large box slid in on the lower part of the cart. A bicycle hanging on the front. Odds and ends in the basket, and a crying toddler in the child seat. Just as she passed the “smoking man”, the large box slides forward and crashes to the ground with a thud. The toddler cries even louder and the mom, speaking loud enough for anyone standing close by to hear says,(expletives removed)
“Why does this have to be so stinkin hard?!?”
Now, here’s the crazy part. People just keep walking by. No one stops to help her. And the smoking man? Well, he just stands there watching her, puffing away, with a look on his face that says, “She’s crazy”.
I too walk on by, completely angered by what I’ve just seen. I’m thinking, “Chivalry really is dead!”
That man could have dropped the cig, run over to the poor mom, and at least picked up the box for her. Maybe even said a few kind words as well like, “Are you alright, mam? Here, let me help you…or, Merry Christmas”
I hurried past the Salvation Army bell ringer, and in through the front entrance. I got in fast, and out even faster.
Both these incidences troubled me considerably. I mean, what is going on here? Where is Jesus? Stolen out of the manger, devil ducks in His place. He certainly wasn’t at Walmart that day. I even heard that the phrase “Merry Christmas” isn’t allowed to be used in some stores by employees anymore. Who wants to go Christmas shopping with this kind of stuff going on? Isn’t it just much easier to stay home? We can shop online in the comfort of a chair. No long lines, no screaming, no…
Then it hit me. I mean the conviction of the Holy Spirit that is. Loud and clear it came to me, as though the Lord were saying,
“What are you doing? I wasn’t really stolen out of the manger. That was a doll. I’m real, and still very much alive. I am ever powerful, and ever present, and living inside of you, Mary. So take Me with you wherever you go. Even to Walmart.”
Oh dear. It’s true. Even I walked right by that helpless mom. I didn’t run to go help her, or to say, “Are you alright, mam?” I just rushed on by, glaring at the smoking man. No smiles or Merry Christmas’s from me.
Don’t you just love how the Lord is so faithful to take everyday experiences and use them to mold us into His image?
I have to say that since then, I have done much better with my shopping outings. I think I’m more aware of my surroundings, especially the people. I look at faces and try to catch eyes. I smile and try to allow Jesus to shine through. I want to wish everyone a great big Merry Christmas, as though to leave a lingering fragrance of Who this season is truly about.
I actually want to go shopping now.