A few days ago I was walking up our brick sidewalk under the twinkling of white Christmas lights strung up on our trees and house and I looked over at our brightly lit nativity scene: there were Mary and Joseph with the wise men, shepherds, and animals all huddled around and looking at… Baby Jesus was gone!
Our baby Jesus was stolen from our nativity set. In the place where he lay in the manger there was nothing but a brown spot of grass. I looked all around our front yard and the houses next door but to no avail.
Who would such a thing? What kind of person would steal a Christ child figurine from an outdoor nativity set? A punk teenager pulling a prank? Someone who didn’t like us? An atheist or someone else who hated Jesus? I think it’s most likely the latter.
Persecuted for Christ
I felt that we had been persecuted for loving Jesus! No doubt it is a very small example of suffering for being a Christian to have a $900 nativity set ruined the week before Christmas, but I was saddened and so were Kristi and our children. Our hearts hurt because there was someone in our neighborhood who mistreated the Jesus we adore.
We’re not alone. Many churches, organizations, and individuals across America have had the baby Jesus stolen from their nativity set. Some have put out signs saying things like, “Christ has been stolen from Christmas.”
I thought about how we should respond. Maybe we could buy a replacement baby Jesus and then put the set it in a more secure place like on our roof! Or we could buy dozens of baby Jesus figurines and then put out a sign, “Free baby Jesus to anyone who needs him!” But these ideas wouldn’t help our situation this Christmas.
Remembering the Resurrected Christ
I remembered that earlier that day I had read in my Bible how Peter and the apostles had been whipped for telling people about Jesus and yet they “went out of the High Council overjoyed because they had been given the honor of being dishonored on account of the Name” (Acts 5:41, The Message).
So I prayed that God would help me to rejoice in being dishonored for Jesus. After all, the reason why I had bought the nativity set in the first place was to share the true meaning of Christmas with people who visit our home or just drive by to look at the lights.
Then it occurred to me – surely it was an inspiration of the Spirit! – to put out a small sign right in the middle of the lighted nativity set where the baby Jesus was stolen from: “Jesus has risen and now lives in the hearts of those who trust him.” So that’s what we did. Maybe this positive message made the nativity scene an even better witness for Christ?
Blessing those that Curse Us
The next day when I told a friend about how the baby Jesus was stolen from our nativity set she empathized with me, “I’d be angry! You were violated! Let’s pray, ‘Lord, you get this thief! Convict him with guilt and make him miserable. Get him good Lord!’”
I replied to her, “I might pray like that if I was angry and needed to. I know there were times that David prayed that way in the Psalms. But this isn’t about me and my nativity set. This is about Jesus being mistreated! What I’d like us to pray is that God would use this situation as a witness to others.”
The Lord is forgiving and kind toward us even though we don’t deserve it. He loves us and blesses us even when we offend him. Appreciating God’s mercy and grace strengthens us to put into practice Jesus’ teaching: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28).
Let’s Pray Now
Dear Lord, our hearts are full of joyful anticipation that Christmas is coming! We love to celebrate the birth of Christ on earth. We pray for the thieves who are stealing the baby Jesus from nativity sets across America. Please forgive them. Show them that they can’t steal Jesus! That your grace is freely given. That you’re alive in the hearts of all who trust you. And that you want to live in their hearts too – even in view of their hateful pranks. Lord, we ask you to use these acts of thievery to put people’s attention on Christ this Christmas. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
These Soul Shepherding Advent resources will help you experience the birth of Christ in a new way! Each meditation includes an Advent passage of Scripture, picture, reflection, and Breath Prayer from the Bible. This is designed for personal devotions, small groups and holiday gatherings.