Yesterday's edition of the New York Times had a front page story reporting a recent rash of thefts being experienced across the nation. In small towns and larger cities, folks are stealing the baby Jesus from nativity scenes erected on public squares and in front of churches. Occasionally, the Times reports, Mary or a donkey goes missing as well, but most often it is the infant.
To counteract these acts of vandalism, officials are finding all sorts of creative ways to secure the baby to the crib. In some instances a little bit of superglue seems to do the trick. Others have used ropes and wires to hold him in place. And still others, going high tech, have installed GPS systems in the little one. NORAD has been tracking Santa's flight from the North Pole for over sixty years now (and, according to NPR, still will, despite the government shut down!) So why not track the Holy One of Bethlehem?
One of the thieves was caught red-handed, according to the Times, as she was spotted by a police officer"cradling something" near the spot where the Christ Child had been taken. It turned out to be the Baby Jesus. Now don't misunderstand, I'm not a fan of vandalism, but I was struck by that phrase, "cradling something" and I couldn't help but wonder if she was simply a lonely soul, seeking the comfort that can come from holding a child in ones arms? Maybe a grieving mother, or a person suffering from mental illness.
I do hope the various creche figures are found and restored to their original positions. But more importantly, I hope that this Christmas we recommit ourselves to finding all the folks who've been stolen away by domestic violence, addiction, poverty, racism, grief, mental illness and despair. I hope that we might find new ways to cradle them with love and care. Somehow, I suspect the baby
Jesus would consider that a noble goal, one worth every effort.