When Michael and I got married, we bought a small wooden nativity set that was made in Africa. I’ve loved it for the sleek, dark figures that make it up.
Last year, Jack also came to love the set — particularly the baby Jesus, who is about the size of a pinkie finger. He played with the baby Jesus quite often, always returning the baby to its cradle — until the day he didn’t.
You can imagine what happened. Baby Jesus went missing! Michael and I looked high and low for that baby; how many places in a house can a baby Jesus hide? During the spring, we finally decided that Jack must have snuck the baby into the diaper pail or the garbage, and that our dear nativity would no longer have a Jesus with it.
Easter came and went, and as we celebrated the empty tomb, we laughed about our empty manger. Then one night right before Pentecost, Michael was making toast for a bed-time snack. Suddenly, the toaster burst into flame. The flames shot out of one of the bread slots, licking the bottom of the cabinet above.
When the toaster cooled down and our hearts quit racing, Michael pulled out the bread and noticed something — a giant crumb, perhaps? — lodged at the bottom against one of the heating coils. He dug around with a knife and finally came out with a piece of something dark and ashy. After washing it off, he realized that it was our baby Jesus. Our baby had been in the toaster for months — who knew how many times he had been toasted. Since he was black to start with, he still looks pretty good — the char doesn’t show unless you know to look for it.
During Advent, we look forward to the coming of baby Jesus, meek and mild. But we also look forward to the second coming of our risen Lord — Jesus who at Easter saw and defeated the fires of hell. And as we are reminded throughout the Advent season, Jesus who comes to us as Lord has the capacity to turn our lives on our heads — to light fires in our hearts and under our feet.
May we all be blessed with Jesus in our lives — challenging and changing us, seasoning us with fire, and bringing us home into his glory.