Sunday, December 2, 2012

Joseph and the Lost Sheep

I have been hunting for lost sheep. And Joseph, who left his lantern sitting by the manger (he also left his beard behind, but that makes this post too funny). I don't mind, really, I don't. I have come to accept this annual rite. In fact, I think it's an important thing that I encourage the tradition. Let me explain...

Like most families, our Christmas decorations include a nativity scene. Hmmm... well, that's an understatement, but when my kids were younger, we had one that they could play with made of fabric and a few others that were placed on higher shelves (you from the toddler known as 'the climber'). The idea was to give them one they could touch, and hopefully they would leave the others alone. We even played a game with our fabric nativity. We would send a child out of the room, and then hide the Baby Jesus, then bring the child back into the room and sing songs, either softly or loudly, leading them to find the hidden Jesus. We talked about how we feel when we find Jesus and a few other 'object lesson' type ideas. And of course, we read the story of the Savior's birth. I let them play with that scene as much as they wanted. And I learned not to be irritated when the figures had to be located after someone carted them off for other purposes.

It came as no surprise then, when one day I found the figures of the nativity set on top of the piano arranged into some sort of football game, with Mary as the quarterback. Really! :) I thought it was creative- one of the wise men already had his hand in the air, as if he were about to throw a pass...what else would a sports-minded boy think of? And besides...what that really told me was that they were LOOKING at the nativity scene! (Yes, I know...sometimes I'm easily pleased) How could I complain?

Is this a serious post? Perhaps I should leave out the tale of a son and daughter-in-law swiping all the Baby Jesus' and wrapping them together for the family white elephant gift exchange? (Yes, I laughed. No, I wasn't mad. Yes, Robert picked them first so I could pick them second and keep them!)

Fast forward a decade (two?). The number of nativity scenes has grown...there are now several set out where Grandkids can play with them. I love to see what happens when they play with them... Usually the figures, previously arranged by me (artistically, I might add), have been rearranged into something more, um, real. One granddaughter, who adores animals, left her mark...the animals surrounded the Baby Jesus and the wise men were left outside the sacred circle.

Tonight, the children have been here again. I had left one scene just for them to set up. It's one of those toys with millions (I kid you not) of tiny pieces...each figure has hair, hats, cuffs, get the idea. The children shared the pieces, each making their own scene. The wise men traded hats, the cats were fought over, but overall, a good time was had by all. So after they left, I checked to see what arrangement had been settled on and discovered the missing Joseph's beard and lantern...and of course, I couldn't find the lost sheep. Four sheep, and a shorn Joseph. Hmmmm...

And so, at 11 pm, I am hunting for sheep. Let me rephrase that. I am on my hands and knees hunting for white sheep in the white deep shag rug. And it hits me...

This is what He does, isn't it? He is my Shepherd, and He looks for me when I am lost. He doesn't care what time it is or what He has to do, He rescues me. I think that Joseph doesn't need his lantern because he knows The Lord is His light. It's too serious for words. I stop and say a prayer... And when I find the sheep, and Joseph, I rejoice. How great is His joy when any of His children come unto him? And as I carefully restore Joseph and the sheep to their places, I think how wonderful it is that He restores me.

"And our eyes at last shall see Him, through His own redeeming love;
For that Child so dear and gentle is our Lord in Heav'n above,
And He leads His children on to the place where He is gone."
Why would I ever change such a lovely tradition? I hope the children play with the nativities more.

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