The nativity scene was still on the lawn in February, at a home in suburban
St. Louis. The homeowners had clearly begun to overlook that Christmas was still happening in their front yard, until someone stole the baby Jesus.
The story was reported some years ago in the St. Louis Post Dispatch. It is a true story, but I do not have the original clipping, so I retell it here with some license.
Similar to Flat Stanley, friend and geography teacher to California school children, the stolen Baby Jesus showed up back at the house in the form of cards and photos. Baby Jesus at the Empire State Building. Baby Jesus on the beach in Maui. Baby Jesus sailing the Greek Isles. You get the idea. Baby Jesus traveled the world while his crib sat empty on the lawn.
On Christmas Eve the following year, Baby Jesus showed up at Lambert St. Louis International airport. Someone – whose identity remains unknown – carried the Baby Jesus out to a cab, put him in the back seat, paid the fare and sent him on his way. Upon arrival, the cab driver placed the Baby Jesus back in the manger from whence he came.
Apparently, the homeowners never knew who arranged for their Baby Jesus to have a world tour, but I doubt they ever took him for granted again.
I share this story because I too, often pass right by the Baby Jesus. Because I live in a perpetual state of advent.
All my life I’ve been rewarded for my ability to plan. Always. It is one of my gifts. It’s what earns me a good living. It’s what eases my anxiety and that of others. It’s what manages bosses and employees, when I had them. And now helps clients plan and prepare for their futures.
In my perpetual state of advent, I spend more time managing my calendar than most people spend sleeping.
In Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, An Altar in the World, she has a chapter on Getting Lost. She recommends you get lost in small ways, like taking a drive through an unfamiliar neighborhood to prepare yourself for those times in life when we are truly and completely lost.
I do that. I travel to third-world countries by myself and am completely prepared to get lost.
Preparation gives me the gift of relaxation. I love to know as much as possible about a place before I visit. I read the guidebook before I go. I am alarmed when I meet people who show up without one. I usually book at least my first night in a new place in advance. I make lists. I check them off.
All this preparation may see ridiculous to real adventure travelers, but I cannot count the times those who do less advance planning rely on me for directions, recommendations, my currency cheat sheet, my Ziploc bags, or my ability to make change. (I carry paper, plastic, traveler’s checks and bills small and large, in both local currency and U.S. dollars.)
Once I’ve arrived at my destination, I enjoy the unexpected that comes with a different place, unique culture and new people. That is how I get lost.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been truly and completely lost many times in my life.
But that will have to wait for a different advent meditation.
But as you can see, Advent is in my blood. It is my life. It is my way of life. I am really good at Advent.
What I’m not good at is Christmas. I am much more of Martha than a Mary, working in the kitchen to make sure everyone is fed rather than sit at the feet of Christ and savor this moment that will never come again.
So for the last few years, I have been working very hard at also being good at Christmas, the Christmas that happens in my life every day. In fact, every single moment. It is only in the past few years I can say I have truly ever experienced
joy, and it is always when I am completely engaged in this exact moment.
Thich Nhat Hanh says the Kingdom of God is now. If not now, when? It is happening at this very moment. In this room. In our breathing and being. Christmas, the Kingdom of God, the sitting at the feet, adoring the Baby Jesus—this is available to me at every moment.
In the midst of holiday preparation, it is easy to miss that the Baby Jesus is sitting right here on the front lawn of my life. I rush by him as I head off to choir, another party, another appointment.
So when I remember, I try every day, or every hour, or even every few minutes, to soak up the Christmas that is happening, that is rushing by me. Yes, I am going somewhere, but what I am looking for is already here.
Lilli Cloud is the founder of a branding and thought leadership company called bluefeet. She has worked with senior executives and luminaries for more than 20 years to help them lead by identifying and sharing what makes them or their organizations extraordinary.