The preparations of Advent continue but sometimes I feel like something is missing. I continue on with my Advent tasks, nevertheless. Today I unpacked my nativity and began arranging the various figures, putting them in their proper places to reflect the story the Nativity tells. I put the sheep with the shepherds, the camel with the Wise Men, the donkey in the stable, and Mary and Joseph next to the manger, with the angel at the top of the stable roof. At this point it became obvious to me what was missing – there was no baby Jesus figure in the manger.
How had I lost Jesus in the process of putting the Nativity together? He was here last Christmas, I know. I remember packing Him away along with all the other figures that are a part of this Advent story. What has happened? Have I not paid enough attention? Have I been careless in my handling of the Nativity?
As I ponder this mystery of my missing manger piece, baby Jesus, I realize that too often the real Jesus is missing from the Advent season. A popular phrase at this time of year, “He’s the reason for the season”, can be seen displayed on coffee mugs, dishtowels, ornaments and on all types of Christmas decorations. Of course, the “He” in this mantra is Jesus. And the words are true. Jesus’s birth, life, death, and resurrection are what we celebrate when we celebrate Christmas. If the manger is empty, my celebration is empty as well. I am missing the essential, notable Person, whose arrival on earth I am supposed to be commemorating.
Jesus’s Presence is essential to the observance of Advent. Am I forgetting to invite Him into every aspect of my Advent preparations? Am I excluding the guest of honor from the party planning and from the party itself? Jesus fills so much more than just the manger. Ephesians 1:22-23 explains,
“And God placed all things under His (Jesus) feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him (Jesus) who fills everything in every way.”
Yes, Jesus fills much more than the manger in the Nativity at Christmas. “The whole earth is full of His glory.” (Isaiah 6:3) and “In Him I live and move and have my being.” (Acts 17:28) He fills all the empty spaces in my heart and in my soul. Apart from His presence, something is missing in me, not just during Advent, but every day of the year.
While a quick search revealed my missing manger piece, the baby Jesus, my overall sense that something is missing persists. I come to the realization that sometimes I pursue other paths which lead me away from God and I too often fill my life with other things, leaving little or no room for Jesus, essentially crowding Him out of my life. Then I end up feeling far from God. And even though I am filled with the things I have pursued in His place, I am empty. Something’s missing.
Advent is the perfect time for me to find my way back home, to empty out all the accumulated clutter that has crowded out Christ, make room for Him once again, and invite Him into my heart, my home and my life all over again. Jesus really is the reason for the Advent season. If the something missing is His presence, then Advent is incomplete. Actually, without Jesus’s presence, Advent does not take place at all. But praise God, the manger was not empty, only the tomb is!
“Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is He, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty – He is the King of glory.” (Psalm 24:7-10)
sincerely, Grace Day