I wrote the following piece during the Christmas season in 1998. I shared it with several people then, but it has never been published. I present it now just as I wrote it thirteen years ago.
I did add the photos to this version, but they are only approximations of the actual objects described in the story. These objects may be viewed or purchased at the links provided at the end of the story. The painting, of course, is a masterpiece that can also be viewed at the link provided.
“I have no hands but your hands…”
—Inscription added to war-damaged
statue of Christ in France
At our house, arranging the finely crafted, Italian-made manger scene has been a family Christmas tradition for many years. Each delicate piece—the shepherds and their sheep, the Wise Men with their gifts, Joseph and Mary and the angel, even the lowly cow and donkey, and of course Baby Jesus in the manger—had to be placed in just the right position, turned to just the right angle.
When the boys were very small, the younger one had added to the loft of the stable a plastic chicken from his barnyard play set. It too was placed there just as carefully and just as lovingly year after year, even after—especially after—the boys had become men and left home.
Nothing in the tradition ever changed.
Until some years ago when inexplicably the figure of the Baby Jesus came up missing. When a thorough search proved fruitless, an attempt was made that Christmas season and every subsequent one to find a new Baby Jesus, one specially chosen and properly suited to “match the set.” Those searches proved as fruitless as the first.
Then this year, by chance, as I was browsing through the Christmas ornament section of the local discount center looking for a St. Nicholas gift for a friend, I discovered, dangling all by itself on a wire hanger, a solitary Baby Jesus. Thinking it was high time to “put Christ back into Christmas,” even if he was only an inexpensive Made in China model, I happily purchased the plastic-wrapped figurine and proudly brought it home to “complete the scene” there.
My elation was soon tempered, however, when upon opening the paper bag I took a closer look at the tiny, smiling figure. For the first time I noticed his outstretched arms with the white chalky ends. Suddenly I understood the reason for my good fortune in finding this Christmas “treasure.”
Both his hands were broken off.
“Nobody wants a broken Baby Jesus,” I thought sadly, realizing that this search had proven as fruitless as all the others. But suddenly there came to my mind another Bible scene—the Last Supper—and I heard again in my ears the words spoken by our Lord on that occasion, as recorded in 1 Corinthians 11:24 NKJV: “This is My body, which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
So now our finely crafted, Italian-made manger scene is once again complete—with the addition of a $1.97 piece of broken earthenware—the Last Baby Jesus at Wal-Mart.
Note: The photo of the Italian nativity scene was taken from a Web site. To view or purchase it, click here. The photo of the Baby Jesus figurine was taken from a Web site. To view or purchase it, click here. The painting of the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci was taken from a Wikipedia entry. To view it, click here.