It’s Christmas, the time of the year when we engage in cherished family traditions. Baking holiday cookies. Hanging stockings by the fireplace. Checking on Santa’s whereabouts. Unwinding with a snifter of holiday eggnog. Well, in the Rapsas family, we have a unique tradition that started about a decade ago.
I am a runner and four or five days a week, in the dim early hours of morning, I jog around town. My path seldom varies. I stay along the roads that hug the nearby river and pass the same Victorian homes and local landmarks. There’s something comforting about the familiarity of the route and the physical activity helps calm my mind for the day ahead.
One morning, several years ago, I noticed something odd during my run. It was early-December, a garbage day, and one house had lined the curb with big black trash bags and other assorted items for pick-up. As I passed the house, I noticed that mixed in with the trash were several old-fashioned Christmas lawn ornaments, the kind that light up when plugged in.
There were a couple of four-foot high plastic candles, cracked and peeling. There was a faded giant candy cane. I noticed two tall wise men, no telling what happened to the third. And then, I scanned something else. There, between two overflowing trash bags, sat a plastic light-up Baby Jesus in a manger.
It was this last sighting that literally stopped me in my tracks. I walked up to take a closer look, and while the other lawn ornaments were chipped and worn, Baby Jesus looked to be in pretty good shape. I supposed that it no longer lit up. I started on my way again, but a few feet later I came to a sudden but firm realization:
BABY JESUS MUST BE SAVED.
I scooped him up and began to make the two-mile trek back home, awkwardly holding the oversized ornament in both arms as I ran. Something felt right about it, it was good to know I was saving the baby from King Herod, I mean the trash man. I suppose if the townspeople were watching it may have looked odd.
I once saw a man walking through my community with a giant wooden cross over his shoulder. Similarly, I was now running down the street cradling a plastic Baby Jesus in my arms.
I thought my wife might not like the fact I was bringing home a trash-picked Christmas lawn ornament, but when I brought Baby Jesus indoors, she asked me to plug it in to see if it worked. To our surprise, Baby Jesus lit up as if he was brand new.
Each year, like many families, we put up a Christmas tree and decorate it. I know for some families the crowning moment is when the star is placed on top of the tree. For my family, the finishing touch is placing Baby Jesus under the tree–and on Christmas morning, plugging him in so he lights up our little world. Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without him.
May you and your family have a wonderful Christmas!