Christmas was just a little strange this year — it is my fault.
Well, not exactly my fault but the fault of somebody in my family. And admittedly, it did start with me.
Being of practical mentality — not to mention being too sick all through Advent to even get the wreath out of the shed this year — I decided to let the kids (that would be six grandchildren, ages 12, 9, 8, 7, 3, and 20 months) handle by themselves the entire procession of Joseph and Mary with the donkey and of the three wise men wending their respective ways through the house to our nativity scene. I told my daughter I wanted some plastic figurines so that the kids could traipse about with them to their hearts' content without me keeping after them with warnings to be careful or not to bump them against each other and, besides, I wanted the baby to participate. She found just the right set and we unwrapped them, people, animals, angels, and all, put the baby Jesus into a secure, undisclosed location, and off the children went.
In various assortments and configurations that correspond to no known Gospel account, angels, shepherds, wise men, the long-suffering Joseph and his patient Betrothed, with donkey and other livestock, have spent several weeks exploring every nook and cranny of the house. The 20-month-old has taken a shine to the angels in particular — he seems to like the way they taste and participates by carrying them around in his mouth.
A few days before Christmas, I made a feeble attempt to round everyone up and remind myself of where the baby Jesus was, but some combination of cold medicine-induced fog and wrapping paper-induced dementia left the undisclosed location of Jesus more secure than ever.
On Christmas day the children gathered the figures and assembled them all around the empty manger. "Where's the baby Jesus?"
"I thought I saw him on your dresser," offered my daughter. Why not? Why should I know what is on my dresser, anyway?
But he wasn't there, either.
We looked behind the pictures on one shelf and the books on another shelf and in various containers, to no avail.
I gave up. "He'll turn up," I said, "if not by Epiphany, at least by the Feast of the Presentation."
Then yesterday — on the feast of the Holy Innocents — my 8-year-old grandson announced the Tidings of Great Joy, "I found the baby Jesus under the couch!" Now I may not recall where I did stash him, but I do know it wasn't there!
At last, everything is fixed. Jesus is right where He belongs — at the center of the Holy Family and at the center of ours. May He be at the center of your family, too, through the remaining days of Christmas and through all His festal seasons.