By Doug Redford
On December 24, 1961, a cartoonist at the Louisville Courier-Journal, Hugh Haynie, published a cartoon that has been repeated in that newspaper on Christmas Eve ever since (though it’s really too serious to be labeled a cartoon).
Haynie’s artwork depicts a man looking over his shopping list for Christmas and asking, “Now, let’s see, have I forgotten anyone?” And among all the presents he has wrapped we can see a picture of Jesus—not the baby in the manger, but the “grown-up” Jesus, the Christ of the cross and the empty tomb.
We used to see pictures on milk cartons of missing children with the heartbreaking question, “Have you seen me?” Sometimes during the Christmas season, Jesus can become the missing child. The days surrounding the holiday get so busy, even for followers of Jesus. Add to that all the attempts to strip any Christian influence away from the public arena. It isn’t hard to imagine Jesus asking at times, “Have you seen me?”
Whenever you see a picture of a missing child, you might be looking at that child from 10 or 15 years ago when he or she first went missing. Today that child would look quite different. And with Jesus, our focus cannot be only on the baby in the manger. He looks much differently now; he is the risen Lord and Christ, the King who will one day return for his people.
Christmas has always been about much more than a baby. Bethlehem was just the beginning of one grand Christmas package that began to be “opened” with Jesus’ birth. If we focus only on the baby, we’ll miss the rest of the package. We have to move from the manger to the cross, from Bethlehem to Calvary, even at (and especially at) this time of year. There, at the cross, the words that the angel told Joseph concerning Mary’s child from the Holy Spirit were fulfilled: “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
Communion at this time of year provides a special reminder to us that when we look at all the usual ads, promotions, commercials, and sales, Jesus is still the most important Gift. In fact, he is the real Gift of Christmas, one to be treasured every day.
Doug Redford has served in the preaching ministry, as an editor of adult Sunday school curriculum, and as a Bible college professor. Currently he is the minister at Highview Christian Church in Cincinnati.