Stealing Jesus

With the holidays upon us, I thought I’d share a post from my first year of blogging, detailing a Christmas memory that rather stands out. 😉 May joy find you this holiday season!

Regardless of how we spend them, the holidays draw up memories—some wonderful, some we’d rather forget and some that just keep getting funnier…

Santa/snow traffic jam in my parents' backyard

Santa’s cryogenic facelift

I don’t recall many details about the day I stole Jesus. But since I was in high school, it was probably like most winter days. I awoke to the sound of my mother’s voice, munched on toast in a fog then slipped on the ice en route to catch the bus. *winces from phantom butt ache* Come dusk, after more fogginess known as classes, I went to my friend Andrea’s house to meet with my Odyssey of the Mind team. (If you’re unfamiliar with O.M., think math team for creatives.) There, I woke up.

Beck’s “I’m a loser baby…” hummed from the stereo while we dined on doughnuts and M&Ms in preparation for the evening’s events. Tonight we would do a scavenger hunt, Andrea explained. In O.M., making practice activities as difficult as possible was key, particularly since our sights were set on state competition and beyond. Toward this end, Baby Jesus appeared on my search list.

Numerous of my teammates were atheists, the equivalent of devil worship in the eyes of my strict, Baptist grandparents. I’d spent the summer organizing benefit concerts to raise awareness about child abuse, for which I was made co-recipient of the Minnesota Peace Prize. In other words, I was a goody-goody supreme, not someone predictably comfy with Jesus-nabbing.

To worsen matters, I couldn’t yet drive and the only Jesus in the neighborhood was real, and not in a Second Coming type way. Mary and Joseph’s breath made frozen white puffs in the air and the little tyke in the manger wasn’t plastic.

Definitely out of the question.

Crap, I thought, unable to even think cuss words yet, much less state them. Then I had an idea. I’d call a friend, hitch a ride to my house and borrow the plastic, light-up Jesus from the nativity scene in the yard. My family was asleep, I figured; no one would miss him for a few hours. And besides, couldn’t the little dude use some respite? As far as I knew, he hadn’t even rested on a Sunday.

The call, ride and borrow went smoothly. With the mission accomplished, I returned to Andrea’s house. The gang fell speechless as I presented every item on my list, including the almighty savior. Sure, I’d found a creative solution—one of the O.M. pillars. But far more remarkable was the fact that I, Ms. Goody Two Shoes, stole him, presumably from a stranger’s yard. And seemed not only fine with it, but pleased.

Hours later, exhausted and high from sugar, creative tricks and camaraderie, we called it a night and a teammate drove me home.

The next morning I woke to sounds best suited to nightmares. Muffled crying. Serious voices. Something terribly wrong. I jolted upright: Cora? Listening closer, I had no doubt. My youngest sister was upset. Really upset. Before I could rush downstairs to soothe her, she said something I’ll never forget: “But Mom, why would someone steal Baby Jesus?”

The word crap no longer seemed strong enough. @$%#! I forgot Jesus! 

I snuck into my parents’ room and phoned Andrea then held my breath as she searched to no avail: Jesus wasn’t there. @#$@#$#&$#@$!!! 

I sat paralyzed in my room, scrambling for what to do. My parents’ angst-filled voices echoed through the hallway, their disappointment surely due more to Cora’s heartache than the missing figure. What my team didn’t know was that amidst my recent good-doings, I’d been picked up by the cops (for skipping class with a friend, leading our parents to believe we’d been abducted—long story) and gotten in trouble for other…*clears throat* …things. Seeing my sisters’ sad faces as the cop car pulled into the driveway that day had been too much. I couldn’t disappoint Cor, or any of them, again.

I spent the day working up the courage to confess while the term “finding Christ” took on a whole new meaning.

That night, still Jesus-less and lost for an alternate plan, I heard my mom and Cora praying for the bad person who took him.

Tomorrow, I decided. I would spill everything tomorrow.

I woke the next morning to brighter sounds. Sing song chatter. Laughter. Cora’s voice, now chipper: “It’s a Christmas miracle!”

Tears filled my eyes once I realized what had happened. The teammate who’d driven me home from Andrea’s had tucked baby Jesus back in his bed. My sister’s joy almost made the ordeal worthwhile.

Deeming my shame and frustration punishment enough, and not wishing to taint my sister’s “miracle” or opinion of me, I kept the truth to myself until last year when my dear husband outed me. I’m glad he did, as the laughter it’s brought up since is a near holiday in itself.

That Christmas, plug-in Jesus shed light on a few things. While the truth may set us free, happy outcomes sometimes pan out regardless. Pausing to think/panic may enhance those results. And perhaps the ‘good’ in Goody Two Shoes speaks solely of her intentions, and her walk isn’t pristine, but creative.

What’s your funniest holiday memory? Have you ever semi-accidently stolen a religious icon?