Vacuuming up Baby Jesus

Once, I vacuumed up Baby Jesus. Naturally, I panicked.

I’d been cleaning up around the Nativity Scene – sucking up stray bits of straw that had worked their way out of the confines of the modest wooden stable we’d built for the Holy Family. I slipped, just a bit, with the vacuum cleaner hose and, swoosh! — the Blessed Infant was consumed by our Hoover.

“No, no, no!” I yelled, frantically prying open the machine’s jaws. I had to dig through a month’s worth of household dirt to find the ½-inch plastic infant, but eventually I did. He was a little beat up for his journey through the vacuum hose, but all in one piece, his tiny arms still reaching out for his mother.

Every year since, on the First Sunday of Advent, long after Christmas carols are playing in grocery stores and as our neighbors set up Christmas trees in their living rooms and blow-up Santas on their rooftops, I put out our Nativity Scene and remember that Searching for Jesus moment. And each year I think to myself, “I really need to do better about that in the real world.”

In other words, if I was that passionate about finding a plastic Jesus nearly two decades ago in the guts of a vacuum cleaner bag, maybe I should be a little more passionate about finding him in my daily life. Or, better yet, demonstrating his love to others. And each year, I tend to fail miserably – I remain mired in impatience, criticism and fear.

This has become more evident than ever this past year as I took up riding the bus to work. Sometimes I just want to read and the person next to me just wants to talk, and I’m anything but patient. Sometimes a parent gets on, feeding her child potato chips and soda for breakfast, and the thoughts that run through my mind are anything but charitable. Sometimes someone rides who hasn’t showered since who-knows-when and I avoid him like he has the plague instead of reaching out, as the Gospels made clear Jesus did with outcasts.

But this year, I hope it is different and I’m using the Year of Faith as a springboard, even though I’m about three months late in getting started. The first day of the YOF was declared on October 11, the 50th anniversary of the start of Second Vatican Council, which, of course, makes sense. But I have a hard time starting anything in October, so I’m starting now, with the New Year.

The Pope’s declaration of the YOF is a great opportunity for cradle Catholics to rediscover Catholicism and spend time developing their relationship with God. For many cradle Catholics, study of the faith ended with confirmation in high school. It has always seemed curious that many Catholics (and other believers, truth be told) continue their education in every part of life except faith as they age. They’ve got an adult understanding of science, politics, automobile maintenance, parenting, beer brewing, etc., and a 10th grade understanding of their faith.

The YOF is about evangelization without the preachy-ness, about learning (or remembering) what you believe so you can answer with confidence when friends or family ask a question about the faith, and about seeing if having a daily relationship with Jesus makes a difference in how you life your life. Or, in my case, how I ride the bus. There are tons of resources out there, and I’ve posted a few under the YOF Resources tab. Right now, I’m liking this from Pinterest and I’m looking for Baby Jesus there.

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