THERE was an intriguing news article that I read around Christmas last year. It was that of a town which had, at the centre of its Christmas markets, a lovely outdoor nativity scene. It had the angels, shepherds, wise men, Mary, Joseph and the wee donkey too. But it was missing a fairly important part of the scene… the baby Jesus!

One night, pranksters actually stolen the baby Jesus. The next morning, after getting over the initial shock and horror, the community left out signs asking for the safe return of the baby Jesus and a few days later, the unharmed model was anonymously returned to a local church.

When I looked up this story again I found out that this is not a one-off event. There was an abundance of stories of festive thievery of the little Lord Jesus; to the extent that someone has actually coined the term ‘stolen baby Jesus syndrome’ because in some places there have been sporadic, yet frequent outbreaks of this occurrence.

Numerous reasons have been suggested as to why these baby Jesus models have been stolen, from making philosophical or religious statements to drunken pranks. But it made me think of how often our own Christmas times are without Jesus - who is, after all, ‘the reason for the season’.

So many other things can crowd in at this time of year which in essence DO steal Jesus from the scene. My reminder to myself and to you too this Christmas is to try to ensure that Jesus and the story of his birth, of God coming into our world isn’t stolen away.

Incidentally, local police in the town where the crime happened were recorded as asking the public to, ‘…please keep an eye out for Jesus.’ This Christmas season, for all of us, I couldn’t agree more!

Rev Phil Burns

Skipton Baptist Church