The Box: A Christmas Parable

The BoxWe lost our sheep.

Three of them.

And a shepherd… and an Angel.

This has eaten away at me the past few days.  I hate losing things, as you may recall from this post.  Losing things leaves an emptiness in my soul that cannot be explained.  It’s nothing.  They are plastic.  They are replaceable.  She doesn’t even know they are gone.  But I know they are missing. And I know that I cannot sit down and play “Christmas Nativity” with her unless I have a shepherd.  And some sheep.  And an angel.  It irritates me to no end.

So of course my response after I’ve searched every nook and cranny of our house is to plaster it all over Facebook.  To gain the pity of the masses… and hopefully stir some kind soul to send me a sheep.

I’ve looked everywhere.  But in the back of my mind I remember that rainy morning well.  I remember the smell of the trash and how irked I was that it had sat by the door for three weekdays while my husband walked past it.  I remember muttering to myself as I schlepped the child, the bags, the coffee, the blanket, the deliveries, and then the trash out to the car.  Covered in wet and cold.  I remember the bag teetering precariously on the trunk as I went over the speed bump.  But most of all, I remember the box.

It was a large box.  Full of smaller boxes.  My husband had received several packages that week, so along with the trash, that box sat by the door for days… waiting to be taken down.  It sat by the door and we bumped into them every time we came or went.  I squeezed past it with a child on my hip and a groceries in my hand.  A friend came by to pick something up and I had to explain the dumb box that hindered my welcome.  Nothing particularly special about the box except that it was a box.  It didn’t look like trash.  Not to a two-year-old, anyways.

So on that rainy morning when I hoisted that box of boxes and that smelly trash bag off the trunk of my car and headed to the dumpster I was relieved to have it gone.  But as I tossed it through the dark gaping hole, one fleeting thought flashed across my brain.  A quick snap of synapses that I had not previously considered until the moment the box was lying in its dark, smelly, trash bag grave.

“I should have looked through that box before I threw it away.”

It was fleeting, though.  The rain fell.  I was running late.  I was muttering.

But then the sheep came up missing.

And then the shepherd.

And then the Angel.

And all I can think about is the box.

I don’t know for a fact that that is where they are.  For all I know, I’ll find them when I do my spring cleaning and will smack my forehead realizing that she put them … where?  But until then, I can’t shake that sudden, random, dreaded thought that flashed through my head for no reason.  As if my subconscious knew, but my busy, scheduled life ignored the quiet nudge.

So I posted it on Facebook.  I don’t know… maybe a neighbor saw a thief running away from my home with a bag of sheep under his arm.  Instead I got a story from my Mother in Law about how the Pickle had stolen my Father in Law’s phone at the cabin and hid it under the bed in our room.  How and when that would have happened, I will never know.  But I also think I threw away five critical pieces of our Little People Nativity, so one never knows.  But the fact is, they called the phone.  And it responded.  And it has found its home.

Our sheep are mute.  Our shepherd, hidden in a silent night.  The Angel, lost in a dark, empty sky.  If only I could call them and they could answer me.  If only they could bleat.  Or whistle.  Or reach out a hand.

And suddenly I’m reminded of some words later spoken by the man born in the Manger.

“But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice.” -John 10:2-4

And I remember that sometimes I get lost, too.

In this hustle and bustle of schedules and potty-breaks and appointments.  Sometimes, all too often, I fall deep into the crevices of the world and its distractions and its trash.  I lose myself in dishes and laundry.  I lose track of time, wasting away on a screen or a ‘project’ or … tearing the house apart hunting lost sheep.

And in those moments of feeling lost I find comfort in knowing that the Shepherd knows my name and leads me out.  He calls to me in my box and I know His voice.  So many voices.  But His, I know.  And His, I can trust.  And His, I can follow.  He can find me when I am lost… no matter how lost I am.

Our Nativity is not the same without the sheep and the shepherds and the Angel.

But these can all be replaced.

It’s the little One.  The One in the manger that lights up and plays Silent Night.

He’s the One we can’t live without.

He’s the One who finds us when we’re lost.

We lose Him, we lose everything.


UPDATE:  The sheep, shepherd and Angel were found the day after I wrote this.  The Pickle had put them all in a cute red and green chevron Christmas tin that I found in the closet.  And when I opened them up and saw their little faces, I’m pretty sure I very faintly heard the chorus singing, “I once…. was lost… but now… I’m found.”

Angels Found

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