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At Christmas, my sister-in-law loves to decorate their yard with an assortment of the older style, illuminated, hard plastic, blow mold figures.  Mr. and Mrs. Claus, reindeer, snowmen, and a Nativity scene. 

Those of us who know her get caught up in her sense of fun and joy.  Her delight spills over to us.  

Unfortunately, a few years ago, someone stole baby Jesus.  (And apparently this is not an uncommon thing to happen in displays like this.)  So I’ve kept my eyes open at flea markets and antique stores but never stumbled across a replacement.  Until …

My sister discovered a website* that sold not only new nativity displays, but also replacement figures.  And not just brand new replacement figures.  They had a “Scratch and Dent” Jesus.  The description reads:  Note:  This product will have one or more of any of the following defects: flattened nose, indented nose, paint chips, paint smudge, missing paint or paint splatter.  

I may not “love” the blow plastic molds for my yard.  But I do love a “scratch and dent” Jesus.  This Jesus fits my world better than a pristine, untouchable Jesus.  And it fits me in a season when I have felt a bit bruised myself.  I want a Jesus who knows what it is like to encounter the things that flatten us, or splatter us, or chip us. Who steps right into those things with us. 

The Jesus who was born in a manger, probably more like a cave than the wooden structures we often see.  Among all the smell and mess and dirt of a place that is designed to house animals, not people.  Where swaddling cloths matter because the bed is uncovered straw.

Jan Karon, in At Home in Mitford, shows us a distraught visitor who enters the empty church, sits down, eventually looks upward and in deep agony pleads “God … are … you … up … there?!”  Father Tim slips in beside him and gently says, “You may be asking the wrong question…. I believe the question you may want to ask is not ‘Are you up there?’ but ‘Are you down here?'”

That’s the good news of this season.  That Jesus came. He is “down here”. Immanuel, “God with us”.  And he’s a “scratch and dent” Jesus – not in terms of sharing our sin.  But in terms of sharing our pain and our struggles and the things that hurt us.  Who doesn’t run or retreat when things get messy.  Who takes some of the blows intended for us.  Who binds up our wounds.  Who dwells among and heals the brokenhearted.  

And this Christmas Eve, in the front yard of someone who does love the blow plastic molds, “scratch and dent” Jesus, with his slightly flattened nose, will join the display.  A reminder that the true scratch and dent Jesus has come to bring hope.  And encouraging us to let our joy in Him spill over and draw others into the same delight.