I remember well how I started my first day of work at Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home. Eager with anticipation, I arrived early and I waited in the lobby of the Family Development Center. As I waited, I noticed a ceramic nativity scene on the mantle above the fireplace. Looking more closely, it was obvious the baby Jesus had no hands. They had both been broken. The baby Jesus lay in the manger broken-handed.
My first thought was a question, “Why can’t these folks afford a good Jesus?”
My next thought was a conclusion, “Perhaps this is an appropriate symbol. Certainly many of these kids I’m about to work with are probably broken in some way.”
I will soon celebrate my twenty-third Christmas at the Home. Each year I find myself contemplating the broken-handed Jesus. Each year I ask the same question and each year I reach the same conclusion.
“Why can’t these folks afford a good baby Jesus?” The answer is simple. It costs money to operate a quality children’s Home. To be frank, it costs a lot of money.
Because we have limited funds, we prioritize our expenditures. Clothing, education, health care, child care staff, nurses, therapists and therapeutic supplies, materials for pastoral care and recreation are all more important than Christmas decorations. We still have the broken-handed Jesus.
The conclusion I’m forced to consider each year has not changed. How very appropriate a broken-handed Jesus is as a symbol of our kids.
During the last 22 years I have known many broken-handed children. I remember a child with dents in his skull from the hammer blows of an angry parent. I’ve known children so despised and neglected by others that they attempt to destroy themselves. I know children who will live the rest of their lives with horrible scars on the bodies; scars left from wounds inflicted by others. I know children who cannot trust and children who fear the future. I know children who, years after the events, have nightmares about the trauma and evil they have endured. I remember a boy who ate bugs because he was hungry.
One cannot work at the Home without knowing a lot of broken children. I know Jesus with His broken hands understands their pain. And He cares.
I also know the broken nativity figure is merely a symbol. For me, it remains a symbol of His identification with those who have been broken.
Fortunately for our kids, Jesus has hands. He has many hands. He has hands which can reach and touch and heal and give. In this world, Jesus’ hands are your hands and our hands. Jesus cares for children using the hands of His children who, like Him, care for kids with broken hands.
I hope you will remember the broken-handed Jesus as Christmas approaches. Thank God for the gifts He has given you. Remember the children you support through your prayers, volunteer activities and financial gifts.
President and CEO