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'If you’re missing baby Jesus, call 7162'

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Pastor's Pulpit, a column by the Rev. Gayle Summey, pastor of Belair United Methodist Church

By Rev. Gayle Summey

As we approach Christmas Day and the birth of our Savior, I want to share a story by Jean Gietzen. Hopefully, she won’t mind my paraphrasing her.

Shortly before Christmas 1943, the Gietzen family bought a Nativity set that contained two figures of baby Jesus. They felt there must be another set somewhere that was short one baby Jesus. The children wrote a note, “If you’re missing Baby Jesus, call 7162,” and posted it at the store where the set had been bought.

Each time the phone rang, the mother would exclaim, “I bet that’s someone calling about baby Jesus.” But the call never came.

On Christmas Eve, the father and two children set out on the coldest night of the year to see if any sets remained unsold. The store was sold out. The children shouted, “Hooray! The mystery will be solved tonight!”

Returning home, they found not only their mother missing, but also the extra baby Jesus. When the telephone rang, they were surprised to hear their mother’s voice telling them to come to 205 Chestnut St. and bring with them three blankets, a box of cookies and some milk.

Father wondered what she had gotten them into and how they were going to keep the milk from freezing as they walked the eight blocks to Chestnut Street. They wrapped the milk in the blankets, and the children sang Christmas carols and pretended to be looking for a place to stay, just like Joseph and Mary, as they walked along.

When they arrived, one tiny light burned in the window. Their mother opened the door and said, “Thank God, you got here.”

She told them about the young mother and little children inside the house. The father had walked out on the family, taking with him all the bedding, clothing and most of the furniture. The family had been making do – until their oil furnace went out. Mrs. Gietzen told the young mother that her husband could fix the furnace. 

The mother had been doing washing and ironing for the owners of the store where the Nativity set had been sold. Every day, she saw the sign and remembered, “7162, 7162.” She knew she was not missing baby Jesus. He was in her heart. When her furnace went out, she thought that the ones posting the message must be Christians, so she called them.

After repairing the furnace, warming the milk and sharing the cookies, the family noticed the extra baby Jesus on the table, the only sign of Christmas in the house. Mrs. Gietzen began dancing around and singing to the infant in the house, “This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing.” 

“Hear that?” the young mother said to her children. “That woman is singing ‘bout the Lord Jesus. He ain’t never gonna walk out on us. Why, he brought these people here to fix our furnace. And blankets we got now, too. Oh, we’ll be warm tonight.”

When the Gietzen family got home, they called their friends and soon gathered enough clothing, toys and games to fill two pickup truck loads for the residents of 205 Chestnut St.

No one ever called about the missing baby in the Nativity set.

Hmmm, maybe it wasn’t a packing mistake at all.

Belair United Methodist Church is at 8095 Shelley Mullis Road. Its phone number is (803) 547-6631.