The Birmingham City Council of Birmingham, England, is looking for Jesus. As their Christmas Market opened for the season, passersby looked into the Nativity Scene only to find Jesus missing.

In his place? A Garden Gnome. Most onlookers were not amused. One stated, "We are told we need to be considerate of every faith but that's not showing any consideration for the Christian faith." Some tried to find some humor in the prank. One newspaper quipped there was now "gnome room at the Inn."

The Council is attempting to find out how such a thing could happen. The gnome has been removed and a search for Jesus has begun. A council spokesman said: "Until Jesus and the crib have been found the display will stay boarded up."

Some might say that Jesus is missing from our Christmas too. What if the Christmas season were boarded up until Jesus was found? What if the Christmas Council went on a search-and-find mission for Jesus in hopes of putting him back into Christmas? Where could they look for him with a high probability of finding him?

They might be wise to follow the path of the wise men who followed the scriptures and the stars to find him. As the Council searches the writings concerning Jesus, the first place they would look for him would be in the church.

On occasion, someone will be looking for me. They may call or come by the office. They might drop by my house. They might even resort to calling or texting my phone. They might look in all those places, and if they have no success in finding me there, they have one more option.

They look for me where my bride is. Karen will get a call or be asked the question, "Do you know where we can find Rick?" They assume she knows where to find me because she is the love of my life, and we stay connected on such things as my whereabouts.

Are you aware that the church — you and me and other believers around the globe — are the love of Jesus' life? The Scriptures tell us that the church is "the bride of Christ." The church gathering is the first place one would go if looking for Jesus.

But in many gathering spots, what we find looks more like a dismembered, dispassionate bride. Church attendance and participation are on the decline. Since 1991, although 4 out of 5 Americans consider themselves Christians, attendance at a church service in any given week has declined by 9%. Only 47% of those claiming to be Christians can be found at a church event.

Gathering with other believers to celebrate their union with Christ is becoming an afterthought, something to be checked off the list after the working, playing, and shopping are done. The relationship with the groom has been moved down the priority list. Not by his choice, mind you. In most instances, his input has not even been requested.

It was not always this way. The early church met daily "in the temple courts and from house to house." And, just as the shepherds came to see what had happened that first night Jesus entered our world, people came to see what was happening to these people within whom the spirit of Christ had entered. The church, as the bride of Christ, greeted him regularly and passionately.

Magical things might happen!
As a groom, I know how I like to be greeted. When I come home from a long day, she gets excited. She's the first one to greet me at the door. The first one to acknowledge my presence. The first one to hug me. Mattie is the best dog anyone could ask for. Karen follows her closely behind in the greeting.

Jesus is missing from Christmas. But what if we arranged our schedules around the groom rather than arranging the groom around ours? Magical things might happen. Jesus would be found. He would be put in the place he belongs. And Christmas could continue... with Jesus.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him" (Matthew 2:1-2 NIV).

This image is from an ebay® offered nativity set found online.