Our manger scene is coming to life. Each week new pieces are added. Two weeks ago, when the scene went up, we had a problem. I walked into the greening of the church and heard a voice crying out, “The Baby Jesus is missing!” (So much for making straight the path and creating a wide highway for the coming of our Lord.) Questions came from all corners – where could he be, where did he go, who packed him up, who would want to take him, what are we going to do? Unlike the grumpy Santa Claus in “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” who was quick to cancel Christmas because of one bad weather report, I was not ready to cancel Christmas because we couldn’t find an eight inch statue. I knew the Holy Spirit would light our way (and I have a connection in Tijuana who could pick up a replacement in a pinch). Still, some time went by without finding him and I was getting a little worried.
This is not the first time Jesus has been lost. King Herod went looking for him and came up empty. Angry residents of Jesus’ hometown wanted to throw Jesus off a cliff for proclaiming a lesson from Isaiah that we are reading this Sunday. Jesus eluded them by disappearing into the crowd. Two unaware disciples on the road to Emmaus walked and talked with the resurrected Christ. When they realized it was Him, Jesus vanished. And even his mother lost him, twice.
Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to Jerusalem when he was twelve years old. After days of celebration in the Holy City, the caravan back to Nazareth started without Jesus. By evening, Mary and Joseph realized Jesus was seriously missing so they headed back up the mountain to Jerusalem until they finally found him in the Temple teaching religious leaders. The second time mother Mary went to the tomb and found it empty. But then the Newly Resurrected appeared and gave her joy and comfort.
I talked with someone recently who has lost a sense of Christ, the Holy One. I thought about the missing statue and said Jesus has funny ways of disappearing and reappearing. It is the Incarnate One who called us to seek, knock, search and find. Maybe our spiritual journey looks like a holy game of hide and seek – sometimes it’s Jesus who hides and calls us to seek him out and other times it’s us who’ve tried to hide from him. The voice of the Great Shepherd, never discouraged, calls, “Come out, come out, wherever you are!”
Hidden behind our manger are cardboard boxes. The first item packed every year is the baby Jesus and everything else is packed on top. After searching every nook and cranny in the church, hall and office, like Mary and Joseph looking for Jesus, the seekers returned to the Nave and the box that holds Jesus. At the very bottom, swaddled in protective wrapping, was the missing statue. What was lost had been found!
Maybe this is the point of Advent. After searching all over for the meaning of Christmas, perhaps we are called to return to the origin of it all, the simple truth of a family huddling together around a new born child, while stars, angels, and shepherd cried out with joy for the new born King.
May you find what has been lost as you search deep inside your spiritual self and find a child, whose name is Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the everlasting Father. The Prince of Peace.