Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Finding Jesus…

Remember those “Where’s Waldo” books? I’m sure they still exist. But they’re not as popular as I remember from my youth. I spent hours staring at these colorful cartoons, drawn in minute detail, illustrated scenes of Paris or Egypt, or of underwater landscapes, or wild dreamscapes. The possibilities were limitless! But somewhere in each drawing, we were promised, was a man named Waldo who always had the same innocent smile, waving hand, candy-stripe shirt. He often was hard to locate in these elaborate, detailed illustrations, but he was always there. And that was the game: finding Waldo.

Advent approaches. For many Christians who’ve attended church faithfully for years, the season’s arrival is welcome. We know well the rhythms of gift-seeking and giving. We’ve memorized many of the carols. The Jesus stories we repeat are among our most cherished tales; the infant lowly, the beautiful babe of Bethlehem born. 

And yet, for all that, the season can sometimes feel boring, repetitive. “Do I have to sing another verse of O Come All Ye Faithful? I have only so much ‘Glo’ in me.” Or, “Preacher, please, stop trying to sound suspenseful. We’ve ‘waited for Jesus’ before. They always find room for his birth.”

At least, that mix has often churned within me. I want to embrace the specialness of The Holidays, yet worry about enduring bad reruns. What’s the new angle? The “fresh take”? The exciting idea that’ll inspire us to sing earnestly with angels this year, rather than drone on in poor harmony?

Well, my 2015 answer may not be perfect, but here’s a go. Like Waldo, Jesus can be tough to “find” on a consistent basis. Not always. Sometimes he nearly jumps off the page in the story of my life; when I need forgiveness, when I notice a bursting sunset, when a moving hymn reminds me that life eternal has already begun. Other times, however, he’s hidden; when I read about Syria’s civil war, when I watch police and residents in my neighborhood eye each other warily, when I worry about my foster son’s future. And that concerns me, since those moments of “Where’s Jesus” occur with unwelcome regularity.

Besides, they matter a lot! When I used to find Waldo, I smiled briefly, then turned the page. When I find Jesus, by contrast, I feel more than proud of my eyesight. I encounter God. I fill with peace. I’m challenged to overcome placidness with holiness and strive more for God’s Kingdom. In other words, life is better.

“Where’s Waldo” was a game. Finding Jesus promises the resurrecting power of love as the inspiration of every day. I want more of that finding. I hope you do too. Thus, our theme for Advent 2015 (which begins at November’s End) will be Finding Jesus. 

Practically speaking, that means we’re going to treat the familiar Christmas stories as clues for where we might perceive the power, purpose and presence of holiness in our lives more dependably. After all, Jesus shows up in many diverse places in these Christmas stories: on the tongues of angels, in the dreams of shepherds and magi, in the nightmares of kings, in a smelly stable, in the hearts of his Holy Mother and Father. I.e. throughout a world desperate for salvation.

I think that each of those places where Christ “arrives” in the Christmas stories offers a clue for where we might find Christ in our own lives. Do you sometimes wonder, “Where’s Jesus”? Then join me in discovering where he’s been before in order to learn where he might be going next.

Or, better to say, where he is already. Because, as we know from decades of faithful worship, Advent’s a time of waiting for what’s already arrived: Light for the World, Salvation for Sinners, Hope for the Oppressed, Love without End. Put on your Holy Ghost Glasses this year and prepare to look for that gift with me. The finding may be easy sometimes, tricky at other times, but always worth the effort since God is good, all the time. So let’s find God more- in Jesus- together!

Grace and Peace,

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