Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Looking for God

“Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” - Jesus

Even the parents of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, had a hard time finding Him (see Luke 2:40-52).  It seems surprising that they lost track of Jesus, considering that He was their very own, whom they raised, and bathed, and fed, and prayed with.  And now, they had thought that Jesus was walking alongside them.  They search in a frantic fever of worry for three days, searching for him among relatives and friends.  Mary and Joseph are probably going door to door anxiously asking, “Have you seen any sign of Jesus, we have lost him – please help us?” 

When we think about our own lives, or the lives of family or friends or neighbors, does this scene sound familiar to us?  Searching – restlessly.  Being consumed with worry – looking for that familiar voice – that recognizable face.    

The whole world in one way or another is looking for God – and usually doing so frantically under great pressure.  We go from one place to the next, door to door, searching for that next bit of hope.  That check at the end of the month maybe might really make things right.  That promotion would surely fix my life and make it more secure.  We need to find that next big thing, that we think help us. Some look for God in their own imaginations. Some choose to seek God in the great outdoors – in nature. Some look to find God through their intellect – through philosophical wanderings and speculations. 

Yet, we look in the wrong places.  We knock on the wrongs doors.  We put our hope in hopeless things.  We look for spirituality in spiritless endeavors.  Like, Mary and Joseph we run from door to door looking for the Lord – seeking him.  Where is God?  That is the question.  Where is God when I am lost and confused?  Where is God at the death of my brother or sister?  Where is a just and righteous God when there is so much injustice and unrighteousness.  I thought I was ‘found’ but certainly feel ‘lost.’   
We all know some of those last words of Jesus “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me…And lo! I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  But sometimes we forget the very first words that we hear proceeding from the mouth of Jesus as a boy.  Hear this Gospel, these very first words of our Lord, “Why were you looking for me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  This is not the baby Jesus in the manger anymore.  This is Jesus as a child, speaking for himself.  
After all that looking - that frantic searching by Mary and Joseph going door to door, they find him among the rabbis in the temple.  Among the public preaching and teaching.  He is sitting in the bloody aftermath of that Passover feast where thousands of spotless lambs were sacrificed, roasted on a spit, and eaten with bitter herbs and chalices of wine.  Jesus, near that altar, among the rabbis in the temple, says, “Dear Mother, did you not know that I would be among the things of my Father?”  “Did you not know that I would be with this cup and this bread?  Even as a boy, Jesus knows that his destiny lies in the Passover Feast to take place in Jerusalem. 

This Christmas celebration means that we may rest from our searching for God.  We are done looking.  We do not have to forge a way to reach him.  We do not need to construct ladders to get into his heavenly presence.  The great German preacher of the 20th century, Helmut Thielicke was fond of saying that the crib and the cross are of the same wood.  That is, Jesus comes to that manger - into flesh to absorb our sin and to march up that dusty path to Calvary’s cross.  That child who stayed behind in Jerusalem knew that it was his destiny to go there – to stay behind - to suffer and to die – and to be found by his church on that third day, resurrected fresh from the grave, “Peace be with you, look no more, here I am,” as He shows us His wounds.  When we seek God and His gifts, this is where we look – to that wood of the manger and wooden cross.    
After three days Jesus is found in the temple, where He has promised to be.  This Christmas means that God has completely descended into His church to be our friend and brother.  He came to suffer and die the death of a sinner in our place, sharing in our flesh, taking on our shame and guilt.  After three days He is risen and found where He has promised to be in the breaking of the bread and overflowing wine – that gushes forth as that new river of life.  We find Him where He has promised to be in the house of His Father, doing the things that His Father has given him to do. 

The Christ child preaches here in this place.  By ascending to the right hand of the Father he does the Father’s work here.  “Peace be with you…I baptize you in the name of the Father…Take eat…take drink…I forgive you all your sins.”  He loves being among the things of His Father.  He loves being on that altar.  He loves being found presiding at the font.  He loves praying with us and interceding before His Father’s throne for every request we have here – whether great or small.  And he loves taking those among us at last to that heavenly home where we may find that final rest - that joyful place of singing and praising, and wonderful feasting.      

We do not have to look anymore or have any uncertainty about where God is and what He is doing.  Rest from your searching and let the living Christ find you and claim you here.  He says, “Did you not know that I must be here doing everything for you – find me here! - baptizing you – blessing you – teaching you, and sanctifying you in that glory which I myself give you?”    

We do not look for God with our legs by running from door to door.  Nor do we find him with our eyes or feelings.  We find him with the sight of faith which however, wobbly and weak it may seem, clings steadily to that strong Christ.  And so we are drawn here to feast on the promise that will never be lost but always found. May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.     

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