Seekers. Wanderers. Vagabonds. Loners. Scavengers. Call it what you want, but there are so many people who are searching for something. Some embrace it, make it part of who they are. Others deny it and live life as a façade as they pretend that they have everything they ever wanted. Christmas always seems to bring out our wants and desires, as we make lists of those things that we seem to be missing in our lives. It brings out our inner seeker, our wanderer, our vagabond as we strive to find what we have lost or what we never had. We all find ourselves looking, searching, and utterly lacking. Sometimes we lose what we once had. Often times we seek, wander, and find ourselves alone because we have lost something, something we once possessed, knew, or believed.
See, Christmas doesn’t only bring out our wants and desires in regards to material things, but something deeper. Our longing for the days when our families would gather together around the tree but now time has caused separation as people have grown older and moved away. The feeling that used to come when the whole family filled the pew on Christmas Eve, and as you looked at that full pew, your tears welled up at the words of Silent Night. Maybe, its longing for that childlike belief in the Christ child you once gazed upon joyfully during a Christmas Pageant, when you blindly believed. Maybe you feel like you are spiritually empty, and although Christmas brings joy, you find yourself longing for the way it used to make you feel. Maybe you feel like you have lost Jesus but in the midst of life, the hustle and bustle, and the constant barrage of marketing and commercialization. Maybe you feel like you can’t remember the real Jesus.
Mary and Joseph lost Jesus once. They forgot him, actually. After their yearly gathering in Jerusalem for the Passover, they realized after a day’s worth of travel that Jesus wasn’t with them. (Insert Home Alone metaphor.) I can imagine there was panic, maybe anxiety, worry, concern. Mary and Joseph became seekers, looking for their son, but not only their son, they are looking for the Son of God whom they left behind. Off they run, searching and searching for Jesus. After three days there he is, in the temple learning, asking questions, growing in wisdom, and leaving those present in awe.
I find it ironic, when Mary and Joseph go off looking for Jesus, they find him in the temple. The place where people gather to hear God’s Word read, the place where sacrifices are offered and sins atoned for, the place where people would gather in the faith. I find it ironic that Mary and Joseph found Jesus in church. Looking back it is almost comically obvious where Jesus would have been. They had been raising the Son of God for twelve years. They knew their son well. Yet, in the moment, they seemed to forget who he was: the Messiah.
Now, so many people find themselves looking for what they lost. Or what they never had. People seek out something to give their lives meaning, or they want to be more spiritually fulfilled. So they look to the stars and their birthdates as they try to find what they’re looking for in their daily horoscope. Or they try to find meaning in palm of their hands as a fraud gazes upon the lines that supposedly map out the future. More so, many people look inside of themselves, looking for that experience that will make them feel closer to some generic god, a moment with goosebumps and fuzzy feelings brought upon by emotional manipulation, or beauty. Maybe the searching has gotten exhausting and Nihilism has become the only option. Life is meaningless and the incessant seeking for something more has left you broken and dejected. Or maybe you are a lifelong Christian who has found yourself no longer attending church, and feels like Jesus can be found just as much on Christian radio in the car as it can be on Sunday morning in a Cathedral. I want to invite you to look, like Mary and Joseph, in the obvious place. I want you to go to church.
This is the place where you will find Jesus, because this is the place where he has promised to be. Go to the place where the Word which testifies about him is publicly read and where God’s Word is proclaimed in the preaching of Law and Gospel. Where people are adopted in the waters of Holy Baptism, chosen by God and where they put on Jesus as they die and are raised into a new creation as faith is created from nothing. Where Jesus is not only proclaimed, but where he is physically present in, with, and under bread and wine to sustain the beaten down and cracked saints of God. This is where you will find Jesus. You do not need look to the stars, to your palms, to your works, or to your emotions, but instead look outside of yourself to the places where Christ has promised you can find him. In Word, water, bread and wine. This is the place where you ought to look. For when you look to church (at least those ones who are preaching the Gospel and administrating the sacraments rightly) you will find what has been lost and what you have been looking for. You will find Jesus, every single time.