lost and found

Yesterday I lost my keys…again. I frantically search all over, everywhere I could think they might be, or anywhere that I might have laid them down while I was focusing on something else.  That is how it usually happens.  My mind is one place and my activity is somewhere else.  But when my search finally leads me to what I seek, there is delight, relief, and the opportunity to focus on what is next, rather than endlessly repeating where I’ve been.

This morning as I read the Christmas story, taking comfort in the familiar words, I saw something new. Mary was “found” to be with child (Mat 1:18).  Because the Joseph aspect of the story is in Matthew and the Elizabeth story is in Luke, it’s hard to merge the chronology of these two. Did Mary just run away to Elizabeth immediately after the visit from the angel?  Was everyone surprised when she returned home, months later, looking very pregnant? Did she even try to talk to Joseph before the town gossips got in on the action? How exactly did he “find” out? Who “found” her to be pregnant? What did they choose to do with this information that they “found”? Did they assume Joseph had violated the betrothal laws, or that Mary had betrayed him during the months she was away?

But when I searched the word “found” in the gospels, I learned that the first “finding” in the Christmas story was when Mary “found” favor with God (Luke 1:30).  The Christmas story is full of “finding”.  The Shepherds “found” Jesus, lying in the manger (Luke 2:16). Herod “found out” from the Wise Men when the star had appeared.

 The idea of being found is a key image and message of the gospel. When Jesus was lost, Mary and Joseph “found” him at the temple.  When Andrew met Jesus, he told his brother that he had “found” the messiah. When Jesus was crucified, the soldiers came to break his legs, but “found” he was already dead. The women who came to the tomb “found” the stone rolled away. Luke 15 records three parables Jesus taught about “finding”: sheep, coin, and a lost son. In each of these parables he describes the utter joy of the one who “found” what he was looking for.

The Christmas story is God coming to “be found” by his people. He always knew where we were; he left where he was and came to Bethlehem that night in such a way that we could “find” him. He gave his own job description in Luke 19:10 when he said he came to seek and save the lost. His direction to us is to “seek first his kingdom”.

When I study history or read the news headlines, it is difficult for me to understand why God would seek us. We are unquestionably lost. We seek false gods that do not satisfy. We seek the “far country” and our own power and control. We seek what gives us temporary pleasure and are ultimately destroyed by our evil desires. Even those of us who want so much to be defined by our relationship with God sometimes “find” ourselves lost in the temptations and distractions of our world.

We are never lost to God.  He always knows where we are.  We are lost only in the sense that we “find” ourselves somewhere we don’t belong.  As I look back at my life and all the times I’ve chosen to wander away from God, I’m completely humbled by a Savior who left heaven to “find” me, who seeks me every time I wander off.

We worship the God who made himself available to us, who seeks us, who wants to be “found” by us. When we realize that what we most seek in this life is the relationship with God who so wants to be “found”, we find relief and delight that the world cannot give, and we can then focus on the story and life that God so wants to share with us. This Christmas may you “find” the wonder of the baby in the manger who came to where you are, the love of the savior who left heaven to be found by you, and the joy of the Father/Shepherd whose incredible love forbids him from letting you stay lost.

(reposted from 12/25/13)