I served a church several years ago that presented a live Nativity scene during the Christmas season.
It was an integral part of the church’s celebration of Christmas. Not only was our own community involved, but people would drive from adjoining counties to see live animals and real live people re-enacting that fateful moment when Jesus entered the world.
Ironically, Jesus was the only character in the whole live Nativity scene that was not alive. We used a doll rather than expose a real newborn to the elements.
In fact, that reality created a humorous moment one year. We were hastily getting ready for our first presentation of the live Nativity.
Our Mary and Joseph had donned their robes. Wise men and shepherds were clothed and ready to go. We had borrowed some sheep and cows from a local farmer. Everything was set.
Except for one missing character.
With just minutes before we were scheduled to begin, the chair of the decorating committee rushed into the sanctuary and announced with great solemnity, “I can’t find the baby Jesus. Does anyone know where Jesus is?”
Happily, the baby Jesus was found, and the Nativity proceeded without further incident.
But while that particular crisis passed and has probably been forgotten by most of the people involved, I have found myself revisiting that question.
Though she meant the question in a different and very particular context, I have wondered through the years if Christians in particular, and other interested seekers in general, know where Jesus is?
We have somewhat concluded our combat efforts in Iraq. At this point, Christians should be asking, as should have been true throughout the course of the war, “Is Jesus found in warfare?”
Can the one who taught us to love our neighbors and our enemies really condone the killing of our neighbors and our enemies?
There is no doubt that Jesus was present in the lives of many of our soldiers. I have talked to many returning vets and know their hearts and attitudes about their personal conduct.
But what of our national conduct? Can we find Jesus in the waging of war?
And let’s not forget that young men and women continue to serve in combat roles in Afghanistan.
Does anyone know where Jesus is?
Meanwhile, back at the mall, the annual celebration of Jesus’ birth has become a near orgy of shopping and buying. Some merchants report that they rely on the Christmas season for a third or more of their annual sales.
For one who entered the world wrapped in the rags of poverty while sleeping in a feeding trough, frenzied shopping hardly seems the best way to honor him.
I recall Jesus saying once, “When you have fed, clothed and cared for the least of these in your midst, you have done it to me.”
Does anyone know where Jesus is?
It’s too easy to make this all personal – Jesus lives in my heart, and so on. And while that may be true, that is not the end of the story.
The little one who entered the world in weakness and vulnerability came to reveal a way of life that if adopted and followed, has the power to transform everything we know and see.
But before that can happen we must know where he is. Because where we find Jesus is where Jesus wants to find us.
Following him remains the best way of finding him.
James L. Evans is a retired Baptist preacher living in Alabama. Over 35 years, he served churches in Alabama, North Carolina and Virginia. In support of his pastoral work, Evans published 5 books including “First and Second Corinthians: Immersion Bible Studies” (Abingdon Press (2011).