Where is Jesus this Christmas? In many churches, he will be found as a child occupying a manger in a Nativity scene. Some will find him in the songs of the season. Some songs will ask, “What Child is This?” while others will place him in a little town called Bethlehem. Still other musical works will marvel at how the herald angels sang or how silent was the night at his birth.
Yet other people, with all sincerity, will ask, “Where is Jesus?”
I spent a good deal of time from just before Thanksgiving to the present time attending funerals of people much too young to die, visiting the desperately ill in hospitals, or spending time with a dear friend who spent his last 40 days in hospice care. I am painfully aware of good, hard-working people who are among the state’s 10.1 percent unemployed. There are those families who have discovered themselves recently divorced and others who have been handed bitter disappointment. I sometimes wonder, too, when I think no one is reading my thoughts, “Where is Jesus?”
A prayer from the service of Evening Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer asks, “Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous, all for your love’s sake. Amen.”
It seems to me that a lot of people are keeping watch at night, unable to sleep, worried about the future or concerned about their loved ones. I have seen and experienced more weeping this season than usual. There are many sick — not just physically, but sick emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. And, is it just me, or are there a great many weary people? I know that I am weary. “Where is Jesus?”
I have been with the dying, have kept company with the suffering, and have seen and prayed with the afflicted. It is interesting that the prayer asks God to, “shield the joyous.” We all know that joy can turn into tragic sorrow with very little warning. A Roman Catholic saint named Teresa of Avila, who became a nun and started 17 convents, once said, “If this is how God treats his friends, no wonder he has so few of them!”
Historians report she spoke those words with a smile. She lost her mother at the age of 14. She contracted malaria in her early 20s. She was unable to walk for three years and battled severe illnesses all of her life. Surely, St. Teresa asked, “Where is Jesus?” Yet, she, like many who have suffered tragedy and loss, have discovered that the answer to the question of “Where is Jesus?” is often simply, “Right here.”
This Christmas, hundreds of millions will gather for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day services. Many — more than one would imagine — will come to those services wounded, hurting, confused, and questioning. Some will come angry — angry at people, at life, and at God. Still they will come.
For, as the Apostle Peter said when many were deserting the Faith, “Lord, to whom shall we go?”(John 6:68 KJV). He was saying, “If we do not go to you, Jesus, there is no where else to go.”
The promise is that Jesus will “never leave nor forsake” (Heb. 13:5 NKJV) his people. Even during the hard times. Especially during the hard times. For those who are joyous, guard the moment. For the others, those who are struggling — sometimes against great odds — you are not alone, however lonely it may seem.
“Where is Jesus?” He is right here. With you. He’s not going anywhere. He promised.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and is the mission pastor of Christ the King Fellowship in Champaign, IL. He may be contacted at email@example.com.]