Do you remember the children’s book series, Where’s Waldo? They weren’t really books. They were just gigantic busy cartoons. The author challenged the reader to find this funny looking dude wearing a red and white striped sweater and ski hat. I remember one Christmas staring at a picture forever and my nephew walked over and pointed right to him, ‘There he is.’ Ugh.
Well forget Where’s Waldo... in his Gospel account, Luke challenges us to play, "Where is Jesus?"
He paints the scene in chapter 2 by telling us that “A decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the entire world should be counted.”
Now everyone back then could quickly point out the great Caesar Augustus! He couldn't hide. All roads led to Rome. And there you would look up toward the Palatine Hill where all the rich and famous lived and swiftly identify a man dressed in white with a golden sash and servants streaming back and forth. There is Caesar! There is the Emperor of the greatest empire the world has ever known. Everybody can find Caesar Augustus! He is where a King should be!
But the angels are announcing the arrival of another King! Where is Jesus?
Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.
Where is Jesus? Where is the One through Whom all things were made? Where is the true King of heaven and earth?
The King lays as a vulnerable newborn in a manger because there isn’t any room for Him in the inn. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer liked to say, “God is in the manger!” No one would think to find a King in a manger, let alone a god. A manger was not even an ideal place for a baby back then. It smelled and provided a crude and scratchy bed. It was a dog dish.
The Buddhists have their Buddha perched perfectly in contemplation high above our earthly concerns. The Muslims have their God far above our measly world shouting commands and demanding obedience.
But God is not there! Where is He?
God is in a manger.
We have painted such a beautiful serene picture of the nativity – as if it is the ideal place for God to be. A clear starry sky and clean animals adoring the baby. Mary wears a perfectly clean blue robe and Joseph stares like Buddha at the young Christ child.
God is not there either.
Well, the boy grew up. But you will not find Him in purple palaces with servants streaming back and forth and an adoring crowd outside.
Where is Jesus? He is with the woman divorced 9 times. He is with the widow who lost her only son. He is with the tax collector. He is with the outcast demon possessed man who is left alone in a graveyard.
Where is Jesus? Where is God?
He hangs upon the cross between two criminals, you and me, with all of our shame, all of our guilt, all of our hate wrapped around His head and piercing His hands and feet. God punished instead of us.
Where is Jesus? Where is God?
He lies in the grave! A grave meant for someone else... anyone else... everyone else!
Three days later they went looking for Jesus among the dead.
Where is Jesus? He is risen! He will raise us, too.
If you are looking for God. If you are looking for Hope. If you are looking for peace! Don’t look up there. Don’t look in grand locations. Don’t look at the sun, Mt. Olympus, your checkbook, or president. Don’t even look in your heart!
Look in the manger. Look to the cross. Look in the empty grave! But don’t stop there. What about now? Where is He now?!
Throughout Scripture, God surprises us by appearing where we would not expect Him. Yet how quickly after Christmas we put Him back up there on Palatine Hill dressed in gold where Kings belong!
But once again, where is Jesus today?
He still dwells in those mangers, those barns, those messy places—our lives! You still will find Him where you don’t expect Him. Yet, just like the Tabernacle, God is right where He said He would be all along; He is in bread and wine, in water and words, on the lips of sinners-declared-saints saying to fearful hearts, “I forgive you. I will raise you up on the last day.”
Where is Jesus?
Here He is. He is still lying in a manger, inviting the dying, guilty and afraid to “Take and eat. Take and drink!", giving His words and faith and body and blood... for you!