Where is Jesus?

Asking "Where is Jesus?" can help us find love and light in unexpected places and people, writes Bobby Hulme-Lippert.

Photo by Walter Chávez on Unsplash

Every December of my childhood years, my two brothers and I spent an inordinate amount of time staring at three ceramic sheep on the family console. The sheep represented the three of us brothers, and they spent the month slowly traveling across to the other end of the console where we had our family’s manger scene, sans baby Jesus, who faithfully arrived on Christmas morning each year.

The goal was for the sheep to arrive at the manger that same morning; however, the sheep’s progress was not guaranteed, since their daily movement was based on the behavior of us three boys. On good behavior days, our parents moved our sheep toward the manger. Bad behavior days meant no movement. Or worse, backward movement.

Since the sheep rarely kept to a fluid, forward motion, the three of us often spent our daily sheep assessment anxiously wondering Will we make it!? What if we don’t move today!? Will Santa come if we don’t get there!?

It’s funny looking back on these moments and knowing that the sheep were never in any danger of not making it. At the same time, I have hardly outgrown my fears. In fact, I sense that many of us spend a lot of time wondering about the state of our sheep.

Are we moving forward in life? Are we stuck in place? Or worse — are we going backward? Falling behind? Failing, even? And what should we do about it?

We anxiously feel the weight of these questions not only for ourselves but for our church, our nation and the whole of creation. Graciously, though, those questions are sometimes interrupted by an even better question.

Indeed, one mid-December day many years ago as my brothers and I surveyed the daily console drama, my youngest brother quietly asked, “So … where is Jesus?” Honestly, until that moment we had never given much consideration to Jesus’ pre-Christmas whereabouts. Where, indeed, is Jesus right now?

At that moment, the question prompted us to find our parents and inquire.

Earlier this fall, the gift of that question came back to me when my family of four went for a morning hike during a solar eclipse. We didn’t have the requisite eclipse glasses to see it, and we were lamenting that fact until a couple walking toward us on the trail, smiled, and said, “Would you like to see the eclipse? We have a couple extra pair of glasses.”

We were stunned to have strangers offer kindness so forthrightly, particularly as they were unaware of our situation. We donned the glasses, looked up, and saw in amazement the previously hidden moon directly in front of the sun, ablaze by its light.

The couple let us keep the glasses, and in time we ran across some others on the trail who we would normally have walked right by. However, the couples’ recent kindness invited us to slow and ask them, “Do you want to see the solar eclipse?”

“Absolutely!” They, too, were thrilled for the opportunity to see the unique gift at hand.

Where is Jesus? is a question that arrives as a fresh set of lenses on the journey of faith, uniquely crafted to help discern the sometimes-hidden activity of Jesus in our lives and this world. It’s a question that invites us to lay down our many anxious questions and take up a singular question of expectancy. Where, indeed, is the Living, Risen Jesus? (In this? In that? In us? In them?)

And, finally, it’s a question that invites our hearts to scan every direction of our reality. We look to the heavens to see where surprising love is dawning upon a tired world. We look within to discern the same. And we look around to the neighbors along the path: the ones we call family, the ones whose kindness arrives unexpectedly, and the ones we would normally not notice or acknowledge.

For the scandal of Jesus is that he cares little for how all the sheep are or are not measuring up. Christ’s light shines upon and through the likely and the unlikely, the near and the far, the healing and the broken alike. This means that the whole console of creation is covered in responses to Where is Jesus?