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WBC Carols By Candlelight 2003
The story of course is set in what we now call the middle east.
It's a story of how powerful men travelled many miles to look for a great ruler.
It's a story of how they eventually find him, not in the capital city, but in an obscure
village in a rural part of the country in the most surprising of circumstances.
And it's the story of how the discovery led to great rejoicing far and wide.
But enough about the capture of Saddam Hussein.
Our concern is today is with a very different kind of ruler – but one who also
inspired much searching.
In fact it's a story where every body seems to be looking for something.
Caesar Augustus was searching out information, facts and figures about the greatness
of his empire – how proud he must have been.
Mary and Joseph are looking for a place for the night – desperately looking.
The angels, no doubt bursting with the kind of eager anticipation you feel when
you've got good news to share, come to seek out the shepherds.
(Shepherds) Who then trip off filled with curiosity to check out the heavenly story –
a saviour? The lord Messiah? A baby in Bethlehem?
Then there's those determined magi – over five hundred miles because what they've
read in the stars – a mysterious king – one who merits the costliest gifts.
Even Herod was on the look out – fearfully scouring his domain – petrified that he
might be overthrown one day and determined to do what ever it takes to save his skin.
Then in the bit of the story that we don't usually get to, someone who's been waiting,
looking out for such a long time, old man Simeon who despite his failing eye-sight
sees more clearly than any – sees that the baby in the temple, cradled nervously by
this teenage mum really is a little bundle of joy – in the way that all babies are
supposed to be but also in a special way that will only ever apply to this baby. He
sees that this is the salvation of God the very light of the world and he sees that his
waiting and searching and his life itself is now over, complete, brought to a good end.
Everybody is looking for something.
Fearfully looking, hopefully looking, proudly looking, looking with determination,
looking because they are confused.
That sense that so many have, that they still haven't found what they are looking for.
That sense is of course a part of the human condition long since recognised by
many. That sense that there must be more to life. That this can't be all that there is to
it. That feeling of somehow being destined for something more than the ad men and
the careers advisers have to offer.
It's a feeling that inspires many people to set off on many different searches.
From the driven workaholic to the superficial shopaholic. From those few who
embark on religious quests to the many millions who simply drift through life with a
nagging question which they mostly manage to ignore and which only occasionally
prompts them to consider looking for a serious answer.
The Christian faith of course has long had it's own take on this phenomenon. Of
all those who have tried to express it no one has done a better job than an African
bishop who lived 1700 years ago. Augustine put it in the form of prayer to God:
“You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless till they rest in you.”
In other words every human being is created and destined to live life in relationship
with God. And whether they realise it or not that is what everyone is looking for.
But there's another part of the Christian take on this phenomenon and it's this
that makes Christmas and indeed the whole Christian story such good news.
What none of those seekers in the Christmas story quite grasped is that there was
someone else on a search. While they were all looking for the baby, through the
baby God was looking for them.
You see the Christian faith is not so much about us looking for God as it is about the
incredible news that God has come looking for us. When the baby grew up he put it
“I came to seek and to save what is lost”
We may nor realise that we will never truly be at peace till we get to know him – but
he does and he comes to offer that which we all need – a real life, here and now
relationship with our creator.
So the message of Christmas is “Stop your looking and allow yourself to be found”.
Allow yourself to be found just as you are, whether you are an outsider like the magi,
down to earth and plain ordinary like the shepherds or as fearful as Herod. Allow
yourself to be found simply by saying, “Here I am Lord, let’s get to know each
If you want to know more talk, to one of your Christian friends. Ask them what it's
like to be found by God. My prayer for you this Christmas is that everyone of you
will find what you are looking for.