Reflection by Beth Herrinton-Hodge
In the brief days between Christmas Eve and Epiphany, many of us in church work enjoy a bit of a breather. Christmas Eve services have been held, candles lit, favorite carols sung. Luke’s familiar birth narrative has been recited.
The bustle of Christmas morning has come and gone. Wrapping paper discarded. Christmas feasts enjoyed. Perhaps we find leisure in a well-deserved nap. We’ve ushered our church communities through Advent.
After Christmas is our time of seeking.
Like the shepherds. Like the Magi. Like Simeon and Anna. Like Mary and Joseph upon leaving the temple. The people of this world are looking, seeking, waiting, frantically searching for the One who has come.
The shepherds follow the angels’ instructions to find Jesus. The Magi follow a brilliant star in the night sky. Anna and Simeon wait in the temple, the place which has stood at the center of their lives. Mary and Joseph eventually return to the temple, the place where they last knew Jesus to be. Each seeker found him, following diverse paths and signs to encounter God Incarnate.
Where do we find him? What paths lead us to Jesus?
The people pictured in the accompanying photo appear to be seeking. Looking in the same direction. Looking into the distance.
They don’t look toward the church building. It stands as a stately presence in their midst. Solid. Majestic. But in the background. On the periphery.
The church is not the object nor the place of their seeking.
For the Anna’s and Simeon’s of our day, we likely find Jesus in the place that stands at the center of our lives. In the church. In the sanctuary. In our faith communities. In the relationships we are privileged to foster in our ministries.
But for the people who gather outside our doors. For the people who look past the church and toward something unknown and unseen in the distance, where is Jesus found?
What is our role in helping to find him? Do we step outside our doors? Do we stand and look into the distance, as well? Do we walk alongside, journeying in the same direction? Do we listen and speak? March and chant? Comfort and bind up? Do we lead the way?
Herein lies our call in this season of seeking . . . to look for and identify the One who has come, so that those in our midst may be known and seen, loved and embraced, liberated and fed by the Holy One, Jesus.
Beth Herrinton-Hodge is a long-time APCE member, Certified Christian Educator and Teaching Elder who serves on the Advocate Ministry Team. She directs the Academic Support Center at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and lives in Shelbyville, KY with her husband and two teen children.