... in our homes.
... in our neighborhood.
... in our city.
... in our world.
An old red candle, the shape of a milk carton. Made of old red crayons, poured into the form the milk carton made. And then drizzled with more warm red wax, to make an uneven and intriguing surface. Light it up and strange shadows gleam. This is a Christmas candle, lit every year in my childhood home.
Another candle, lighter wax, smoother surface: it too is lit every year.
And so are the four little candles on the base of the merry-go-round of four trumpeting angels, winged and circling the flames, the heat, and the light of the joyful announcement of Christ's birth.
Bread. On the table. Cornbread, hot. French bread, crusty and cold. Tortillas, warm from the oven, warmed with a cloth - or quickly flapped across an open flame on a gas stove. Pita, served at a tent-topped restaurant in Nazareth - just a memory, as we gather. Family time, around the table. Hearth.
Somewhere in the middle of this a baby is born, a cry is heard, a life is begun. In the breaking of the bread a new sense of being is released into our lives.
Far away from here, outside our doors. The neighbors. Once you open that door, you're on. The set that is outside your front door is the beginning of the movie. You step outside and you are a character - in somebody's movie. Will it be yours? Will the director be a stranger? Or will you be in better hands?
The neighbor - is that your friend? Not likely, not necessarily. But still, your neighbor. The ones living closest to you. Probably the air you breathe is their breath. Mingled with the city's airs.
The city holds ... quiet times in the midst of danger. A car sweeps by, blocks away. Distant sobbing is heard. Lights dim, go out. Dawn rises, and the symphony begins. Where is Jesus?
Where is Jesus in your home? your neighborhood? your city? Where is Jesus in the world?
We used to sing a song, "Have you seen Jesus my Lord?" by John Fischer, junior high counselor at Mount Hermon Camp and Conference Center in the Santa Cruz Mountains. We sang it in Young Life meetings. Have you seen him? In clouds, in sunsets - in the natural world. In your brother's eyes - that is home and family, or stranger: the world of people. Have you seen Jesus? Will you see Jesus?
Imagine him come into your world. Your home. Your neighbors' houses. Your city streets. Is he welcome?
How can you possibly prepare for a guest like that? Will you know him when you see him?
He'll know you. We're all sure of that.