Missing Children

Suppose your child was lost. What would you do to find him?

My mother experienced the palpable panic of a lost child years ago. The child was me.

I was in my first grade classroom when the intercom called my name: “Mrs. Christensen, Steven Gilbertson’s mother called. He is to go to Grandmother’s Place after school today.”

I had never heard of Grandmother’s Place, but the cute little girl next to me seemed excited about it. “That’s where I go after school! You can walk with me.”

Even at six years old, I knew that following a pretty girl sounded like a good idea, so along I went to the day care facility down the street.

However, something had been lost in translation. The message should have been, “Go to your grandmother’s home after school.” I wasn’t supposed to go to a day care at all, but rather to my grandma’s house.

I didn’t know any better. I was just following my friends, as careless as a six year old should be.

Meanwhile, my mom was frantic. I did not show up at my grandma’s house as expected. Where was I? The school didn’t know. Grandma didn’t know. No one knew.

It was late in the afternoon when my mom finally found me. She had been driving along Phoenix streets looking everywhere for evidence of her son. Passing by the day care facility, she happened to spy me playing tetherball in the playground.

I still remember what I was wearing (which for a guy is rather astounding, I think): a brown velour pullover shirt with a v-neck collar and a leather tie at the neck. I thought leather tie was rather cool.

Anyway, as an adult I shudder to think of the danger of the whole situation. Can you imagine the fear a parent must feel when her child turns up missing?

Like many sons I tease my mom for the way she worries about things. But I’m grateful that she scoured city streets searching for her lost son. I suppose I would have been located eventually, but thanks to her diligence, I was found before I even knew I was lost.

This weekend as you celebrate the holidays, remember my mom’s search for her missing son. For it captures some wonderful aspects of the Christmas story, elements often buried beneath the tinsel and trappings of the season.

Like me in my childhood, we have wandered away from home. Most of us do not even know we are lost, as clueless as I was following the pretty girl and playing tetherball on the playground. But we are lost just the same.

Our Father, on the other hand, knows the truth about our situation. Does he sit idly by, hoping we find our way back to him? Absolutely not. Just as my mom did, he earnestly seeks us and will do stop at nothing to bring us safely home – even to the point of clothing his Son in humanity.

What would you do to find your missing child? You would do anything. So would your heavenly Father. And he did.

You see, at its heart, Christmas is a missing children story with a happy ending. That’s why we celebrate. That’s why the angel brought the shepherds “good news of great joy.”

That’s why my mom has one of the greatest names in all the world: Joy.

Merry Christmas!