Tidings of Comfort and Joy

Have you ever been lost?

Back in my childhood, I once found myself well and truly lost. It was a terrifying experience. My family lived in Germany at the time, and on a day out to an unfamiliar town, I somehow managed to get separated from my family. I was six years old, and suddenly felt very lonely and scared. I remember looking up into the eyes of a man, who realised I must have been lost, and reacted by scooping me up onto his shoulders and marching me off down the street along with his wife and children. My fear turned to sheer panic as tears started to pour down my face. After several minutes, we arrived at the local police station where I was handed over to the duty officers. They sat me on a chair next to an empty cell. I was petrified that they were going to lock me up! For a couple of hours, I found myself imagining that I would end up living in the forest in some strange ‘Hansel and Gretel-like’ scenario, and never seeing my family again! I felt completely lost and without hope.

Have you ever been found?

When I saw my dad run through the door of the police station and pick me up in his arms and comfort me, the fear vanished instantly. I found myself flushed with a warm sensation as joy returned, my hope was restored, and I knew I was safe again. It was the most incredible moment.

The sense of feeling lost is very apparent in the world around us. There are many religions and philosophies that seek a way out of lost-ness, by promising to lead to wholeness, fullness or to God. The Christian faith turns this search on its head because, rather than us searching for God, He searches for us. The overarching story of the Bible captures this: a Father loses his kids and goes to the ends of the earth to get them back again.  In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Instead of us reaching up to Him, He reaches down to us. That is why Christianity is unique among other religions.

The tidings of comfort and joy that we celebrate in the Christmas story are that the God of the universe came down to earth in the form of a baby boy, to live among us as one of us, and to pay the price for the bad choices that we have made.  He also came to give us the amazing life that He always dreamed for us. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). As a perfect sinless human being, Jesus took what we deserved so that we could get what He deserved. It is the most wonderful exchange through which both comfort and joy are released.

Is there any sense where you feel lost, scared, or alone this Christmas? Whether the answer is ‘yes’ or ‘no’, the offer of life that comes to us in the person of Jesus is too good to refuse. In the book of Revelation at the end of the Bible, Jesus says, ‘Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me’ (Revelation 3:20). No matter how lost we may feel, He has not lost us, for He is always by our side, knocking on the door of our hearts, waiting for us to let Him in. If we let Him find us, if we open the door of our heart by saying ‘yes’ to His invitation, He promises to restore our hope, and give us life to the full. It is our prayer, here at Chanctonbury Churches, that everyone in the local area will experience tidings of comfort and joy this Christmas.

Jim Waddell is Associate Vicar of Chanctonbury Churches. He is married to Dolly and they live in Wiston with their four young children