“Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?'"
Both the gospel narrative and the wider world pose a question to us during this season. Approached by the magi of our twenty-first century secularized culture, we hear the question anew: Where is Jesus?
I could count myself among the chief priests and scribes in Matthew 2 who direct Herod to Israel's scriptures, and thus to Bethlehem of Judea.
To those who ask the question today, I could point to the tradition that has been handed down to me and answer with those who have gone before, "In Him all things hold together." Simply put, he's everywhere!
But to offer these responses as final and exhaustive without allowing them to do their proper work and lead us to specific destinations would be to stop short of answering the question.
Consider the possibility that Jesus might be found closer to home than any ancient, beautiful prophecy could foretell; closer than Bethlehem; closer, even, than "everywhere."
Consider the possibility that Jesus might be found on some sidewalk or back alley, that even a GPS satellite, like some bright star from of old, could lead us to him.
Consider that the same sacred scriptures that led the magi to Bethlehem might lead us on a journey toward the same Jesus they sought.
And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah;
For out of you shall come forth a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.
Consider that even as we seek Jesus, he shepherds us toward destinations where we might find him. Father Greg Boyle's reading of the Beatitudes illumines how Jesus, the sought-after one, also leads his people toward him. Instead of "Blessed are" or "Happy are," Boyle begins his reading of each Beatitude with the words, "You're in the right place if . . ."
In the Beatitudes, Jesus also provides a set of directions. "I like that better," Boyle says, "because it turns out the Beatitudes is . . . a geography. You know, it tells you where to stand. You're in the right place if you're over here."
Just as Herod receives news of a specific location in answer to the question "Where is Jesus" in Matthew's gospel by way of Micah's prophecy, we receive news of specific locations in answer to the same question from the mouth of Jesus himself. What bright star might appear during this season of waiting, of searching, of groping in the darkness, if we hear Jesus' words anew?
From the moment of his birth, before he takes a step or utters a word, the destiny of the entire world, uncomprehending, is changed.
From the moment we set out to find him, before we take a step or venture a guess, he leads us, unwitting, to his side.
You're in the right place if you're poor in spirit, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.
You're in the right place if you're mourning, for you will be comforted.
You're in the right place if you're meek, for you will inherit the earth.
You're in the right place if you hunger and thirst for righteousness, for you will be satisfied.
You're in the right place if you're extending mercy, for you will receive mercy.
You're in the right place if you're pure in heart, for you will see God.
You're in the right place if you're making peace, for you will be called a son or daughter of God.
You're in the right place if you're being persecuted for righteousness' sake, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.