2nd Sunday after Christmas

  1. Christmas 2.21 “I Am Easy To Find” Luke 2:40-52

In a solid song, “I Am Easy To Find” from a great band, “The National”, the protagonist, a disillusioned soul, beat-up, beat-down by a modern world he doesn’t like too well (but too well understands) lamenting the end of a love affair, addresses his lost beloved saying that he’s kind of stuck just where she left him, that maybe if he finds some lower thinking his life will turn around? And then he realizes: “I’m not going anywhere, who do I think I’m kidding?/ I’m still standing in the same place/ Where you left me standing; I am easy to find…”

The song is so sad that it is oddly cheering, I find (your mileage may vary!). It ends by the narrator realizing: probably the break-up is for the best as he and his old love aren’t really that compatible: “You never were much of a New Yorker/ It wasn’t in your eyes; if you ever come around/ This way again/ you’ll see me, standing in the sunlight/ In the middle of the street/ I am easy to find…” chorus repeats.

And I realized: this is Jesus’ message in the Gospel today standing in the temple. We are Israel, his lost and straying love interest. He laments that, since that day in the Garden, we’ve kind of grown apart, gone our separate ways. But it’s not that he’s changed or moved, the LORD. No. It’s that you never were much of a Jerusalem-er. Not really Garden of Eden gals. So you went seeking fairer shores and greener pastures, brighter lights in bigger cities…

But Jesus is easy to find. He’s still standing in the same place—the tree of Life, the garden of Eden, the Holy City, the House (it’s all the same Place). He is easy to find. And yet few find him. Which makes him… not mad; just a little sad. He’s having a lovely time in the Temple; but so few join in the fun with him. Even his own parents have to search three days—and it’s the last place they look. Which is… sad. Mostly, for them. Jesus is doing just fine. And his sadness that we don’t seek him in that so-easy-to-find Place is oddly cheering (at least he still wants us to!).

Maybe I should say more about why the sadness of “I Am Easy To Find” is cheering? (what I thought was a weird rabbit trail introduction looks like it’s going to turn into an entire homily).

Let’s say… you wake up one day, and find yourself living in one of those apocalyptic disaster dystopias like “Terminator” or “The Matrix” or “Reds” or any good zombie movie like “I Am Legend” or CV-19 quarantine time. At first, you’re like “Bummer! What happened to my beautiful house and my beautiful wife? This is terrible!” But then, you realize that you love those disaster/dystopia movies. Who doesn’t want to be Arnold or Neo or Jack Reid or Will Smith’s super cool character in I Am Legend—whose name I forget, which is odd for a movie about a legend, but there you go…

Because the heroism of those heroes doesn’t really show up very well in a “normal” world. It’s only against the dark background of disaster that their little lights shine so bright. And they all find resources they didn’t know they had. When the zombies come every night for you, you barricade your Manhattan townhouse, arm yourself to the teeth, and shoot some zombies with your German Shepherd Max by your side. And it turns out that the only thing about the zombie apocalypse (when it comes) that it really difficult is pretending you’re not excited—pretending it’s not more fun than “normal life” of 9-5 in the office, picking up the kids from school, helping out around the house. We could be heroes… if we lived in a dystopia/disaster movie—more easily and more enjoyably than if we live in a nice, “normal” world.

The vicar lamented that I have to use a National song to make this point. The song sounds like a conventional, “Oh, my love left me because I’m bad so, I will try to improve, win her back.” But it’s not that. The song is genius, really poetry, because it inverts the pop cliches. He’s not sad. He didn’t do anything wrong. It’s her fault for not being a true New Yorker, not loving the bright light of the the Eternal City. It’s sad she’s lost, but he’s not lifting a finger or chasing after. She can darn well come back and find him. Because Mary is lost and he is easy to find

The news that the darkness is all on our side of the table that we are the cause of the disaster is an unwelcome word. Modern piety tries to dull that blow and make Jesus share the blame.

    But I find such bad news oddly cheering.   Jesus does not come, I think, to make a dark world tolerable (though this is how modern people wish to use him and the Xn Faith). But, no… See, Jesus comes to shine his own divine light which makes us see how dark our world really is—how cold and cheerless. And when the lights come up and we go: “Well, no wonder I’ve been down and distressed! This world sucks!” Well, a corner has been turned. A search has begun. We may find what we seek or not. But at least we have a purpose, a plan, a place to call our own. At least we see why we’re frustrated and get clearer on what happiness actually looks like.

So, instead of trying to cheer us up, Jesus sings us a sad song; standing in the sunlight, in the middle of our street. He is easy to find. But we won’t look! Such melancholy is more cheering than all the “holiday cheer” of a seriously screwed up world.

We cleared out of the Holy City, Jerusalem, the Garden of Eden, the House of God, long ago—like everyone was leaving New York in the late 70’s, early 80’s when it really was like the set of a disaster movie (peak NYC for me!). But Jesus is still standing exactly where our first parents left him in the 3rd chapter of Genesis. He is the House of God!

Mary and Joseph are the lost ones, looking everywhere for Jesus. But it’s only when you find him where he never leaves, teaching us, eating with us, making friends with us in his House that you really get him. It’s only in his House, like this, drawing us into his Divine Service, that we know him and find what life’s really all about.

It’s sad so few (and such odd!) people make his House their home, have so many other places to be than sitting at God’s feet, enjoying Paradise—failing to see that communion with Jesus is really heaven, Itself!—mistaking IT for some weird, dull thing detracting from normal life.

But… Jesus’ sadness, we must note, is not like some lovelorn teen girl pining for affection. He’s (a little) sad you’re missing his Party. You know how it is when you’re surrounded by very stupid people making a mess of things? You’re sad for them—not yourself. You’ll be fine. As Camus said: “a determined soul will always manage”.

This kind of sadness is strangely cheering: discovering this odd pursuit, the worship of Jesus in his House is the be-all, end-all, the key that unlocks… everything!

And… IT’s easy to find. Wherever his word is proclaimed, his sacraments administered, there he is in the midst of us(!), having himself a Kingdom of light, life, everlasting wonder, and joy. It’s sad that so few seek him; but the I AM is easy to find; and for those who do? Peace, surpassing understanding, guards heart and mind, in him, forever. Amen.

About Pastor Martin

Pastor Kevin Martin has served six Lutheran congregations, beginning in 1986 as a field-worker in Trumbull, Connecticut, and vicarages in Arlington, Massachusetts and Belleville, Illinois. He has been pastor of congregations in Pembroke, Ontario and Akron, Ohio. Since 2000, he has served as pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church, Raleigh. Pastor Martin is a lifelong (confessional!) Lutheran (even though) he holds degrees from Valparaiso, Yale, and Concordia Seminary St. Louis. He and his wife Bonnie have been (happily) married since 1988, and have two (awesome!) adult children, Bethany and Christopher. Bonnie is an elementary school teacher. The Martin family enjoy music festivals, travel, golf, and swimming. They are also avid readers and movie-goers.

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