Keeping kids engaged requires playing. So, when the kids in the religious ed classes gathered, we would play certain games. One of the games that came to me was to take some of the plastic sheep used in the nativity scene and hide them around the property. The kids then went off to find the lost sheep.
Now, I made sure to hid them good. I put them in places where they typically wouldn’t look. Window sills, just inside pipes in the ground, or half-way up in the middle of a bush. But the best way to hide them was by camouflage. Anything that was white was fair game. Between the rocks painted white, half-covered by a crumpled white piece of paper trash, you get the idea. It was a lot of fun.
A mother told me that her daughter was staring right at the white steel antenna behind the church. Within a foot of her eyes was a sheep, precariously perched on the steer bars. She never saw it, and turn and ran to another spot. One of the mothers went looking, saw a piece of white paper on the ground, and passed over it – along with the sheep half covered by it. But then I saw another girl staring at a white covered bucket under the stairway, a sheep within two feet of her face. All of a sudden, it caught her eye, and she saw it. She screamed with excitement. “I found one! It was right in front of my eyes and I didn’t even see it!”
Some years ago I was at a Mass in a Vietnamese community, with an English-speaking priest. He needed a translator for his homily. So, the priest spoke about a sentence or so, and then paused, and the translator said something in Vietnamese – about the same length. Then, the priest spoke his next sentence or so, and the translator did the same, but this time it was noticeably longer. Then the priest spoke another sentence or so, and this time the translator went on and on. The translation was growing. Next, the priest spoke not just a sentence, but about three in total, a looong thought. Now there was suspense. We were all waiting for the extra, extra long translation. How long would *this* one take? We were all prepared to sit back and wait awhile. And then, the translator spoke 2 words in Vietnamese. The priest, without skipping a beat, turned to the translator and said, “That’s it???” Everyone laughed. It was so unexpected, such a strange thing, that I still remember it and laugh about it to this day.
But that’s what happened when Jesus came.
Remember the covenants that God made over time? The first covenant was a rainbow. Well, that’s really simple: it’s all God in that one. All you have to do is look at the rainbow and remember. Later another big covenant was with Abraham. It got a little longer and more difficult: circumcision. Later another big covenant came along: the Law through Moses after leaving Egypt. That was quite a bit, with a whole priesthood involved with ceremonies and long celebrations. Later on it grew even more, there came the Kingdom of Israel and then, the Temple with all its splendor. Even Herod the king got into it: he helped to renovate and augment the Temple to be one of the greatest works in the ancient world.
So, when a poor baby born with animals shows up, it was off the trajectory, a complete surprise, totally unexpected. “That’s it???” That’s why so many people struggled to accept Jesus. God was hidden right in front of their eyes, and they couldn’t see Him. They were expecting something completely different.
The stories of the wise men and the shepherds are stories of people who came to Jesus and they saw. It occurred to them that God is in what we would say, “That’s it???” That’s why they glorified God, they rejoiced, they were overjoyed. They saw that God was right front of their eyes, hidden. They found God, and He was always right in front of their eyes.
God is hidden in our lives, and He wants us to find Him. The Christmas gift He gives us is exactly how to do that. When you say, “That’s it???” in your life, that’s a clue. Remember the poor baby born among animals.
Because once you discover Him, then comes the amazement, the joy, the celebration.
He’s been right in front of your eyes.
Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. (Lk 2:20)