Throughout the gospel accounts there are people who are finding things. Some of the things found were totally unexpected. And some things found were lost and then found. Jesus lets us know that there are things meant to be found. We also learn from him that heaven is tuned into the findings. Joyous celebration all around is the natural response.
Early on we read of shepherds who find “Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a feeding trough.” (Luke 2:16) And later, of wise men who find Mary and the child and of King Herod who finds out about their finding out.
We hear of a man who finds a treasure hidden in a field and a trader who finds a spectacularly valuable pearl and of fishermen who find a bountiful fishing spot. (Matt 13:44-50). With these parables Jesus relates the discovery of the mysterious kingdom of God.
We learn of Jesus finding faith in a Roman Centurion (Matt. 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10)
In John’s gospel we read of cascading finds:
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee, where he found Philip.
“Follow me,” he said to him.
Philip came from Bethsaida, the town Peter and Andrew hailed from. Philip found Nathanael.
“We’ve found him!” “The one Moses wrote about in the law!” And the prophets, too! We’ve found him! Its Jesus, Joseph’s son, from Nazareth!”
At the end of Luke’s gospel, we read a report of a most excellent find that isn’t there:
…some of the women have astonished us. They went to the tomb very early this morning, and didn’t find his body. They came back saying they’d seen a vision of angels, who said he is alive. Some of the folk with us went off to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they didn’t see him.
The gospel of Luke chapter 15 is the party chapter. Each of the three lost and found parables relate how what has been lost and then found triggers a reason to celebrate: a lost sheep is found; a lost coin is found; a lost son is found on the horizon. Let’s look at the second parable.
“Or supposing a woman has ten drachmas and loses one of them. What will she do? Why, she’ll light a lamp, and sweep the house, and hunt carefully until she finds it! And when she finds it she’ll call her friends and neighbors in. ‘Come and have a party!’ she’ll say: celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost coin!”
Well, let me tell you: that’s how God’s angels feel when a single sinner repents.”
-Jesus in Luke 15:8-10
As we read this parable, we typically focus on the end result: the sinner’s repentance and heaven’s joy at the sinner’s response. Now take a look at the effort involved in restoring what was lost before the celebration takes place.
Notice that the woman turns on the light to see into the corners. She cleans her house and clears out the clutter. She makes every effort to reclaim what she lost. She didn’t have much to begin with (ten drachmas) and now a portion of it is lost (15 cents).
Here is what I think the parable also emphasizes: we come to a point in our lives when we realize that we have lost something of great value – our identity, the image of God, a piece of our soul. We can’t go on without it. We held on to so little for so long. So, we shed direct light on the situation. We remove all of the extraneous stuff in the way. We search like Oak Island treasure hunters burrowing deep into the dark places of our being. We make every effort to find what we lost.
Success! We find what we’ve lost in a dark corner. It was covered with dust and dirt and dog hair. We rejoice and tell others using the language of joy: “I have found it!” “I have found it!”
Remember the inside of Scrooge’s house via the 1951 black and white movie version of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol ? It is grey and gloomy and tomb-like. It is lifeless and foreboding. Furniture is covered with tarps and dust covers the tarps. Scrooge seems buried alive in the house. A candle is used to move about his dark domain but it is not used to look for what he lost. That illumination comes from four night time specters.
Now, I imagine that past, present and future scenarios flash before the eyes of anyone who has lost something of value. I imagine that for the woman in the parable. In Scrooge’s account those scenarios are personified by three ghosts who are involved in the Scrooge’s rescue operation after the ghost of Marley gives account of his own final hellish state. The ghosts illuminate Scrooge’s life: his losses, his dealing with losses, his hard heart, his isolation, and his future state. All done right where he sleeps.
The scenarios the trinity of spirits impose on Scrooge help him to see what was lost– himself–in a house full of shrouded past.
Scrooge and the woman in the lost coin parable reclaim what was lost where they lived. They both had to look and look hard for what they had lost, Scrooge in his past present and future and the woman in her dwelling place. And when they find what they’ve lost they throw open the shutters, they go out into the streets, and they let the world know.
Let me entwine this post with a scarlet ribbon…
For the prodigal, for the repentant, there is rejoicing and a celebration. They had found themselves wanting. They had found what they lost – the reason to live. When it happened the Search Party was delighted.
“The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which is lost” …and when you find him…
You love him, even though you’ve never seen him. And even though you’ve never seen him, you believe in him, and celebrate with a glorious joy that goes beyond words can say, since you are receiving the proper goal of your faith – namely, the rescue of your lives. 1 Peter 1:8-9
“I found it!” is the language of joy. And glorious joy is the spirit of Christmas.