Rejoicing in Lost Sheep Found

And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’

~ Luke 15: 6

Dear People of St. David’s,

Our Advent observances are well underway, and I am sure that you thoroughly enjoyed this year’s Christmas Market. Of particular interest to me was “The Bethlehem Petting Zoo.” I so enjoyed watching my young friends from St. David’s Episcopal Day School delight in the animals. It all reminded me of the wonderful book my friend The Rev. Geneva Butz wrote in 1988 about her experiences with the Christmas Crèche at Old First Reformed Church at Fourth and Race Streets in Philadelphia. The book is called Christmas Comes Alive! and is full of stories of Geneva’s experiences with the live animals, from the time the farmer dropped them off until Christmas Eve.

In one chapter, Geneva describes losing some of the sheep, including her comical telephone call to the Philadelphia Police. Who does one call when sheep are missing in Old City? Geneva reported three missing sheep, noted a hole in the back of the stable, and assumed the sheep had forced their way out and escaped. ‘“Sure lady,” the voice on the other end of the telephone replied. “You lost your sheep. And I guess your name is Bo Peep too, right?”’[1]

After an afternoon of panicky phone calls and searches, night fell. The automatic timer came on to shine a light on the crèche and the sheep magically reappeared! They had never wandered away at all, but had been hiding behind the stable. No one had seen them, but they were present, in the shadows. Geneva wondered if this mini-parable of lost sheep might have something to do with lost members of the institutional church. Peripheral, perhaps, but not quite fully and visibly present?

Christmas Eve approaches, and we hope our sanctuary will be full, even to overflowing, as we hear the Christmas story. We’ll worship, inspired by wonderful music and beautiful decorations, and marvel that God comes among us. It’s a time when our young people come home from college and first jobs, and we delight in seeing the adults they are becoming. Extended family members of all ages come home also, and we can’t wait to greet them as well.

Somewhere in that big crowd, there are some sheep, who have just peeked out when the lights came on and Christmas Eve arrived. They may not have been at worship in some time. Perhaps they are both very glad to be back, and slightly embarrassed that they’ve been away longer than they realized. It isn’t easy to walk out into the light after having been around the corner. Surely the world is full of sheep, and Jesus came to find them. On Christmas Eve many of them peer out. I hope in the midst of greeting friends and family, all of us will look out for the sheep. A warm welcome might mean everything to them. A greeting, a short conversation, something a little more than “Merry Christmas” – just enough to establish the silken thread of care – let’s be about doing it. Let’s be intentionally on the lookout for them, and welcome them into the warmth of our community and fellowship. The rejoicing is not just over those we know, but for those who have been lost.

Faithfully,

The Rev. Elizabeth W. Colton

[1] Geneva Butz Christmas Comes Alive! New York: The Pilgrim Press 1988 p. 58

We are a church on a mission to know God in Jesus Christ and make Christ known to others.