Have you ever searched for something and could not find it? Maybe it was your car keys or glasses or check book. You search everywhere you can think of and still can't locate the lost item. It is very frustrating. Take it from someone who occasionally lays something down and then cannot find it that it can get very frustrating to be on such a quest. I lay my glasses down now and then and search high and low and finally somehow locate them again. I told someone a while back that if he would invent something to attach to your glasses so that you could call them to locate them as you do your cell phone they could make a fortune. This person did not follow through, as far as I know, so if any of you readers are inventors, look into this and see if you can come up with an idea and maybe you will be the one to make the fortune.
Seeking and finding is a major theme in the Bible. There is a lot of lost and found amid the pages of Holy Writ. The Prodigal Son is one character who is the role model for the lost child. He leaves home on his own volition and gets lost in a far country and then he is found once again when he returns home. Moses is a lost and found guy in the Hebrew Scriptures. He committed a murder and then ran away from Egypt and got lost in the desert only to be found by a voice coming from a burning bush and to be redirected back to Egypt once again, this time with a mission in mind.
Sometimes people are lost and do not even know it. Some elderly people who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer's Disease get into their automobile and begin driving and end up far from home, without even knowing that they are lost. I wonder if they think they are on a grand adventure somewhere or if it is really scary to them to be driving around with no destination in mind. It is only when they are discovered by a citizen or the police that their being lost becomes apparent.
In this Holy Season, we meet up with Wise Men from the East who are seeking the Christ Child. They did not know that it was the Christ Child; they only knew that the stars directed them to seek someone who would be great. When the star stopped over the place where the manger lay, the Wise Men began to rejoice with exceedingly great joy because their quest had ended. They had found, at last, the object of their search even though they did not know for sure who they were seeking. They had brought along gifts to present to the great one they encountered so they knelt down and gave the Holy Family their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. That is why we think there were three Wise Men--because they had three gifts. There could have been any number of them but they had three gifts to give.
Jesus himself becomes the lost one in one of the other stories from his childhood when he is left in the Temple when he was about 12 years old. After a couple of days there, his family discovers he is not with them as they made their way back to Nazareth from Jerusalem so they frantically search for him and find him right where they last saw him, in the Temple conversing with the religious leaders.
We are all on a quest in life. Sometimes we do not even realize it. We are seeking meaning in life and do not know where to find it. Many of us find it in relationships but some find those relationships fragmented and broken after a while and then do not know where to turn. Some of us try other sources of meaning and find them coming up short. We often struggle and worry in our quest until finally the source of meaning becomes apparent to us and then we find satisfaction and a sense of peace.
Our Buddhist friends describe the quest as a matter of letting go. The more we let go of earthly things that tie us down, the more we find peace. In Christian circles, we often say the same thing. We describe it as letting go of those things and placing our trust in God, in whom we find solace. When we give up the need or desire for things that do not really matter, we find peace in the absence of the desire.
The holiday season may be good for the economy but the consumerism that drives it is not always good for individuals. We can never buy enough products and give them away to enough people to bring us peace and satisfaction. We can find joy in giving to others but may learn that it is not the gift that counts but the act of giving itself. Being satisfied within oneself is the greatest gift we can acquire.