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Hidden In Plain View
December 19, 1993

ROMANS 16:25-27

We just sang in the hymn, And our eyes at last shall see him. Shall see him. Have you been to the Mall and stared at the pictures in one of the booths in the corridor? The pictures have odd designs that seem to make little sense; but as you stare and focus your eyes, suddenly you see a three-dimensional impressive scene. You see Snoopy, dinosaurs from Jurassic Park, a flying eagle. The three-dimensional scenes are hidden in plain view, but you have to be receptive before you can see them.

Speaking of the Mall, one of the original investors was Paul Newman, about whom I read a delightful incident. A family was vacationing in Maine where Paul Newman likes to vacation. Early one morning, the mother of the family got up, went jogging, and after jogging, had an irresistible urge for an ice cream cone. She drove to the local shop, walked in and saw Paul Newman drinking a cup of coffee. He was the only customer. She caught her breath, told herself, "Now, he wants his privacy. Iím not going to make a big deal." So, she nodded to him, walked to the counter, and ordered her ice cream cone. When she got back to her car, she realized she had her change in her hand, but had forgotten the ice cream cone. So she went back into the store, but couldnít find her ice cream cone. Paul Newman, with his blazing blue eyes and brilliant smile, said to her, "Itís in your purse!" Her ice cream cone was, indeed, hidden in plain view!

On Christmas Eve in 1642, a humble farmerís wife in England went into labor, and early Christmas morning, gave birth to a boy who possessed one of the greatest minds in history. Isaac Newton, whose father could neither read nor write, produced epoch-making discoveries in mathematics, physics, optics, and astronomy. At age 23 he had already established the elements of differential calculus. Soon after, he created the reflecting telescope and described the properties of light. At age 45, Newton published a treatise on universal gravitation that would alter forever humanityís vision of the cosmos. Remember the drawing of young Newton in knee breeches seated under an old apple tree, his eyes uplifted in ecstasy, with ripened fruit scattered at his feet--a fanciful theory that Newton discovered the law of gravity by an appleís falling on his head. Gravity, and the other monumental discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton, have always been in the universe. But, it took the brilliance of Newton to make them known in a somewhat understandable way. They were hidden in plain view until Newton revealed them.

On another Christmas eve, about 1993 years ago, another humble woman went into labor and gave birth to a son. Jesus also presented to the world epoch-making discoveries, new ways of looking at life; new discoveries, not in mathematics but in morals; not in physics but in metaphysics; not in things of science but in things of the spirit; not in the law of gravity but in the law of God. They were always in the universe, like gravity; but it took Jesus to make them clear. God has always loved, redeemed, saved, led, guided his people; but Jesus revealed to the world what had, to many and for many years, been hidden. The lesson this morning from the closing words of Paulís letter to the Romans, summarizes (Romans 16:25-26), According to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret for long ages, but is now disclosed and through the prophetic writings is made known to all nations. The mystery which was secret is now disclosed. What was hidden is now revealed. What was hidden is now in plain view, for those who have eyes to see. The secretís out. Jesus told.

Christmas is the celebration of the Incarnation. God became incarnate in a human being. The Word was made flesh, wrote John in his gospel. God entered human history. God entered our human existence. Why? In order to save us, to redeem us, to do his will on earth as it is done in heaven. Christmas is the season of hope. God has entered our history. God enters your life. Notice, God came into the world you and I live in, not a fantasy world, not a make-believe world, but the world we experience. God entered our world and is about the task of redeeming it. Christmas tells us not to pretend there are no problems in the world or in your life. Christmas tells us it is to this kind of world God came in the flesh.

Where cruel King Herods kill babies, where there is child abuse and kidnaping; where there is no room in the inn for the Messiah so he must be born in a barn; where there are harsh nights, hunger and deprivation; where you and I live--angels sing, shepherds leave their sheep to embark on a journey of wonder, a star shines and wise men follow its beckoning. In such a world, a young mother gave birth to a baby: a miracle of bones, muscles and organs; a baby who coos, cries, wets his pants, and sleeps. God entered human existence. Image the drama: the creator of the universe entering human existence; the scene, the sets, and the props of the drama were straw, animals, a manger, and a human family.

The good news this Christmas is that Jesus Christ has entered your world, and enters your life, sometimes hidden, but hidden in plain view. The busy Christmas shopping season was in full swing. A little boy was standing in the middle of the aisle in a large department store crying, "I want my Mommy!" As people went by, they comforted him, "There, there, little boy. Your Momma will find you." And a number of them gave him money to help relieve his tears. But he kept sobbing, with tears running down his cheeks. Finally, someone from the store came along and said, "I know where your Mommy is, son." The little boy looked up and said, "So do I; just keep quiet." Evidently Mommy was hidden in plain view, and the little boy had a profitable thing going!

Christ has entered our world to reveal the things that were hidden. You can find Christ, not necessarily where you might expect; certainly not where our society looks. In the most unlikely of places, you can find Christ this Christmas. Herod didnít think of looking in a stable; only the faithful, only those who listened to the angels and studied the stars looked in the most unlikely place, a barn in Bethlehem.

What are you looking for this Christmas? Look in unlikely places, where Christmas is hidden in plain view. Are you looking for love, affirmation, acceptance? Try looking in an unusual, unlikely place. Try looking for love at home! Hidden in plain view. Rather than looking elsewhere for some Prince Charming, or some sweet young thing, look in your own home. Rather than divorce, look at your spouse with fresh eyes. Change some attitudes, change some expectations, change some habits, put a little romance back in the marriage. You might be surprised. Never enter an argument hoping to win. If you win, your spouse is a loser; and no one wants to be married to a loser! Make winners!

Young people, try looking for love, acceptance, and affirmation in an unlikely place. Not out on the streets, not from the wrong kind of kids. Try looking at home. Give your parents a chance. Sit down with them/him/her when everyone is in a good mood. Donít try hot and heavy topics in the heat of arguments and battles, wait for a time when everyone is relaxed and contented. Then share your feelings, share your dreams and frustrations. Try talking to your parents as if they were adults! You might be surprised.

This Christmas, are you looking for wisdom, looking for some answers, looking for some fresh insight into your problems? Try looking in an unlikely place. Hidden in plain view, try talking to your kids. Seriously, in the most unlikely of places, you will be surprised at the wisdom, insight, and perspective of your children. Share your work problems, relationships with people, or financial problems. Bring the family together to work on financial problems. Your children may surprise you with their wisdom and their willingness to assume some responsibility. Grandparents, have you discovered the wisdom, the love, appreciation and the fun you can have with your grandchildren? If you donít have any, or if they donít live here, adopt some of our church kids. You will be surprised, and you will open up a beautiful resource of pleasure and joy. Donít bypass the people God has put into your life.

This Christmas, are you looking for hope? Do you feel depressed, discouraged, hopeless? If so, get involved. Hidden in plain view in your life are opportunities to give substance to hope. Most of us want to feel useful, unlike the couple who were visited by a social worker. The woman opened the door just a crack, put her foot against it, and said firmly, "You neednít come in here. Me and my husband donít take no interest in nothin!" They are not alone. Most charitable institutions are in trouble, needing contributions, needing volunteers. The city of Merced will be challenging us in January to get involved with youth and the growing problems of violence. Our church has excellent programs for children and youth, on Sundays, on Tuesdays in the CATCH program. Get involved. Get involved in something outside yourself. Hidden in plain view, you will find hope.

Hidden in plain view, all around you, is the grace of God. Lewis B. Smedes in How Can It Be All Right When Everything is Wrong?, wrote,

Grace (meaning the love of God) does not make everything right...Grace is not a ticket to Fantasy Island...Grace is not a potion to charm life to our liking...Grace does not cure all our cancers, transform all our kids into winners, or send us all soaring into the high skies of sex and success. Grace is rather an amazing power to look earthy reality full in the face, see its sad and tragic edges, feel its cruel cuts, join in the primeval chorus against its outrageous unfairness, and yet feel in your deepest being that it is good and right for you to be alive on Godís good earth. Grace is power, I say, to see life very clearly, admit it is sometimes all wrong, and still know that somehow, in the center of your life, "itís all right." This is one reason we call it amazing grace.

This Christmas, for whatever you are seeking, whatever your problems and concerns, whatever your needs, hidden in plain view is your salvation. Christ is present to love you, redeem you, and make you a worthy disciple. Look for him. He is here.

ã 1993 Douglas I. Norris