The Lookout | 12.22.13
By Alan Dowd
My most memorable and Christ-exalting
Christmas came at a most-unexpected time. My nephew was not yet three years
old, and our family had a “Happy Birthday Jesus” party that Christmas, complete
with a birthday cake for Baby Jesus.
After he helped blow out
the candles, my nephew—his name is Mike—asked, “Where is Jesus?” It was an
honest, matter-of-fact question. Yet he asked it so emphatically, so earnestly,
so seriously that I was caught off guard. “I need to see Him!” he said, almost
Two months shy of his
third birthday, my nephew was struggling with one of the central questions of
faith and asking for help in the struggle—on Christmas morning no less. I
couldn’t send him on his way with a patronizing pat on the head. I couldn’t
change the subject. I couldn’t even distract him with a pile of
Christmas-morning treasures. He wanted to see Jesus, and he was serious.
In the span of a few
seconds, our happy little Christmas party was transformed not so much into a
test of my faith, but rather a test of my ability to explain my faith in terms
that would satisfy a relentlessly curious 34-month old.
I did my best to give an
answer worthy of the question—and worthy of the precious person asking it—but I
wasn’t satisfied with my response. And I doubt my nephew was. Thankfully,
Mike’s dad and his great uncle were there to assist.
Yet Mike’s question and
my answer hounded me the rest of the day and into the night. So, late Christmas
night, I tried to answer Mike’s question by turning to what I know best: the
written word. With the Lord’s help, here’s how I answered my little nephew’s big
Kings and Cake and Coach
Once upon a time, a little boy named Michael asked a big
“Where is Jesus?” he asked. “I want to see Him.” His voice
grew louder and stronger. “I need to see Him.”
He was sweet but determined, and he wanted an answer to his
question. He almost demanded an answer.
“He is in our hearts,” I said, figuring that would be enough
to satisfy him. “He is in your heart.”
“Jesus is in the love we share for family and friends,”
Michael’s dad—my brother—explained.
“He’s in the hugs your Mommy and Daddy give you,” added Uncle
Steve. “Jesus is there when you are kind to your cousin and sweet to your
friends,” he said.
But that wasn’t enough for Michael, the little boy with the
So he asked his question again, this time with an even
stronger, firmer voice.
“Where is Jesus? I need to see Him!”
Michael’s words caught us—especially me—by surprise. They
were so sweet and sincere that they reminded me of something I had almost forgotten:
We were made to yearn for Jesus, to look for Him, to be with Him.
The good news for the little boy with the big question and for
me and for everybody else is that when we look for Jesus and seek Him, we will
I believe that deeply, but how could I explain it to someone
not yet in nursery school?
I decided to start with the Word. So, I explained to Michael
that Jesus is God’s Word made into flesh.
“It’s hard to understand,” I wrote, “but Jesus lives in His Word, the Bible. So,
when we read His Word—little boys with big questions, Grammies and Grandpas
with big hearts, uncles and aunts with big hugs—we hear His whisper. We see His
reflection. We find light for our path.”
“Jesus lives in our hearts, too,” I added. “Jesus is
wherever there is love, which means He is in your heart, Michael. And your
heart grows bigger and bigger the more you believe in Him, the more you know
Him, the more you yearn for Him.”
“You can see Jesus in the sunrise and sunset, the moon and
the night sky, on a sunny beach or a snowy mountaintop,” I explained with the
best words I could muster. “He is in the colors of creation and the colors of
“You can hear Him in the songs the birds sing and in the
songs you sing,” I wrote, hoping that my answer was worthy of his question.
“Jesus is in your Mommy’s calm and gentle way, and in your
Daddy’s passion and strength,” I added, pointing to the people Mike knows best,
the people who know and love him best.
“Jesus is in your Grandpas’ gentleness and your Grandmas’
sweetness. He’s in their happy hugs and loving laughter,” I wrote, remembering
how my first mental picture of God when I was a kid was my Grandpa Dowd—a kind
and good and fair and loving man who embodied “the righteous man” described in
“Jesus reigns in heaven and will one day reign here on
earth, when we will see Him face to face,” I promised, clinging to the promise
of scripture. “On that day, there will be singing and dancing, laughter and
joy, lemon cake and puzzles, peace and justice, couch-forts and parks, slides
Mike, you see, loves eating lemon cake, solving puzzles,
going to parks and finding new slides to conquer, and building forts from couch
“It will be the greatest family reunion ever. You will meet
Noah and his kids, Abraham and Moses, King David and Queen Esther, Mary and Joseph,
your Daddy’s Grandpas, and an uncle and an Archangel who share your name,” I
wrote, reminding my precious nephew that he’s named in honor of another
precious little boy—his mom’s brother—who went to be with the Lord long before
he was old enough to be an uncle.
“And on that day, you will meet the One who made you—Jesus,
the King of Kings, the Lion of Judah, the Lamb of God. He said, not so long
ago, that those of us who believe in Him and yet do not see Him are blessed,” I
wrote, recalling one of the Lord’s many promises to all of us who call Him
“Remember that, but don’t stop longing for Him. He loves to
hear you say, ‘I need to see Jesus,’ because He loves it when His children
search for Him and look for Him, which means He loves you very, very much,” I
concluded. “You will know Him when you see Him, Michael. And He will definitely
know you: the little boy with the big question.”
Seeing Jesus AlwaysAs I finished my letter for Michael a few days
after Christmas, I hoped and prayed that the Lord would use my words to help
Michael in his search for Jesus. And then I realized something just as humbling
and inspiring and touching as Mike’s question: The Lord had already used my nephew’s
words to challenge me and draw me closer—to help me see Jesus in more ways,
clearer ways, always.