For many of us the Christmas season is a period of travel. We, or family members may undergo a journey to be able to spend time with one another, and watching our family arrive for delayed festivities on the 27th, I was reminded of just how much ‘stuff’ often accompanies mum and dad and two small children on just such a trip! We make decisions about what to bring but equally, of what to leave behind and the consequences of getting that wrong can have significant ramifications. I speak from experience !
The events that Matthew details are those of a very significant journey; the journey of the Magi, or wise men as they are popularly known. They too had to make decisions on what to take with them and what to leave behind, both before their adventure began and, crucially, during it. But their journey has significance beyond their immediate circumstances, for it is a journey that we are all invited to make.
The birth of Jesus brought three distinct reactions when it took place, and it still does today.
The Magi were Persian priests / scientists who were noted for their study of the skies. What they saw in the sky has been discussed across the centuries and still is, but they saw something which for them, signalled the need to make an important journey. This was a decision that could not have been taken lightly. It would be a journey that would take many months and lead them across dangerous terrain and situations, yet they set off to search for a King and in doing so they follow a Biblical pattern of revelation that had taken place countless times before them, and, has been repeated countless times since; God reveals knowledge about himself, a journey (physical or spiritual) begins, and at the end, there is greater understanding. It’s a sequence played out in the lives of Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, David, Solomon, Daniel, Jonah, the Disciples, St Paul etc, countless billions since and is still happening today.
So, what can we learn from this familiar story? 1) That Jesus is for everyone and frequently sought out by the most unlikely of people. Yet, for all those who do search, He makes himself known and He is found. 2) That the Magi made sacrifices to discover the truth and that they left behind a great deal to make the journey. What I wonder, might we be being called to leave behind in our search? What areas in our lives do we need to discard or move away from as we search to discover more and more of Jesus?
As part of their journey an Angel of the Lord appeared and instructed them to avoid meeting with Herod again, and so, they return home by a different path. When we meet Jesus, he always takes us in a new direction as we are called to leave behind those things in our lives which bring distraction, confusion, deception and danger to our physical and spiritual well-being.
God wants us to discover Jesus. Some reading this may never have taken that step – God calls you to that adventure. Why delay? To those who already know Jesus as a living reality in your lives, He is always calling us into a deeper and more powerful understanding and knowledge of who He is. Start afresh.
The Magi brought precious gifts that symbolised the importance and significance of Jesus in their lives. Today, we are invited to do the same; the thing that is most precious to Jesus is our heart, our longing, our trust, our faith. He wants our whole heart in order that he might make our heart whole.
Wise men sought Jesus … wise people still do.
Happy New Year to you all
Rev Dave Clark
Vicar of the Benefice of Upper Wensleydale