Week 2: Nurturing the habit of embracing disturbance
Matthew 2:1-12 – Wise Men – Going
This year’s WEBA Christmas Card shows three camels bearing their Magi and leading a lantern parade as part of the Christmas Festival in Calne, Wiltshire. Like the original Magi, they are far from their natural habitat.
This year I’ve watched exhausted Syrian refugees standing in the dripping European rain and tried to imagine standing in their soggy shoes. Then, this week, we’ve watched families in the North of England wading down their garden paths to climb onto rescue boats.
I’ve not experienced anything remotely like that. Any arduous journeys I have made have been principally for fun – but it has surprised me, on occasional long rainy or windy cycle rides, how blessed I feel when someone appears to offer support, to ride along for a short while, or to offer tea from a flask.
Let’s be honest, even ordinary journeys are a bit stressful, even more so over the Christmas period, when roads jam, engineering works begin, and any kind of risk can ground a plane.
The Magi in Matthew’s story are travelling towards something unknown, prompted only by an astrological sign we would almost certainly have missed, or ignored if it was pointed out to us, but registered significantly enough for them to go.
Although their destination was unknown, the Christ child was already ahead of them in Bethlehem. At the end of the journey, where the star settled, was the energy behind their very creation, the centre of their being, their life, their light, their hope, and the object of all their dreams and desires.
Jesus travels ahead of us. I think he makes this clear to his disciples in John 14:1-3. None of our destinations are unchartered; he has gone ahead, ‘done a recce’, prepared the place we are heading to. He is there now. Perhaps one practice we could try this Christmas is to use imagination to realise this truth:
• Where am I travelling to? Every trip to visit relatives, or whoever, is a journey towards an encounter with Christ in them.
• Where is God calling me to go? Who should I make time for when it’s busy – or is the Spirit prompting me to go somewhere where I have no idea who I’m going to meet?
• When I arrive, can I see what Jesus has prepared for my stay? What has he moved? What has been put in place?
• This advent, is there a way I can be Christ to those who have been forced to set off on more difficult journeys?
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you that you have gone ahead on my journey to (insert your destination). Help me to find you, and the work you have prepared for me, when I arrive. Help me to see you in those I encounter, and to understand how I can bless them on their way. Amen.
Practising for Christmas is a series of reflections for advent contributed by regional staff from the four Baptist Associations represented by ‘Seventy-two’. Catch up with previous reflections here.