Monday, 14 December 2015

Journey through Advent 3

We come now to the journey of the Wise Men. We read in Matthew's Gospel.

"After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod,Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’[b]
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route."
These men had travelled far and did not really know where they were headed. They simply knew they had to follow a star to find a king. Looking for a king they went at first to the palace, where you would probably expect a king to be, but of course, the king they were looking for was not there. So they continued to follow the star and came at last to where Jesus was, there they bowed down and worshipped him and gave the gifts they had brought with them.
Sometimes we don't always look for Jesus in the right places. God speaks to us in many different ways, sometimes not in the way we expect. But, like the wise men, if we continue to follow then God will guide us. As get closer to Christmas keep following the star and do not let yourself get distracted by the trappings and bustle of this season, follow the star to the manger and find the baby there.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Journey through Advent 2

Our second journey this Advent is to think of the journey of the shepherds.

They were quietly watching their sheep in the fields when something dramatic happened - the skies were filled with angels singing and praising God. They were told to go to Bethlehem and see a baby.

We read in Luke's gospel

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
1Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

It was hard work being a shepherd, you  were out in the fields all day protecting your sheep against any danger. Shepherds were not very important people, they had no influence in the society of the time. Can you imagine how they felt when angels appeared to them and told them this news. They put aside their fear, they trusted in what the angels told them and they went to Bethlehem to see this amazing and wonderful thing, to see this amazing and wonderful child, born not in a palace but lying in a manger.

This advent let us remember those who live on the outskirts of our society, those who have no influence, let us remember that the child was born in the manger for them.

The Salvation Army has teamed up with Shakin Stevens towards the re-release of his classic hit Merry Christmas Everyone. Shaky has re-recorded the hit and renamed it as Echoes of Merry Christmas Everyone, with the proceeds of sales for this year going to The Salvation Army.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Journey through Advent 1

This Advent as we journey towards Christmas I thought we could think a little on the various journeys that were made at the first Christmas.

The first journey to pause and think about is the journey that Mary and Joseph made. They journeyed first to Bethlehem to be registered there because of the decree that Caesar Augustus issued. We read in Luke’s gospel:

“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed,[b] who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

This would not have been an easy journey, the road would have crowded with other people also going to Bethlehem, it would have been hot, dusty and Mary would have been tired and soon to give birth. They would not have had many possessions with them. Then when they arrived at Bethlehem they could not find a room to stay in.

Their next journey was a frightening one, we read in Matthew’s gospel

“Now when they (the wise men) had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Again not an easy journey to make, with a young baby this time. They fled not knowing what awaited them, they fled with little possessions. They made a journey from danger to safety, trusting in the Lord.

As we think about the preparations we are starting to make for Christmas let us also think about those today who are making journeys to safety.  Let us remember those refugees who are fleeing for their lives, from places torn apart with war and destruction, refugees who are hoping for a safer life. They are fleeing with little or no possessions to a place they do not know, let us remember to pray for them this Advent season.