When we think about the Christmas story, we think about the journeys to Bethlehem: Mary and Joseph, the Shepherds and the Wise Men, but we often forget the journeys away from Bethlehem.
There is a message for us in these journeys. All of these lives were changed by their encounter with Jesus, but they were all changed in different ways, as their journeys away from Bethlehem tell us.
The shepherds returned from the stable to the hills to look after their sheep, but they did so with a fresh spring in their step and a message of hope, about all that they had seen and heard; a message that they told to all those that they met.
Having been warned by God in a dream, about the murderous plans of Herod, Joseph led his family from Bethlehem into exile in Egypt where they were refugees until it was safe to return home. A familiar story today.
The Wise Men were also warned in a dream about the murderous plans of Herod and returned to their own country by a different route, presumably to avoid capture by Herod and interrogation to find the whereabouts of this newborn King.
The gifts that the Wise Men gave to Jesus remind us of the sacrifice we are all called to make as we too bow down to worship him. Gold, a gift for a king, also represents our wealth which we lay at his feet. Incense, a sign of God’s presence, also reminds us of the sacrifice of our prayers and our worship. Myrrh, a sign of his coming death, is also to us a symbol to us of the daily laying down of our lives for him.
But there is also a message for us in the journey they took back to their own land, a journey they made by a different route. Our own encounter with Jesus should change the way that we travel through our lives. So, as we travel through 2017, let us be open to God’s promptings. Let us be prepared to give up the familiar and the safe and let us travel by a different route in order to fulfil his purposes. And let us remember that, as ‘Emmanuel – God with us’, he is with us on that journey, wherever it takes us.
Theophilus is the guy for whom Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. (Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1) Theophilus means ‘Lover of God’ so, if you love God, it was written for you!