Journey of the Magi

Isn’t it strange that a person can work hard for weeks without any ailment at all, yet when their holiday comes round they catch every germ going, and end up flat on their backs trying to get fit enough to take up employment again, once they’ve recovered. There’s no justice is there?

I’ve heard many people complain that this is always the case!

I’ve just returned from my holiday, having just recovered from a nasty head cold.

Richard had just remarked the other week that I must be resistant to colds, and I replied,

'Wait till the holidays!' and sure enough!

I sneezed constantly, and my nose, poured forth like the Niagara Falls. I went through three whole boxes of Ultra Balm tissues, two packets of Tunes, and two packs of Lemsip.

But then I remembered some wise person’s advice, to go to a health shop and buy some ECHINACEA. Seemingly it’s a herbal remedy, the ingredients of which were used by Red Indians long ago, and now the tablets are designed to boost your immune system, and chase away colds and the like.

It worked wonders.

But cold or no cold, flu nor no flu, it’s at this time of year when Christmas Day is past and gone, and New Year’s Day has put in its appearance in most cities like a damp squib, that EVERYONE feels like huddling in front of a fire, putting on warmer clothes, turning on the T.V. or reading a book, with food or drink close at hand…and shutting out the world.

I think it's called… hibernation!

It’s a rut we can so easily get into, isn’t it. Getting out of that rut is not so easy. As Christians we are encouraged to be alert, awake, at the ready…on fire for God…but it’s not easy when the days are short, dark and dismal.

Perhaps we need a health shop remedy to get us going again into 2004.

. . . or some New Year Resolutions in order to become active as Christians again.

We may even need the advice or the example of wise people, to get us going once more.

So today we have a possible solution…not herbal remedies but a reading about a journey made by some wise people. The MAGI!

Let’s explore with them first something about the difficulties of their journey and ours;

then what might have happened had they decided not to make that journey at all;

the text might also give us clues as to how to encourage others to make a similar journey along with us.

In his poem entitled the Journey of the Magi; T.S.Eliot portrays aspects of the wise men’s journey, not mentioned in our bible reading, but no doubt it was a long journey fraught with many difficulties. It’s a journey we might be able to identify.

He describes a long, hazardous, journey at the very worst time of the year. The ways are deep and the weather is sharp; there are problems with transport, yearnings for warmth and comfort and simple pleasures. Associates are grumbling and cursing, nothing seems to be going right, some people are openly hostile and unfriendly and you can’t work out why. Money is sparse and prices on the rise, and voices whisper in the mind, that this journey is folly.

‘Don’t we hear voices like that too? Voices which whisper:-

“Don’t bother! It’s too cold! You won’t be missed! No-one appreciates you! Stay at home and keep warm! Look after yourself! There’s something really interesting on the T.V.!”

But if we read on in that poem and indeed as we see in our bible reading today, the wise men don’t give up.

They have a sense of purpose. There is a call upon their lives. They have been marked out!

They have read the signs of the time and they know there is an urgency in their mission.

They join together on their journey, giving each other encouragement, no doubt; they fix their eyes upon the star and they achieve their goal, even though they take a wrong turn towards the end of their journey, and end up in the palace of a ruthless king.

They still don’t give up, they journey on, and so must we! We too must have vision, and move towards our goals.

There are lessons here for us today!

Secondly, the question must be asked, what if the wise men had decided against making such a journey, surely the Son of God would still have been born in a stable without them, AND I suppose the innocent children of Bethlehem would not have been slaughtered either.

Of course, the ancient prophecy about Rachel lamenting for her lost children too would have been unfulfilled. . . unless

Herod had found out about the new King from another source, other than the wise men, and then perhaps the slaughter might still have taken place, but more swiftly and without warning for the Holy Family.

We could also consider how much the wise men’s caution to return by a different route influenced Joseph’s caution about Herod and his dream to escape with his family to Egypt.

Not only this but the wise men also brought gold as a gift, which, no doubt, assisted Mary and Joseph in their journey and helped finance their stay in Egypt.

Of course all this is speculation, but the one thing that is certain had the wise men not made their journey, is the that they would have missed out on the greatest blessing of their entire lives.

I’m sure that many of us here in church today, could say the same, that because of their own spiritual journey and their connections with this church, and its people, they have been blessed in so many different ways, which would not have come their way, had they simply done nothing and not reacted to God’s call on their lives! Think then how many more blessings there are to come, as we seek to serve and worship our King, in the years ahead.

Finally we must ask ourselves…

What is it we can do to help others on their spiritual journey here. What would attract others here? Is there anything else we can learn from our text today?

The wise men didn’t seem to mind the fact that they had journeyed to a rough and ready stable. It was not the best dwelling for a new-born King. It was certainly no palace, nothing luxurious, but basic, humble and down to earth.

Having said that we are indeed fortunate to be able to offer visitors to our church, warmth, good lighting, rich carpets and beautiful windows. . .

but what is far more important than décor and comfort is what the wise men actually found there in that lowly stable…

They discovered pure joy, an atmosphere of holiness, a place of praise and prayer, a place which transfixed them, a humble shelter which contained the King; a place where this little child, the Son of God, was at the centre of everyone adoration and attention.

The purpose and goal of the journey of the wise men, which they did accomplish, can be found in the question they asked when they first arrived in Jerusalem, which was. . .

“Where is the child who has been born the King of the Jews, we have come to worship HIM!”

Is this what people will find in this church as they enter?

Will they find the Christ child, will they find here what the wise men found…the end of all their longings? Will they find themselves utterly caught up in worship and go away satisfied?

Let us not only imagine that the Christ child is confined to this building, do those we know outside of this church, see the Christ child dwelling in us?

Where is the child, the King today? He desires to make his his residence here in us and in our places of worship.

He wants to be discovered afresh and be known in our hearts.

Let us not give up in our search for him, to know him, serve him and do his will in the company of all these dear friends with whom we worship.

May I finish with a reading that's been in my mind all week, but I didn't find it until last night, once I returned from holiday to my reference books:-

Hebrews 10.22

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- and all the more as we see the Day approaching.