Sermon podcast: Epiphany30 Dec 2019 By Sermon Podcasts
Ruth Walker, Director of Calling Young Disciples, 5 January 2020.
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Have you been on a journey over Christmas? To join in with family festivities? Maybe sadly an unexpected and difficult journey to visit a loved one who has been taken into hospital or to place a Christmas wreath on a family grave? Each of those journeys may well have had its own hassles as you’ve negotiated traffic and weather. For me preparing this Podcast in the middle of Advent our planned journeys to join family on Boxing Day are still in the future.
As I look forward to the ending of one year and the beginning of another I have been struck by the words that end both Morning and Evening Prayer in Advent: ‘May the Lord, when he comes find us watching and waiting’. These words seem to describe the attitude of the Wise Men, they watched and they waited, which meant that at the precise moment when God sent his Son as a baby at Bethlehem they were ready to respond and to seek him out.
It always surprises me how they were willing to set out on their journey with so little information: they didn’t know the route; they had no idea what their destination was; they hadn’t a clue how long it would take or how they would be guided. What they did know was that such a journey could well be hazardous, the terrain unfriendly, the weather unpredictable and the presence of bandits highly likely.
And yet they set out, knowing they had to go and with a single mindedness which considering all they did not know was stunning.
Very quickly they discovered that they did have a guide to show them the way – a star, but even so they made a misguided presumption as the star reached Jerusalem – a city, a palace, surely this must be where the new king was? Don’t we too sometimes presume that God is guiding us in a certain direction, that we know His mind? When in fact we should have listened less to ourselves and more to Him.
I love the way St. Matthew records the moment when the Wise Men leave Herod’s palace and look up and discover the star is still there – ‘they were overjoyed.’ Despite their mistake their guide was still there – what joy! Isn’t that our experience too, that when we’ve got it wrong God is still there guiding and reassuring us. The words of
1 Thessalonians 5 v 24 have reassured me when I’ve lost the plot or can’t see the way ahead:
‘The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.’
So eyes focussed on the star the Wise Men come to what I imagine they thought was the end of their journey – they have found the promised king, probably far from what they had envisaged but they could do nothing but worship and adore. They presented gifts which they probably didn’t understand the full meaning of. I wonder what it felt like at that moment kneeling in the presence of God’s Son -Jesus?
As for their journey, like we so often find, it wasn’t over. They were clearly still watching and waiting, otherwise they wouldn’t have heard God’s warning to return by a different route. I wonder where that route took them, what difficulties they encountered and who they met and told of their experience of seeking this special King?
As we look ahead we don’t know all that 2020 will hold, there will no doubt be times of great joy, of hope and certainty but also times when life is hard, when events don’t make sense and we shout out at God and others. It maybe that we clearly hear God’s call to a particular piece of work or we may find ourselves just not knowing which way to go. The journey of those Wise Men parallels so many of our faith journeys – moments of great clarity and again moments of uncertainty, but always guided if we can but recognise it.
Jesus says in St John 8 v 12:
‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.’
And in St Matthew 28 v 20:
‘And surely I am with you always to the end of the age.’
It’s with these promises of Christ that we journey into 2020 and I pray that we do so with that Advent attitude: ‘May the Lord when he comes find us watching and waiting.’ And may this prayer from this year’s Follow the Star material be ours too:
‘God of wonder help us to keep searching, keep asking and keep discovering as we continue on the journey with you.’ Amen.
- The Wise Men travelled together. Who is accompanying you, or could accompany you on your journey faith?
- Is there someone you could accompany on their journey of faith this year? To encourage them, to pray with them and for them.
Pray for all those who are seeking. Who at the beginning of this year are looking for something, but they don’t know who or what. Pray that they would discover Jesus Christ and His great love for them.