Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas journeys: a reflection for the first Eucharist of Christmas

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit.

And so our Advent Journey has come to an end. The white candle on our wreath has been lit, signifying the birth of the Christ child. During the weeks of our journey we have thought of the patriarchs, the prophets, John the Baptist, and the Blessed Virgin Mary; all the while remembering the time when our Lord first came – even as we thought of the day when he will come again. But our time of journeying has come to an end, or, at least, this particular journey has ended, with the birth of our Lord.

Many other journeys ended on that first Christmas day. Most obviously, that of Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem after days of hard travel from Nazareth to find no room in the inn. But also that day there was the journey of the angels, whom in there thousands burst forth from heaven, proclaiming God's glory, and the birth of his Son. Then there was the journey of the shepherds, who travelled from the fields and hills into the town, seeking to find the child they were told about by the angels, finding him in a manger, and discovering all that had been proclaimed to them was true. Still travelling, but perhaps nearing the end of their journey, were the wise men, following a star from the East, to find the king spoken of in prophesies.

But there was one there that night whose journey was far from finished – the Christ child himself. He had not come so that we might have a cute image of a new born babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger to decorate our Christmas cards; he had not come so that we might have crib scenes to place under our trees, or on our mantle pieces, or at some place in our churches; he had come so that all the world might be saved through him – and that part of his journey was only beginning.

And so as we place ourselves in our minds' eyes before that child in the manger, as we kneel to adore him with his blessed mother and St Joseph, with the shepherds, with the ox, and ass, and sheep, there is another figure there that we cannot see, but whose shadow seems to catch at the corner of our eye – that of Jesus the man; and we see in our imagination the journey that still lies before this child: his journey to Jerusalem to be presented in the temple; his flight into Egypt to escape those who would destroy him; the return to Nazareth and the quite life of his hidden years, his disputing with the doctors in the temple of Jerusalem as a boy, his loving obedience to his parents, his learning his trade as a carpenter; then his baptism by John, his time in the desert, the beginning of his ministry, his deeds of power, his preaching and teaching, his challenging of all mankind to a change their ways; of his one last journey to Jerusalem, and then to Calvary.

But we will not dwell on Calvary this night, but rather look beyond it; for our Lord was wrapped in his grave clothes and laid in the tomb for the very same reason that God became a helpless baby who was wrapped in swaddling bands and laid in a manger – that all might be saved. The joy of Christmas is that God loves us and will do anything so that we might be with him in heaven.

And so, like the Christ-child, the journey that ends for us with Christmas day, is really not an ending but a beginning. Our journeys are far from over. Because the joy we feel this night at the birth of the Christ-child is not just for Christmas day, but every day. And for the rest of our journey we must share that joy with others, the good news that a Saviour has been born for all mankind, and that he has set out a path for all our journeys – a path that will lead us all to heaven where we will dwell in joy forever.

To God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, three persons in one God, be praise and glory for-evermore - Amen.  

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