Every day in Advent 2016 we will be sharing short reflections from authors, Christian charities and Eden team members.
What’s the furthest you have ever travelled for someone?
Perhaps, one Christmas, you drove through long stretches of noisy, crowded traffic jams that felt as endlessly long as the very motorway itself. Or maybe you were invited to a wedding abroad, and whilst rushing through the airport to get to your gate in time the broken clasp in your wheely case comes loose, and suddenly your hastily packed wedding clothes explode from behind you. The kids start complaining as you desperately try to stuff every piece of splayed clothing back into your tiny holding-only case, all while under the gaze of other travellers who haughtily pass you by, not wanting to miss their own flight because of a simple act of charity. It’s at times like these, among all the stressed thoughts that flutter through your mind, that you catch yourself asking:
Are they worth it?
Of course the answer is yes. It never won’t be. The happy couple are people you’ve known for years, who you've build a life with, and who are of the utmost importance to you.
But would you go through all that for someone you have never even met before?
Someone whose name you didn’t even know?
No one knows much about the Magi. We know they brought gifts, and that they followed a star to find Jesus. What we also know was that they had travelled ‘from the east’ to Jerusalem. Biblically, that’s pretty much it. Anything else comes through textual inference or studying the root meanings of words.
They come, they leave gifts, and they sneak away.
But what moved them enough to journey from another country? It isn’t an easy trip, after all. The middle east is not a forgiving environment. In the desert the days scorch and the night freeze.
Nor was is a short trip, but they still took the journey, surrendering great effort and cost to come see a baby. And it’s this lengthiness of the journey that is often omitted from Nativity tellings. The wise men just arrive, drop off their gifts, (and if it’s a nativity play) stick their beards back on and leave.
T.S.Eliot, in his poem ‘The Journey of the Magi’, imagines such a journey and the effect it had on the Wise Men, writing:
‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,’
When we take a journey for someone, it isn’t the ease of travel that changes us: it is barriers and hardships that we overcome.
‘All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again,
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.’
The journey changed them so much that the world was a wholly new place to them.
But that story is nothing new.
All through the Bible, people have crossed great distances only to find themselves irrevocably changed. The Israelites wandered for forty years before they became a nation, Jonah travelled oceans in a boat and a belly before he learned how to obey when it’s hard, and even Paul was on the road when his sight was taken away and he learned the pure kindness that following Jesus brought to those he once persecuted.
Every journey will change you somehow, and almost every journey will be hard. But what makes it worthwhile is knowing that you took those first steps with purpose. That through every hurdle you know that on your side is a God who wants to see the best for you; who knows the plans of your life and watches every moment.
So this Christmas, as you brave crowded supermarkets and shops, think not only of how far you would go for you family and friends, but how far you would go for a God who is worth crossing the earth. Would you make the journey, just as the wise men did themselves?
Aaron Lewendon is part of the team at Eden. He has one wife, two cats, and can often be found with a book in his hands (sometimes whilst walking).
This is his first reflection.
December 15th, 2016 - Posted & Written by The Editor