Happy New Year! I wonder what your hopes and expectations are for 2024. What are you feeling drawn towards as the door opens on another year, another new beginning?
At our Christmas services the popular carol, ‘The First Nowell’, was sung once again – a carol which invites us to focus on the outsiders who were drawn into the heart of the Christmas story. It begins with the shepherds, the first to hear the good news ‘in fields where they lay’, but swiftly moves on to visitors from the east, ‘three wise men . . from country far’ who follow a star to find a new-born king. This season of the new year, known as Epiphany, marks their journey and their discovery. Contrary to most nativity scenes where all the visitors are pictured together round the manger, it’s likely that these spiritual seekers arrived later, sometime after Jesus’ birth.
I’ve always admired the courage and curiosity these mysterious travellers showed in making such a long and probably dangerous journey, leaving the comfort and familiarity of their own world to enter into new experience and new opportunity. Their spirit of adventure and patient perseverance are rewarded. They find the one they are seeking and, even as they bring their gifts, discover that the greatest gift, the gift of God in Jesus is, to their surprise, a gift for them as well.
Their extravagant and costly gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh would have provided for the holy family in a time of crisis when they found themselves having to make the difficult decision to become refugees, fleeing to a foreign land to escape violent threat early on in Jesus’ life – an experience so many sadly share today.
As we enter into a new year with so many parts of our world in turmoil, the journey of the Magi evokes so beautifully the crossing of cultures, the breaking down of barriers and the possibilities for peace and understanding between those who seemingly come from different worlds and different world views. May we share in
this new year their determined search for the Prince of Peace and all that leads to peace. With every blessing, Gail.