It’s great to share in a baptism service with Carly and Ian and Mackenzie as little Jayden is baptised. It doesn’t seem like five years ago that we spent time together planning for a wedding and preparing for marriage, and then the special day. And then getting ready for Mackenzie’s baptism – and it was special sharing in that on Easter Sunday. And now it’s great to share in Jayden’s baptism on another special day for us, on Advent Sunday as we start the build up to Christmas.
We have got a theme for our services leading up to Christmas … The Christmas Journey. And we have an invitation to share – Journey with us at Highbury Church this Christmas. Christmas is all about journeys and travelling. There are those journeys people make to share in Christmas celebrations. But there were lots of journeys in the Christmas story.
Today we start with the journeys Mary and Joseph made, next Sunday we will journey with the Wise Men from the East – and we are going to have a focus on the Christmas charity we have chosen this year – CHIKS Children’s Homes in Kerala State, as Robin Radley the inspiration behind all that work joins us. And then Sue will be making the journey to Kerala in the New Year to spend time at some of those homes and take our love and greetings with her.
Then the following Sunday we will be journeying with the shepherds. And then we are going to put all those three stories together on 19th December in a chidlren’s nativity play.
Then we are going to do something different this Christmas. In the actual week leading up to Christmas we are going to lay out those three journeys for people to follow and reflect on in the quiet of this place. The church will be open from 10-00 to 11-00 and again from 6-00 to 7-00 and you will be invited to journey with Mary and Joseph, to journey with the Wise Men, to journey with the Shepherds. Then comes our Christmas day celebration – everyone coming together to celebrate with presents and toys to show, and fun to share.
The Christmas Journey begins today with Mary and Joseph, and their travels.
Mary’s travels begin as she makes the journey over to her cousin’s Elizabeth’s home where both of them compare notes because they are both expecting. Then it’s Mary and Joseph’s turn as they travel from their home in Nazareth to Bethlehem. Those aren’t long distances – a bit like from here to Warwick, or from here to Birmingham.
But then comes a darker journey as the powers that be seek to eliminate Jesus and destroy the newly born baby. They flee as refugees travelling much further to Egypt. And then when it’s safe to return the make the jouney back to Nazareth.
Not that their travels finish there. We pick them up on another journey when Jesus is 12 and he and his parents make the journey to Jerusalem from Nazareth when Jesus comes of age. Sometime between that point and the start of Jesus’ ministry, Joseph disappears from the scene. It looks very much as if he died. He was there with them at the beginning of it all – but not through to the end. We glimpse Mary travelling with Jesus. And sometimes Jesus does things that disturbs her. She doesn’t understand what he is about. And then she makes the journey with other women when he has to walk carrying a cross. Her travels take her to the cross – it is as if someone has driven a sword into her own side and pierced her – the pain, the grief is overwhelming. But that pain and that grief do not have the last word – she journeys through it and beyond it … to resurrection.
In a sense all of life’s journey is there in the travels Mary makes.
In her travels she journeys with Jesus. A special baby. A young boy growing up. But then someone who teaches a remarkable way of life for people to follow, a way that involves putting other people first and going out of your way to help one another. It involves love for God, love for your neighbour. It’s a remarkably caring life that he shares – always a look of forgiveness. It is a tragic life, and Mary shares that sadness. But it is a remarkable victory over death that he wins – and Mary as we see her at the finish of her travels senses something remarkable in the resurrection victory she too can share. And more than that it is through this Jesus that she senses there is a strength she can draw on that will be with her, the unseen yet real presence of the strength of God.
There is a real sense of journeying on. In those five or six years since starting to think of getting married – you have journeyed on. The prayer in that marriage, the prayer at Mackenzie’s baptism, the prayer today is that as you journey on and wherever life leads you you may sense you are not alone, but God is with you, Christ is there to guide you and there is a strength to draw on from outside yourselves.
And that’s something that goes for us all.
That leads me to the next thought.
Mary, and Joseph too, treasured everything about Jesus.
There’s a wonderful verse that tells us how she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. And you can see Joseph sharing in that as well.
Little ones are there to treasure. It’s great treasuring moments. It was good looking at that wedding album. Photos of the little ones when they were tiny. As they grow up. Little things you treasure. Grandparents treasuring those pictures.
Moments to treasure.
What did Mary treasure? The sense that God was with her. The sense that Jesus was to make such a difference to so many people. Were there moments of his teaching that she treasured? Were there moments of healing to treasure? Did she treasure that moment at the foot of the cross when in spite of all the pain he made sure his mother would be looked after by one of his close friends? Did she treasure the moment when she knew he was risen from the dead? Did she treasure that sense of a strength from beyond herself?
I hope there are things for us to treasure – not just in the album, not just in the little ones as they grow older. I hope that we can treasure that sense of something with us from beyond ourselves in God – and in Jesus Christ.
On the journey as they travelled in the bad times and the good times Mary and Joseph sensed God was with them in this Jesus who was so special.
They treasured so much about Jesus.
There’s one more thing that strikes me about Mary and Joseph. And it too begins with t r
They had something that made all the difference. I think it makes all the difference in all sorts of different ways, and in all sorts of different bits of their lives.
They had something called ‘trust’.
When you think of it, given the circumstances of the story it was a big ask. But Joseph and Mary had trust in each other.
That was something we explored in our conversations about marriage. It goes right to the heart of relationship building. Trust makes a relationship.
When a little one comes along they have that trust. There’s that wonderful moment when the little one with the tiniest of hands, puts that little hand into the great big hand of mum or dad. That moment of trust is so special.
Trust can be betrayed – in a relationship, by a parent. How important it is to build up that trust.
But there is another dimension to that trust that makes it so special.
Mary and Joseph had a trust in God.
There were moments when it felt as if everything was going wrong. Nothing went right. They had sadness in their family. It seemed everything was faling apart, going wrong.
But continually, they had trust in God.
Trust in God, that God will be with us, come what may. Difficult sometimes, but trust – keep on trusting, that nothing in life or death, in the present or the future, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Travel – with God,
Treasure – the love of Christ
Trust – inside your relationship, inside your family, and above all trust in God. Hold on to that trust.