Canon Michael MCcreadie,
St. Annes Church
The making of a journey is an important theme throughout the Bible. In the very first book of the Old Testament, Abraham journeyed to an unknown land in response to God’s call. The Israelites journey for forty years in the desert before reaching their destination; in the Gospels, Jesus calls disciples to follow him on his own journey which ends in Jerusalem when he embraces his death and resurrection. These Biblical journeys are not just about physical travel but a journey to grow in understanding of God’s ways.
At the birth of Jesus it is not surprising that there is a journey story as God makes his home with us. There is the census where people are going back to their place of origin – their family home; nevertheless there a much more important journey underlying this. It is the journey of Mary and Joseph who have both been challenged to rethink how they will be affected by God’s plan; how could Our Lady become the Mother of God and why does Joseph change his plans and take Mary to his home as his wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit.
Human journeying whether physical or spiritual is only half the story for in the wonder of Christmas we reflect on the divine journey. With the birth of Christ, God enters the world of humans in a way that has never happened before and the journey of God enters our lives precisely where we are now. Although Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem, it is in reality God who is travelling to them in the gift of this unique child they are given. When the heavenly host appear to the shepherds, it happens exactly where the shepherds are at that particular moment – at work in the fields. What is even more remarkable is that shepherds, who were forbidden even to enter the synagogue or Temple because they worked with animals, are visited by God’s agent precisely when they are at work with the animals who make them unclean.
Here is the wonder of Christmas; it is about God who comes to our lives exactly where we are at any given time. It is about the birth of Emmanuel, a name used by Isaiah, meaning “God is with us”. The birth of Jesus is about the God who is never far from us, because God has journeyed to each one of us to live among us. It is about the closeness to us of the God who never leaves our side, even when we are not sure of where our own journey through life is leading. On our own, we could never reach God. In the birth of Jesus, God comes on a journey of love to us.