Journeys taken at Christmas

Dictation of Arana Hills Church of Christ’s Senior Pastor Simon Ward on 96five’s Family Worship. See podcast.

A man visiting Brisbane went to buy a return train ticket. The guy in the train station office asked, “where do you want to go?” He said, “I want a return ticket. So back here of course.”

If you are familiar with the stories that surround the account of the birth of Jesus Christ you will be aware there are many journeys involved. Many of those are also return journeys. I just want to highlight three of them. Firstly, Mary and Joseph traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem and then back home again via Egypt. Secondly, the shepherds come in from the fields and after meeting Jesus go back to their fields and sheep. Thirdly, the wise men travel in from the East and return home via another route. Lets think about these three journeys for a moment.

Mary and Joseph, travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem and then home, but via Egypt. Why via Egypt? Because they were afraid that Herod the King would kill their baby Jesus. I find many people live a life of fear. It could be a fear of dying, a fear of being embarrassed, a fear of getting sick, a fear of loosing their job or a fear of failing at school. The truth is these are often very real fears. One day we will all die. We will all have some embarrassing moments in our lives and you probably will get sick. Many people do lose their jobs or fail at school. Mary and Joseph had a real fear and they did something about it. They didn’t run away from the fear, but trusted God and took action from and in that trust.

Lets think about the shepherds, they also had a journey and they too returned to their field different to when they came, because they encountered Jesus. Many people go to Church and many people say prayers, but still never encounter Jesus. It is like the Shepherds going to Bethlehem and never finding the baby Jesus. Many do go to church, and I encourage you to do that. I’m a church leader and encourage you to go to church. But make sure that you find Jesus Christ, cause sadly you will not find him preached in every church.

The wise men came a very long way to see a baby king called Jesus. They presented their gifts and they too returned home by another route. We can learn a lot from these wise men. Maybe you have heard the slogan, wise men once sought Jesus and wise men still do. So let me ask a question. How far will you go in seeking Jesus Christ?

Today when the answer to life’s questions and struggles is to Google it or buy more stuff can I suggest you stop and think? Take a different journey. Seek out Jesus Christ personally and don’t rest until you find him!

Have you ever encountered Jesus Christ in a way that you simply cannot be the same again? You see many people have a form of Christianity, where they have a God to call on when they are in trouble, or a God to offer their baby to in baptism, as it is just what you do, or a God to say a prayer to every now and again. Consequently, many people miss out on true Christianity. They are missing the life changing, never to be the same again life that Jesus called a new birth.

R. M. Williams the Aussie camel boy come drover, come boot maker, come successful businessman once said, “success is more about a journey then a destination.” So this Christmas time as you journey to your destination of Christmas day and you say things like “If I could just survive the buying of presents, the organising of food or the busyness of the season. If I can just get to destination Christmas day, it will be okay.” The dream of the perfect Christmas without major family arguments, where everyone is happy with their presents and the meal is perfectly cooked. On the other hand, maybe your destination is beyond Christmas day once you survive all the family being together or the loneliness of the season.

Many people take a similar view of Christianity. If I can just get to destination heaven, rather than hell, I’ll do what I can to be a good person that tries to keep the peace. That is not being a Christian. So for Christmas this year how about slowing down and enjoying the journey of buying presents for the people you love. How about slowing down enough to think about your life and how things are for you at the moment. Maybe your life is full of fear? Maybe life appears as more of an existence or endurance, or maybe you are running the pursuit of buying this thing and that thing to find the next buzz just to keep you going.

Listen. God sent his son Jesus Christ to offer a trading of your current life for a new life, as a free gift to you. It is not a life that will be trouble free. Jesus said in this life there would be trouble. But it is a life that has at its core: strength, peace, and security in the midst of difficulty. It is a life that gives the destination of heaven rather than hell. But this is not like a holiday that can give you a fresh start in life to keep you going. But it’s more of a new life to start. So how do you trade your current life for a new life that Christ offers? Quite simply I encourage you to seek Jesus Christ and don’t rest until you find him. You may have to try several churches. You may have to ask a whole number of people. But you will know when you find him. Look for the assurance that God gives you. Check out the bible for yourself. Ask questions. Seek after him. For some discovering life in Jesus Christ is a long journey like the wise men coming in from the East. For others it seems a short one like the shepherds just coming in from the fields. But long or short it is worth the seeking.

True life in Christ must characterise a hatred of your current life and a turning away of pleasing yourself or others. True life in Christ puts God as number one, not ourselves. I’m not talking about a false humility. I’m talking about a totally new and different way of life.

Is it worth the journey? I guarantee that Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and the wise men said, “You beat, it was worth the journey.” So don’t just take my word for it. Take their word for it too.

May God bless you this Christmas. Take the time to stop and to seek out Jesus Christ. God Bless you.