My Wise Men, or Kings, which ever you like to call them, have almost walked the length of our mantelpiece. It has taken them rather a long time this year because they set off earlier than usual – they have had to move slowly so as not to arrive before their allotted time. Some days they didn’t move at all and so had to try harder the next day. They will arrive at the far end of the mantelpiece tomorrow, the Feast of the Epiphany, where they will find Mary and Joseph and the Baby Jesus, still in the manger – although the shepherds will have returned to the fields on the bookshelves before then. Of course, if we are going to be entirely pedantic, we may say that Jesus could have been almost two years old by the time the Magi had had time to journey so far from their homes – unless the star was clever enough to give them advance notice of what was to happen, a bit like a film or television trailer.
I love the symbolism of the Wise Men making a journey across the house, or the church, to find Jesus – it reminds me of our own spiritual journeys. Much of Christian literature is taken up with the idea of our life journey; the great classic, ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’, for example, or the children’s book ‘The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe’. The first thing we had to write as prospective ordinands was an account of our journey in faith, recording significant people who had influenced us, and events which had moved us on a stage. It is something well worth doing if you haven’t already done it.
This year, the journey for many of us has, perhaps, been a bit tougher than usual – there may have been more days when we have become down hearted or have had to try harder to make up lost ground. It reminds me of the well-known poem ‘Footprints in the sand’ – I expect you all know it, but just in case…! It is about a man who dreamt he was walking along a beach with Our Lord. As they walked, scenes from the man’s life flashed across the sky. For each scene he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand – except for the most difficult times of his life when he noticed only one set of prints. This troubled him deeply so he questioned Jesus, ‘Lord, you said that when I gave my life to you, you would walk with me always, why, when things were most difficult did you leave me to walk alone?’ The poem ends thus, “The Lord replied, ‘My precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.’”
This year, so far, seems little easier than the last, but as we think of the Wise Men and their journey, it is a good time to reflect that Jesus is always with us on our journey, to encourage and support us. With Him as our constant companion, even when the going gets tough and we stumble, we shall never fall because He will take us in His arms and carry us until we have strength to walk again.