After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.
Last year, my friend Clive and I travelled to America, to spend two weeks in New York State. It was the first time either of us had ever been to the USA, and the first time we had flown long haul. We boarded our plane at Gatwick, and so the long flight began. There were times when it seemed it would go on forever! A few hours later, though, after just seeing sea for ages, we eventually sighted land. The excitement as we flew over Long Island and headed towards JFK was tangible. Neither of us could wait to land and begin exploring what is reputed to be the most exciting city in the world. When our destination came into view, that long, long flight seemed worthwhile.
It took us just seven hours to fly to New York, but it took the wise men some forty days to reach Bethlehem. They must have been pretty excited about the star they had seen rising in the east to embark on such a mammoth journey. No matter how excited they had been when they left, however, they could not be blamed for losing faith as they trekked the 800 miles to Bethlehem. I wonder if there was any point where they lost hope, and considered turning around? If I had been amongst their number, I am sure that I would have questioned whether it was really worth it. If I get impatient on a seven hour flight in a comfortable plane, I have no idea how I would react to forty days across the desert! In today’s reading, though, the wise men see the end of their journey looming into view. They catch sight of the star again, and see it stop above Jesus’ birth place. Their excitement is evident when they see that their journey is almost complete. The NIV records that they were “overjoyed,” whilst the ESV goes even further, and says that they “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.”
Our Christian faith is a little like a journey. It can take years and years to reach the end point – our bodily death and resurrection into God’s new creation. At times, we can lose faith and wonder if it is all worthwhile. There are so many distractions from the path that God has marked out for us that at times we can wonder whether perhaps we would be better abandoning our faith, and simply living for today, as so many other people do. But, at the end of our journey, we can rest assured that we too will “rejoice exceedingly with great joy” when we are reunited with God our creator.
Don’t despair, don’t give up. As my CU leader at school used to say to us, “keep on keeping on.” It will be worth it in the end!