Life Chez Dee Episode #74: Travelling Light
This week was the third one in the advent course I was attending. This week’s focus was on the theme “Travelling Light”, looking at the journey of the wise men, and again looking at the nativity story and how we can relate to this today.
I had an hour or so before the zoom call started and so managed to squeeze in a walk, albeit only a brief 3 miles, with Justin. We walk, pretty much every day together, for exercise, fresh air, headspace and for time alone together. I thought about how appropriate it was that I should be out this evening, on my walking journey, but also walking with my husband who has journeyed through life alongside me in our 19 years of marriage.
Taking the travelling theme in the immediacy, we think about the struggles we all face with just how much restriction there is on travelling. During this pandemic we have been unable to take holidays or travel out of the area we live, and we have been unable to meet up with loved ones.
Turning to the wise men, the discussion opened with wondering about their families. When they embarked on their journey, did they leave their family back at home? Were they married? We never really contemplate whether they were married and what their personal lives were like. How did their wives and families feel about the journey they were undertaking, given that they were likely to be gone for months, perhaps years. We thought how we would like to hear about the story of the wise men from the wives’ point of view.
So why did they embark on this journey to Bethlehem? They were scholars, learned people, who studied the stars. In 7 BC there was a conjunction between Jupiter (the Royal Planet) and Saturn (which represented the Jews). This phenomenon happened three times in that year, and therefore was considered to be quite a significant happening, with the conclusion being that a new King of the Jews was to be born.
Centuries later, the wise men were compelled to embark on this long and arduous journey, needing to see if their thinking and interpretation was right, feeling some purpose, trusting in their knowledge and their instinct about the meaning and significance of it. Travelling hundreds of miles on the back of a camel would have taken them months; we know that by the time they arrived in Bethlehem, Jesus was a child, not a baby. Without even really knowing their destination, or what their journey would entail, or even what they would find, they must have had to have a great deal of courage, faith and hope; trusting and hoping, following the light of the star, and the light within themselves.
King Herod knew something important was happening, and this worried him. He felt threatened; he was king, and there was no place for Jesus to follow his line of succession to the throne and become king. He said to the wise men that if they found Jesus, that they should come and tell him all about it. The wise men were told in a dream that they must go back home using a different route; Herod was furious, and attempted to hunt down the child.
We turn to think about the significance of the wise men. Kings from the East, attending a child, not in a palace surrounded by wealth, but one of lowly beginnings. The wise men were three people from outside the Jewish faith; this was a message for all people who wished to hear it. Matthew’s gospel is clear from the start that Jesus was King of the Jews, but that this was not limited to Jewish people. He ends his gospel by sending us out to make disciples of all nations. God’s justice in the world was to bring peace for the whole world.
When we look for validation of the story of the wise men, we know that there were about 300 prophecies telling of Jesus’ life and death, not just in the scriptures, but others sources too which adds to its credibility.
Thinking about journeys, we think about the migrants who make their long, arduous, dangerous journeys to seek sanctuary and escape conflict. There is significant lack of news regarding refugees at the moment. Are they forgotten about now, as the world focusses on the pandemic? We think about how desperate these people must be and what compels them to leave so much behind, and embark on their journey with nothing. Searching for, and hoping for a better life, they end up in refugee camps, to find themselves queuing for food, living in tents, living without so much, missing their loved ones as they find themselves far away from home; basic food and supplies only provided by those organisations who reach out to them. Only by discussing and reflecting on this did I realise how little I knew about what these people must be going through; how I had no idea which organisations were there to help these people. It was suggested that perhaps we might like to go away from tonight and look at the work of some of these organisations for example Together Lancashire. These organisations directly help those in need; we have no idea of the reality of what goes on in the refugee camps really, we read the stories as reported to us in the media, but this really is just a snapshot of a story, when the reality is so much more complex, and so much greater.
I try to imagine the desperation that has compelled these people to flee. How there are people reaching out to help them, and how hard it must be for the refugees to put their trust in these people... people from a different culture, speaking a different language. I go on to link this with how hard it must be for many people to put their trust in those there to help them. The doctors and nurses working hard to save lives, wearing their protective equipment and masks, and how hard it must be for those sick, frightened people, to put their trust in those whose faces are hidden behind that mask.
People have always gone on journeys, travelling the world, discovering new places, experiencing new things. We think about the journeys we take in life, our own journey, and the journeys of others, each and every one of us searching. Searching within ourselves, for meaning, for purpose, for peace. People have for thousands of years gone on pilgrimages, to heal, to discover, to find peace. All travelling on their own journey, each journey as unique as the individual making it, yet travelling in the footsteps of those who trod the path before us.
As I reflect on my own journey, made up of many journeys… new, exciting, challenging and arduous, and the rollercoaster of emotions I have, and do experience. I reflect on what my journey has been so far; processing analysing, writing, remembering. This gives me purpose and meaning, wanting to do things now to help others by telling a story. Having the compulsion within me to do the things I do is always guided by my gut instinct. I am also guided by Edward who was and is the light still shining brightly within me, and alongside me; he was and is part of my story, and my journey through life.
As I reflect on all this, I am reminded of a hymn we used to sing at primary school: “The journey of life may be easy, may be hard, there’ll be dangers on the way…” and that line just seems to resonate.
Our story, our experiences, our journeys change us, but every experience we have has made us who we are. A question thrown out prompts us to think about whether a journey would be easier to take if we knew where we were going; if we knew our destination; if we could plan? Is it the unknown which we find difficult? If we knew where we were going, we would be travelling in the light, rather than in the dark; the darkness of not knowing the outcome… but life is full of uncertainty, the unknown, the unexpected; a journey which twists and turns, over both rough and smooth terrain.
To me light gives us hope. We may see a light at the end of the tunnel, or when we are trapped in the darkness we may see the light, a way out. We light candles in church to represent this; we remember loved ones in our hearts and minds. We look at those who are the light in our own lives, and the lives of others… doctors, nurses, support services, family, and friends. We can help, and be helped, through being supported, and sharing with others, our load is lightened.
We finished with adding the wise men to our nativity scene, and this week, I actually had these characters to go into the scene, without having to think outside the box for a suitable substitute to represent these characters. A glass of water was also to be placed in the scene, to represent a basic human need.
Time for prayer allowed some quiet time at the end of the discussion to think about how many people must be struggling at the moment. This is a difficult time for many, and I think about myself too, as this week will see the fourth anniversary of Edward’s death.
We prayed for all those who are struggling. Those who are desperate and need to flee from places of insecurity and fear, and those who reach out to them. There are those going through difficult times on their journey of life, whether due to ill health, loss of job, not knowing their destination, and indeed those who are facing journeys alone, and we hope there are people alongside them to be the light in their lives.