We are now in time of believing

At this time of year our airports are busier than normal.

Prior to Christmas people are coming home to be with their loved ones and now in the days after Christmas and the New Year people are saying their goodbyes and heading away again.

Comings and goings at this time of year are nothing new. 2000 years ago at the birth of Christ there were also comings and goings.

In the gospels of St Matthew and St Luke we find visitors making their way to Bethlehem where the Christ Child lay.

These visitors were the shepherds closely followed by the Magi or the three wise kings as they are generally called.

At first reading the Shepherds and the magi have little in common. They come from different end of the economic spectrum.

The Shepherds were not destitute, but they belong with the poor people of their time who struggled each day to survive. They slept under the stars as they guarded their sheep by night and under the clear blue sky as they did the same by day.

Religiously they were on the margins of Jewish society. It is highly unlikely that they would have been allowed to attend prayer in the Temple. Their way of life would have made it difficult for them to keep the many Jewish rules and regulations.

They lived close by in the fields and did not have far to travel, they had no gifts to bring to the new born king but only themselves.

The Magi in contrast to the Shepherds lived in another country and had to travel a distance and seemed to have the resources to do so and they were also able to bring expensive gifts to the new born king. Religiously they were not Jews but Gentiles, hence total outsiders.

The Magi and the Shepherds were not the obvious people to be the first to hear the news of the new born king. Yet they were chosen by God to be the first to worship the promised Messiah.

In reflecting on the story we discover that the Shepherds and the Magi needed help and made the most of the opportunity given to them.

The Shepherds were guided by an angel supported by a multitude of other angels singing the praises of God while the Wise Kings were guided by a star that they follow from its rising until it guides them to Bethlehem.

It is interesting to note that the Chief Priests, the Scribes and the religious people of the time did not realise that the long promised Messiah had been born.

The sad reality is that they were given many opportunities but failed to recognise them.

The Shepherds and the Wise Kings took full advantage of the opportunities given them.

The Chief Priests, Scribes and religious people at the time of the Saviours birth thought they possessed God and were not open to the possibility of the Saviour coming to save all people.

While the religious people at the time of the Saviours birth were not open to outside help in finding the promised Messiah likewise many people in our time wander from place to place, from one novel idea to another, searching for the one who will bring meaning and new hope into their lives, failing to realise that the promised one had been born into our world.

The days of waiting and looking forward are over; we are now in the time of believing that the child born in Bethlehem is indeed the promised Messiah.

Whether we come from a distance, like the Magi or have only to travel a short distance, like the Shepherds we are all challenged to use the opportunities presented to us. No matter where we start from, what really matters is using the here and now to kneel before the baby lying in the manger and worshipping him as our Lord and saviour.

One of the great mysteries of the Nativity is that there are different ways to know and discover God.