Matthew 2: 1 – 15
On holiday in Wales several years ago we stayed in a cottage beside a sculpture park. There were loads of wooden sculptures that you could climb on or in, sit on or in, with lots of nooks and crannies and quirky little features.
One clear late October afternoon, I was looking around a beautiful wooden sculpture of a hand holding a candle flame.
I love anything to do with candle light, and, as is my wont, I was taking ‘too many’ photos of it from every angle. Mike and Nat had wandered off (of course) leaving me to it. Then I got to a particular angle and was blinded by a blazing, brilliant and astonishing light which appeared, impossibly, to come from the wooden candle flame held in the wooden hand.
It took a moment or two for me to regain myself and realise that the light came (of course) from the glorious sunlight streaming through the trees – from somewhere entirely different from the place I perceived it to be. Although the light appeared to be coming from the candle flame, its source was a million miles away.
The perfect photo moment was gone as I stood transfixed as the setting sun shifted in the sky and as I pondered how Jesus, the ‘light of the world’, often shows up in different places from the ones wise and learnéd folk expect – in the humble town of Bethlehem (not in a Palace in Jerusalem); at the party turning water into wine (not the other way round); eating with tax collectors; befriending prostitutes (the list goes on) and ultimately, risen from the dead, not in the tomb where he was expected to be.
It’s all too easy to look for Christ where we think he should be, as the wise men did, only to find that we’ve got the wrong end of the stick and Jesus’ light is shining bright somewhere altogether different, somewhere we might least expect. And we shouldn’t be, but we are surprised.
The real source of Jesus light shines at unexpected times and in and from unexpected places. And we should be prepared to be surprised by what that light reveals for us, says to us, and where it leads us – probably a million miles from what we we’re accustomed to thinking or doing or being.
So, although you’ve more than likely put your baby Jesus back in the loft or wherever it is that you stash your nativity set, we might still want to ask Jesus the man to surprise us, to reveal something new to us, to refresh our faith and enliven our senses to meet Him, as we ask God to help us to notice Jesus at unexpected times and in unexpected places. in the days and weeks ahead in this New Year – in our joys, and also in the difficult, needy and testing places in our lives. In the struggles of other people’s lives and the countenance of their faces. At the end-of-life times, and at its beginnings. With the confused, the depressed, the addict, the hungry, the homeless, the refugee (please add to the list yourself).
Be born again Lord in and through us as we meet you afresh, today and tomorrow, and tomorrow.