In early December I found myself preparing for our next holiday out in Spain, a journey I am getting quite used to organising whether by plane or ferry and car. This set me thinking about other journeys I have undertaken over the years. Family holidays were Blackpool by train and only when dad got a car did we undertake what was a mammoth journey then to Cornwall.
No holidays abroad for me until I left college; mum and dad never travelled anywhere other than the UK. The journey to and from college in Lincoln enabled me to learn to drive with dad teaching me. Then it was on to Nottingham with my first teaching post, and we only came back up North when Derek’s job brought us home. None of these journeys were perilous, we were not faced with any persecution, but each journey marked a milestone on my life’s journey.
Then of course over Christmas and the season of Epiphany we heard again of the journeys undertaken to greet the Christ child. The shepherds leaving their flocks following the news given by the angels. The journey of the magi, over great distances following the star, based on their own knowledge of the constellations and the interpretation of what they studied. After their visits the magi returned by a different route ignoring Herod’s request to let him know where the new baby was to be found.
Joseph too was warned to leave Bethlehem and took refuge in Egypt, out of reach of Herod’s authority. All these journeys could have had dire consequences if they had gone wrong, but they didn’t as it was all part of God’s plan. I have often wondered about Joseph and how he accepted all that was demanded of him by God. Taking a pregnant Mary on the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the journey eased slightly in all probability by travelling with others also fulfilling the requirements of the census and avoiding the dangers of solitary travellers.
The journey of nearly 100 miles probably took 8-10 days, the only help on that journey for Mary being a donkey.* Then not long after the birth, following a warning from the angel, Joseph took his family on yet another journey, refugees fleeing from persecution. They stayed there until they were informed by an angel that Herod was dead and that they should return to Israel, so yet another journey took them back to Nazareth.
As he grew into manhood and started his ministry, Jesus took many journeys, all leading to that ultimate journey to the cross. He gave his followers the task to spread the word of God’s redeeming love across the nations, and through them and those that followed (according to Google) there are 2.18 billion Christians worldwide, which is about 31.6 percent of the world population. All achieved from those first journeys undertaken by the disciples.
We are a small part of that percentage, each of us with our own journey of faith. I was confirmed as an adult at Manchester Cathedral after we had moved back up North and bought a house in Blackrod. That is really where my journey of faith began in earnest and I am now in the privileged position to be bringing my grandson Aaron to church at the start of his relationship with God. I am thankful for the love and fellowship he sees each time he comes and the support of all he meets as he takes his first steps on his journey of faith.
*There is a modern-day equivalent for pilgrims to follow today, the Nativity Trail, a link can be found at https://jesustrail.com/blog/hiking-the-nativity-trail-from-nazareth-to-bethlehem