Thursday 21st February
Strangers and travellers - Matthew 2:7-11

'Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, 'Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.' After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. '

The visitors from the East tend not to enter our telling of the Christmas story until after the baby is born. But as we stand back from the narrative, we recognise that even as earlier events were emerging, there is every chance that these travellers were already making their way to Bethlehem. What borders would they have crossed? What questions would they have been asked, and what truths might have been contained in the answers that were given?

As they passed through the towns and villages that lined their route, what attention might these foreign strangers have attracted? Would they have been greeted with suspicion; curiosity; or would their caravan have simply passed through unnoticed? Whatever the answer might prove to be, we can recognise that within their migration, lies another sign of God's coming; another visible expression of God's presence and purpose in our world.

Who else had gazed into the night sky, and though impressed by the vastness of the heavens, failed to recognise a star that spoke of a Messiah's coming? They came to the land of a Saviour's birth as those who had seen what others had not; those who could reveal the truths that God's creation was announcing. Yet the opportunity to embrace salvation's dawn, instead became the source of alarm and offence in the courts of Herod.

Ours is a world in which we are increasingly conditioned to view the arrival of strangers as a cause for concern; to see them as a threat; to refuse to allow our routines and expectations to be re-shaped by the gifts and stories they bring. As we argue over borders and question the motives and intent of neighbouring nations, what messages is God seeking to share, what truths may be conveyed by those who cross our paths with unexpected stories and revelations? We take the chance to be still, and to recognise that in this diverse world, God's truth prevails and signs of God's salvation remain.

God of every people and nation, open our eyes and ears to every sign of your presence and promise. AMEN

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