A Parable of the Traveller.
Like the wise men from the East, many young New Zealanders and Australians travelled to far away places during the 1970’s. Both young men and women packed their backpacks and followed their wondering star across Asian and many ending up in the United Kingdom. They would stay with any welcoming relative or friend, aunts, uncles, cousins anyone that would give them temporary shelter. They would work long hours and put their hand to anything to help them continue their once-in-a-life-time experience of travel in foreign lands. For many young people during the 1970’s travel was an experience that gained them wisdom, maturity, and in some way changed their life.
This evening, I’m going to tell you a story about such a young traveller form the east, from New Zealand. His name was Bruce. Bruce gathered his mates and they all prepared for their journey, a journey of a life time. On the way, they would pick up an Aussie mate at Sydney airport. I don’t know how many mates Bruce took with him travelling, but I assume there were more than three.
In their preparations, besides taking their best blue denim jeans and Rio underwear they took the three essentials that all wise travellers need. The first thing they took was plenty of money. It took the form of American Express cards, traveller’s cheques, and all took in part some hard cash in American dollars. In this way they could ensure that no matter where they were en-route that they could meet their expenses. It was like travelling with gold, the universal currency, but much easier to carry.
The second important item they took was their Old Spice cologne, talcum powder, and after-shave. They expected that there would places on their journey where having a good wash could be difficult to obtain. Besides, they wanted to smell just right should they meet nice young ladies on the way.
Their third important item they took was insurance. They wanted to be protected from all sorts of mishaps. You never know what might happen to you when travelling in strange and far away places. They took out a package of insurances arranged by their trusted travel agent. That included travel insurance, medical insurance, and death insurance. It didn’t matter whether you were broke, sick or dead you were guaranteed to be flown home.
Bruce and his mates planned to travel overland from Kathmandu to London before returning home. There were various routes to take. All routes went through India and after that Bruce and his mates headed for Palestine.
By the time they reached Palestine they all looked thin, weathered, and feeling a bit despondent. They were very low on money. The Old Spice cologne was all used up. And all there insurance didn’t mean very much especially in the wilderness where people didn’t understand what they were talking about. And yet they were fortunate in being able to stay and work in a Kibbutz until they were ready to continue their journey.
Bruce and his mates met Christians staying and working at the Kibbutz. From them they heard the stories about Jesus from and how he is the Son of God born in Bethlehem. These Christians took Bruce and his mates to Bethlehem which wasn’t too far away from their Kibbutz. They all wanted to see the place where the baby Jesus once lay in a manger, the very place where God had entered his creation to bring about salvation to all people.
As soon as they arrived in the town of Bethlehem they joined a tour and their guide also spoke of the stories of Jesus. The tour guide pointed out the various land marks in Bethlehem and talked about the Three Wise Men from the East who came to worship Jesus, Son of God.
Like many others before them, they too were here in Bethlehem to see for themselves where Jesus our Saviour was born and the reason why so many people all over the world celebrate Christmas. It was the day before Christmas and Bethlehem was full. There were more tourists expected the following day to see the birth place of our salvation. Bruce and his mates were happy to be there. Although Bethlehem was crowded with people pressing pass each other, there was a special atmosphere. It was an atmosphere that combined the holiness and mystery of God, with hope, peace, joy and love seen on the faces in the crowd.
Bruce and his mates had their lives changed through their experience in Bethlehem. They had heard the stories about Jesus, Son of God and how he came to bring salvation to all people, and the promise to come again to make all things right. They couldn’t understand why God brought about his plan of salvation, of all places in Bethlehem and why God became man and was born as a baby in a manger. It’s a mystery to us all, but a joy to behold.
Soon afterwards, they left Bethlehem believing that Jesus had brought salvation to all people. They continued their journey to London before travelling home by a different route. Their journey had changed them. They carried with them the gifts that only God can give: hope, peace, joy and love in their hearts for all people.
We a like Bruce and his mates, every time we come to church, we too are like the wise men of the East. We have travelled, and in a way have entered Bethlehem to come and see Jesus our Saviour. There you will hear stories of Jesus and experience the mystery of God. You will hear his love for you and your life can change there too. Promise yourself next year, the beginning of a new year that you will follow your star to Bethlehem. That is, come to church and meet with God. Come and experience the joy of salvation that God has for you. Amen.