By Andy Muckle, St George’s Crypt
This last weekend, the western church celebrated Epiphany, the story of the Magi (the wise men or women) who travelled far from the east bearing kingly gifts for the Christ child. We don’t know much about the Magi, they make a brief appearance in the nativity story and then disappear, never to be mentioned again. What we do know is that they must have travelled for many months following the star to reach Bethlehem, and that journey would have been fraught with danger along dusty and unforgiving roads. Over my fifty-four years of life, I have endured some difficult journeys myself. One that comes to mind was the overnight ferry from Aberdeen to Shetland. Sitting in the bar having a quiet pint before departure, the captain came on the tannoy to advise that the weather for the crossing was predicted to be bad. I have never seen a bar empty so quickly. He was right, it was dreadful and I spent the night in my cabin bed with my head and then my feet hitting the walls in turn as the boat lurched across the sea. That was extreme, but other more mundane journeys can also be fraught, take for instance my daily commute into Leeds on the train. I join with that plucky band of commuters whose sole topic of conversation can be whether the train is on-time/late/crowded/cold/dirty/no bike spaces. You get the picture.
Yet am I (and contemporary culture generally) missing the point of travel? The word travel comes from the old English word travail…to engage in painful and laborious effort. Travel is not meant to be a walk in the park, it involves effort, maybe even wrestling with difficult encounters and situations. Travel involves taking the rough with the smooth and keeping going, with the same perseverance the Magi showed as they travelled the long road to Bethlehem. Our journey of faith is no different; it involves days of sunshine and days when the world seems to crash down around us. Yet we are no alone…as Jesus says in the Gospel according to St Matthew ‘Come unto me all that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.’ Whatever the journey, whatever direction of travel we take in life, in all the travails…Jesus is there to comfort and share our burdens. Thanks be to God for that Epiphany gift.