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From the Vicarage - January

Step softly, under snow or rain, to find the place where men can pray;

the way is all so very plain that we may lose the way…


So begins G K Chesterton’s poem The Wise Men’.


The account of the visitors who arrived to visit the Christ Child continues to intrigue many of us. Who were they, and where did they come from? When did they actually set out, and why? How many of them made that journey and how did they travel?


Many of us think we know the answers to those questions after enjoying generations of children’s nativity plays, which have in fact ‘filled in the gaps’ – there are many gaps in the Wise Men’s Story!


The account in Matthews Gospel (Chapter 2) tells us that “In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child…?”


It then goes on to tell us as much about King Herod, as it does about those mysterious visitors who have found themselves mistakenly (albeit understandably) at his Palace gates!


After hearing of Herod’s displeasure and the beginnings of his cunning plan, the journey continues and we are comforted by the assurance that, ahead of them, went the star…until it stopped over the place where the child was…” Here it is, that the Wise Men fulfil their mission – the delivery of their gifts…they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”


But the disturbing presence of Herod lingers, and… “having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left…by another road.”


And that’s it – the story of the Wise Men is over. They came, they got lost, they regrouped and arrived, they saw, they made their delivery, they left…

It seems more like the launch of a story than the conclusion of one, doesn’t it? And in many ways of course it is. It is the beginning of the Gospel Story, and those Wise Men leaving a whole host of unanswered questions, and loose ends behind them, remind us of the roads we all travel….


We may have our own preferred answers, to the questions I posed at the beginning. But it seems to me that the biggest question is What Next...?’

A New Year has the habit of posing the ‘What Next…?’ question too, as well as by its very presence beckoning us onwards, and inviting us to ‘step softly’ outwards into its possibilities. Our own ‘soft stepping outward’ may be for different reasons. Some may be stepping out with anticipation, others with trepidation; some stepping out to a newness which feels special, momentous even, others to a newness which feels disorientating, which perhaps has a hint of feeling the need to ‘regroup’ or even that we have ‘lost our way’ a little.


The Wise Men were of course ‘blessed’ by their guiding star, and I’m sure were also a blessing to one another as they shared their journey.


Whatever your own circumstances of ‘stepping out’ into 2024, may there be moments of blessing for each one of you, and may we look, also, to be a blessing to each other.


Love and Blessings to You All this New Year

- Carolyn  (Vicar)


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