I’ve been give the task of kicking of holiday club on Monday morning by leading devotions for our many wonderful volunteers. Here’s what I’ll be saying:
This morning I am fulfilling something of a childhood ambition. No, my ambition as a child growing up in East Kent was not to do the Monday morning leaders’ devotions at Lighthouse High Wycombe! But I did desperately want to play one of the 3 kings in the school nativity play. An ambition which was sadly never fulfilled because, at my primary school at least, only boys got to be kings. I was an angel, a sheep, and once even an alien, but never a king.
So, when Calvin asked me to talk to you this morning, and I discovered that the story we’re looking at with the children today was the story of the 3 kings visiting Jesus, it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss. So here I am, at last, onstage in my cloak and homemade crown.
Except… the Bible doesn’t actually talk about kings visiting Jesus.
Ok, so the 3 wise men.
Except… the Bible doesn’t actually tell us there were three of them. And it doesn’t even tell us that they were necessarily all men – the word Magi could just as soon apply to a mixed gender group.
So what do we know about them?! We know that they had travelled a long way. We can safely assume that the journey had not been easy. No aeroplanes in those days of course. And not necessarily any camels either – that’s another thing that’s not in the Bible. And they didn’t have Google maps. They followed a star.
They went on a long, hard journey. It was a journey involving a lot of trust: trust that the star was leading them the right way, trust that God’s prophecies about the Messiah were true. It can’t have been an easy undertaking for them, whoever they were.
So why did they do it? Because they wanted to see Jesus. They so desperately longed to see the Christ, the promised saviour, that they were willing to go to any lengths. And when they finally did see him, the Bible tells us “they bowed down and worshipped him”. Because really, what else could they do?!
But what did they see? Who is this Jesus, this Christ, this saviour, Messiah, light of the world, who was worth going to so much trouble?
If you do a Google image search for Jesus, the first few pages mainly look a bit like this:
Of course, none of us actually knows what Jesus really looks like. It’s worth seeing how different artists from different cultures have portrayed Jesus. It tells us something important about what Jesus means to different people, and in that way we can start to build up a broader picture of who Jesus is.
So, have a look at these images. Notice how each one makes you feel – which “Inside Out” character or characters it connects with for you – joy, sadness, disgust… or maybe something else. Notice which images you like and which you don’t, and which ones make you want to find out more.
One of the questions we’ll be exploring with the children today is this: how far will you go to know Jesus? So this morning I want to ask you: how far will you go to help these children know Jesus?
I’m not talking about physical distance, but how far will you go out of your way? How far will you go out of your comfort zone? How far will you go to help these children really get to know who Jesus is and what he’s all about, beyond what they might have encountered before? That’s my challenge to you today and throughout the week.
And if you don’t know Jesus, if following him isn’t part of your life at the moment, I ask you: how far will you go to know Jesus? I’m not asking you to trek across deserts! But maybe go so far as to ask someone who is a Christian to tell you why they follow Jesus. See if it makes sense. Maybe go so far as to speak to God in your head, to just try praying, and see what happens. It’s up to you how far you want to go, but I can tell you this: Jesus would go to any lengths for you.
And that’s the message we want the children to get this week too. We have a wonderful saviour, a loving God, a king who doesn’t need a crown. And I truly believe, in fact I know, that he is longing to transform the life of every child, teenager and adult who sets foot on the Lighthouse site this week. How far will you go to make sure they know that too?
It’s the Good News, the best news there is, and we have a chance this week to share it with hundreds of children: they – we – are infinitely loved, endlessly forgiven, totally free in Jesus Christ. So let’s pull out all the stops and go however far we need to, to get that message across – to ourselves, to one another, and above all to the children.