I wonder, what do you follow? It may be like me, that you follow a favourite football team (at the time of writing my team are doing very well indeed!) Maybe you follow a particular series on the television. I know for many people they love to watch the soaps. Maybe you follow a pop group, a celebrity or a favourite author? There are many and varied things that we follow, the subject may be different, but one thing in common is that following something means we actively invest in it.
To follow something means to be interested in it, it means that you will go out of your way to stay involved, up to date and engaged. This might also come at considerable cost to yourself and those around you. For example, I know of someone who is so committed to following his passion that he will travel the length and breadth of this country but also further afield around the world to watch Liverpool Football Club. He won’t miss a game home or away! Now that is dedication – but it comes at considerable cost, both financially and in time spent away from loved ones.
It also means sacrifice, you see if you are so committed to following something, it is always to the detriment of something else. Money or time spent on one thing, obviously means less money and less time to spend on other things – in fact other things are often neglected! This was certainly true for me; before I was married I was a very keen cyclist, competing in lots of races and time trails. This would require long hours spent training and lots of money spent on bike parts and kit. The problem was this was to the detriment of my developing relationship with Nikki (my wife). She would often come and watch me race, spending long hours stood freezing on the side of the road, bored stiff! As I matured, I realised the importance of investing in my relationship with Nikki rather than cycling.
The Church of England motto for Advent is a simple one ‘Follow the Star’. What does this mean? For me, two things:
- It reminds me of the wisemen who were determined to do just that, to follow the star. They gave up so much of their time and finances to follow the star which would lead them to a real encounter with the Christ Child. But this required sacrifice, it required them setting out to the detriment of other things. In essence, they put God first and everything else came after that. What a challenge that is for us this Advent? Do we/are we prepared to put God first over everything else and are we prepared to follow him, sometimes into the unknown, on what might seem a long and uncomfortable journey? Are we prepared in invest in our relationship with God? The fact is, the Wisemen did this and they met with Jesus!
2. What (or who) is the star in our lives? What are the things that we give priority to? To answer that, perhaps think about where you spend your money and time? If you answer that honestly, often these are the priority areas in our lives. The birth of Jesus calls us to a different way of living, ‘Immanuel’ literally means ‘God with us’. God in human flesh born at Christmas is with us. The creator of the world is with us, he has come amongst us. Jesus the only person to live a perfect life, who sacrificed everything to show us what real love is and what real sacrifice is – is with us! This is what Christmas is all about. He came to save us and to show us how to live.
As we journey through Advent into Christmas, can I suggest that he is the ‘star’ that we should follow? That we should put him as the number one priority in our lives and that this Christmas we allow the ourselves to journey to the crib that we might have a deep and life changing encounter with the Christ child.