This camp focuses on Father and sons bonding moment over a weekend to create lasting memories between them and inspire them to live passionately for God. The weekend is conducted in a camping environment where fathers and son enjoy nature as well as join outdoor activities and games.
Father and Son Camp (28 Feb - 1 Mar 2015)
The time came for the baby to be born, and [Mary] gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. (Luke 2:6–7)
I wonder if you spotted something different in this reading? Instead of ‘no room . . . in the inn’ we had ‘no guest room’. It’s a recognition that the Greek word traditionally translated ‘inn’ is better translated as ‘guest room’. It makes more sense because given that Joseph was of the line of David he could probably have knocked on almost any door, listed his ancestry, been identified as a distant relative and been offered a room.
What seems likely is that the house where Joseph and Mary planned to stay had only two rooms: one for the family and one for the guests.
For some reason – possibly the census – the guest room was full. The only alternative was the lower part of the house, where the animals were usually kept. Of all the traditions associated with Jesus’ birth, one of the most reliable is that he was born in a cave, and it’s quite likely that the lower part of the house would have been cut in a cave-like way from the rock.
So, the baby is born, wrapped in strips of cloth and placed in the manger – the animal feed trough. That this was highly unusual is suggested by the shepherds being told that ‘the baby in a manger’ is a sign.
With Jesus’ birth we come to something quite extraordinarily profound. Christian teaching is that, in this baby, God was somehow entering his own creation. The all-powerful Maker and Sustainer of everything – from tiniest bacteria to largest galaxy – is reduced to a few pounds of helpless flesh.
This is the extraordinary truth that we call the incarnation – that, in Jesus, God became one of us. It is an extraordinary descent from highest majesty to lowest insignificance, from unbelievable wealth to desperate poverty. What can we learn from this? Well, we get some idea of exactly how much God loves us; being born in this context set the pattern for the rest of Jesus’ earthly life.
There is another thing worth noticing – the phrase that Luke uses: ‘She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger . . . ’ At the end of Luke’s Gospel, in chapter 23, we read that Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body and ‘then he took the body down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock’. The parallel is very striking.
For our sake Jesus became the lowest of the low, quite literally from the cradle to the cross.
God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. (Galatians 4:4–5)
We have followed the Advent story. We have looked at the Advent principle that God chooses to work through the little people, the marginalised and the outcasts. We have also seen that, in Jesus, God’s grace extends beyond one nation to the whole world.
There are facts and there are experiences and the events of the Nativity should not be reduced to bare facts; the reality is that they must be experienced. The Advent story, the great story of God coming into our world as a human being, demands a response.
The Advent story is not just a story but a drama and if you have ever been to a musical or a play you will know what happens after the final curtain. While the audience applaud, the cast comes onto the stage and takes a bow.
As we conclude these Advent meditations, imagine something similar. The curtain has just fallen on the drama and, as you applaud, the curtain rises again, revealing people and scenery.
At the front is a semicircle of people. Centre stage, with the spotlight shining on him, is the infant Jesus. Immediately behind him are Mary and Joseph, who gaze on the infant; perhaps we should add the anonymous midwife next to them? On one side are the shepherds, staring at the Christ-child with wonderment. On the other side are the shepherds and the Magi worshipping. On the edge, we can also make out the figures of Simeon and Anna.
We now notice that further back and barely visible in the darkness of the stage are, to one side, the empty thrones of Herod and Caesar and the deserted counting table of Quirinius. On the other side, also in the shadows and equally deserted, is the Temple. Caesar, Herod, the governor, the priests and religious lawyers have gone.
Now, as the audience continues to applaud, something strange happens. The cast on stage beckons us to join them.
The invitation is clear. Come and join the worship of the child! See, in this infant, all that you need: salvation, forgiveness and hope.
The question is for you, and you alone, to answer.
Do you step forward and add your worship to theirs? Does the Nativity story include you? This story – more than any other story – demands from us not simply hearing, or even appreciation. It demands our belief and involvement.
On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11)
The star that led the Magi reappears over Bethlehem and they follow it and find the house. Bethlehem was a quiet, agricultural and respectably Jewish village. Imagine the entourage of the Magi arriving: two worlds are colliding.
The Magi enter and see Mary and the child. They bow down and worship him and offer him gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. What’s going on here? God’s good news is being revealed to those who are not of the Jewish faith. Matthew is hinting at something that will become clear with Jesus’ final words: ‘Go and make disciples of all nations . . .’ In cinema terms the visit of the Magi is a like a trailer for a forthcoming feature – the new, global world of the church.
The Magi are also models for faith.
We must give him what he is worth. Not just in treasure, but also with our time and talents. In 1872 Christina Rossetti wrote ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’. The last verse reads:
‘What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.’
The Magi are models for us: to search for Jesus, to experience joy, to worship and to offer him what we have and are to him.