Matthew 2: 1-12

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Unless you do something about it, in practice, intentionality is just a long word. Simply thinking about doing something never makes it happen. In spite of this fact, we are very clever as human beings, at deceiving ourselves. In a nutshell, that’s what ‘Practising for Christmas’ is all about … trying to take the lid off our own attempts to deceive ourselves. After all, the Bible reminds us ‘the heart is deceitful above all things’ (Jer. 17:9). Mine is no exception, what about yours?

Churches make ‘mission statements’, but leave them behind once the discussions and consultations have ended.

Governments make promises, but allow them to become buried under red-tape once elected.

People … well, I pretend I’ve done something when I’ve only read a book about it, or think I ‘understand’ an issue.

You may well have your own ways of scheming, we all do, but what we’re not so good at is actually following up and doing something.

The Magi were different … they translated intentionality into practice.

Although they were not 100% sure of where God was guiding them they still started out. From ‘the east’ to Jerusalem was a long way!

Thinking back over this year: can you identify any times when you thought you’d heard from God, but not acted upon it? Don’t go into deep depression over this, but try and identify one step you could have taken and answer why you didn’t. Do this with a view to taking that step when the next opportunity comes along.

The Magi kept moving towards their destination. They weren’t always responding to the shortest route directions on their Sat-Navs. Herod tried to sabotage their adventure, they had many moments of head scratching and turning the map upside down, but they got there in the end.

Thinking back over this year: can you identify any times when you’ve been taken off track? Try and identify how you allowed that to happen. If we don’t take advantage of having a great teacher alongside us (failure), we’re much more likely to repeat the error at the next opportunity. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the Lord anticipates us finding the shortest route towards 100% Christ-likeness. In fact, I actually believe he grows us through the steps backwards, sideways and any other which way route we take, as long as we keep our eyes fixed ahead: not exactly on the star, as in the case of the Magi, but on Jesus.

Prayer: Dear Lord. Save me from good intentions, which remain plans in my head. Help me to translate those things, which originate in your heart into real life, whether that be by changing my heart, or acting then out in practice. Confirm to me your forgiveness for my sins of omission, so I might live today in the light of your commission. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Nigel Coles

Nigel is Regional Team Leader of the West of England Baptist Network. He facilitates the life of the webnet team and oversees the missional strategy for the region. He also works to develop missional strategy over a wider geographical area with our partner Associations and Baptists Together. Nigel believes that when Jesus sent out seventy-two others, he meant everyone who was there, and this passion to help everyone find their way in the mission of God is what inspired the development of Seventy-two.