For (the kingdom of heaven) is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’
But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’ Matthew 25:14-28
As I pondered the Nativity and the stories of Christmas this season I thought there would be value in working through a couple themes that run through the individual events, allowing us to see a bigger picture of what God was doing in the lives of the individuals in those stories. This past week Bonnie and I got talking about the church in general, and what people need. One of the things we discussed was the examined life – the spiritual discipline of critical thinking. Why do we believe what we believe? What effect does it have on my life? Who is God to me? You will encounter people that are in church because they don’t know what else to do, even when that church doesn’t teach the transformed life which is the Gospel of Jesus. Spending time with God changes us. He is creating the image of His Son in our life by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is not a one-time event, it is a journey.
This journey is intentional. It is one thing to put your one foot in front of the other and to keep pressing on in life, but if you don’t look up and are intentional and pursuing something bigger than yourself, you are as likely to be chained to a post and walking as a slave in a circle around a mill stone as not. That is a journey that goes nowhere. As we look at the theme of journey in the Christmas story I hope you catch a glimpse of God’s vision for you. He created you for very specific as well as general things. The general things include things like loving God with all you have and your neighbor as yourself. It includes pursuing holiness of thought, holiness of words, and holiness of actions. Aside from those things and the other elements of following Christ and abiding in Him are those things that are for us as individuals, those things that are connected to the talents He has given us.
Consider the Magi – Following the Star. They travelled together, following a vision bigger than themselves. They were scientists and academics, studying all their lives. They were a band of brothers, in the trenches, or sand dunes as the case may be. They collaborated with the others around them and weren’t afraid to put forth their understanding, knowing that they would be challenged to defend their understanding. If it was truth, it would stand. If it was truth it was universal. God intervenes and shows them something in the heavens that compels them forward. They leave their comforts, their secure places, and go out into the big wide world – to follow a star. “Hey, what’s up for you next week, Baobub?” “Well, there’s this star. I think I am going to go follow it. Does that sound crazy? There is something bigger at work here, and I need to figure it out…” Uhhh, yes. It does sound crazy, but when God gives you a vision, a purpose, you go. What star are you following? Maybe this season you need to look up into the heavens and see what God is calling you to do and be. Just count the cost of that, though. It may take you around the world!
Consider Mary – Visit to Elizabeth. What do you do with something when it is only a promise? Who do you have in your life that you can confide in, can listen to and accept their wisdom? One of the common themes I hear about and read about in the younger generations is the desire for a mentor, a discipler. Here is Mary, somewhere around 14 years old, betrothed and pregnant. And here is Elizabeth, late in her years of life, also pregnant, for the first time. While Elizabeth couldn’t offer personal experience regarding child rearing, she could offer life experience about maturity, about God at work, about faith and the temple. And they had the shared experience of God doing something new, of God bringing life to barren places. And so Mary goes to her relative for three months. Is there someone on your journey you can spend time with, who can help you grow and mature in Christ? Who can help you understand what God is doing in and through you? Look for your Elizabeth, your spiritual mentor – someone who is growing in Christ themselves, who is on the same journey of Christlikeness as you are. If you want to grow in Christ you have to spend time with others who also make that same commitment. If your best friends are caught up in the world, they cannot help you be what God is calling you to be.
Consider Mary and Joseph (1) – To Bethlehem. This was a difficult journey. Mary is pregnant and has to leave home for the hubbub of a small town bursting at the seams because of the government census. They went not being sure of where they would stay, and indeed there was no room for them. Their journey ends in a place of poverty, living with animals. And that is the place God chose for His Son to be born. Don’t let riches and the stuff of this world distract you from where God is leading you. God used the Romans to move Mary and Joseph. In that acceptance of life, of living lives in line with government, God fulfilled what His promises of generations earlier. Just by living and following Jesus God can do the miraculous through you. When you let go of the stuff, and just live for Jesus, He will use you to change the world around you. I never thought or planned to live in Saskatchewan, yet here I am because this is where life led me – this is where God led me. So while I am here, while you are here, allow God to use you and the talents and strengths He has given you.
Consider the Shepherds – Fields to manger. Ever been pulled out of your comfort zone? The shepherds were, but consider why. They were the recipients of the angel’s journey out of heaven. These angels were loaded for war – they are called the heavenly host which was a military term. The incarnation, God invading Satan’s domain on earth, was the hinge-point of time. Everything before had looked to this day. Everything after came out of this singular event. God invaded time out of eternity, and the shepherds were given the message. Has God broken through in your life? The shepherds dropped everything and for a time went and saw the Savior and told their story. Then they just as likely went back to the fields, but I can’t imagine they were the same. Everywhere they went they would have told of the bright light and heavenly visitation. While it may not have changed their journey in human terms, it did change their spiritual journey, and it changed how they looked at life from that moment on. They understood better than ever what God was doing, and who they were before God. Let your journey lead you to the place where you encounter God – let Him make sense of your life.
Consider Mary and Joseph (2) – To Egypt. In the midst of life God redirected them. They had the visit with the Magi, the confirmation from the shepherds and several sources that God was at work in and through this baby; and so when God moves them suddenly from being settled to a foreign country, as unsettling as it was, off they go. They didn’t really grasp the “Why” of the going, but they knew the “Who”, and that makes all the difference. If God says, “Go” you go. While the shepherd’s encounter with God didn’t change how and where they lived, it certainly changed Joseph and Mary’s experience. God was protecting them, and moving them to a place that they needed for that moment. Jesus said some 30 years later that if we seek God and His kingdom, all the other things we need in life to accomplish the work He has given us to do. When God redirects you, don’t fight it. He knows what He is doing.
Consider Jesus – the incarnation. Jesus left the throne in heaven to come to earth in the greatest journey of all. All God asks for is everything! Your possessions are God’s, your rights are God’s. You are a steward of all that you have, all that God has given you. This journey only makes sense when you live it out in Him. Don’t bury your talent – invest it in life. Your journey is one of a kind and as specific as those shepherds, as Mary and Joseph’s. Walk with purpose and grab hold of all that God has grabbed hold of for you.