Have you booked your holidays yet?
What are the considerations when thinking about a holiday?
Firstly there's the destination. Where do we really want to go….. have we looked at the brochure, read the small print and made our decision?
Secondly there's the consideration of how we get there. Is it all part of a package or have we got to make all the arrangements ourselves.
Thirdly there's the cost. Is the choice of destination worth the cost involved?
Fourthly we need to be sure of our departure point. Far handier to be departing from a nearby airport than having to travel hundreds of miles
Fifthly, before we go we have to be sure that we're not carrying excess baggage, that we have our ticket (which is the proof that our booking has been accepted) and that we have everything we need with us to sustain us on the journey.
And lastly, especially if we're flying we have to have confidence in the company we're dealing with - that they're going to get us to our destination in one piece.
I'm not a great one for analogies, but I do think this is particularly good one for understanding what the gospel writer John is trying to say in that wonderful verse in chapter 3 verse 16
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that all who believe in him should not perish but have eternal life"
Destination - Christianity is quite clear on this one. The destination is heaven. It's not like the modern travel brochure with a choice of hundreds of different destinations - just the one, heaven.
What's it like? Where are the glossy color pictures? Sorry, there aren't any, just some rather vivid descriptions in the book of Revelation from which artists through the ages have painted rather magnificent pictures.
Where is it? Difficult one, that……. could be a long way away, or quite near. You see, the word 'heaven' doesn't necessarily refer to a literal place. Indeed in Ephesians 2:6 it says that 'God raised us up with Christ and has seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus' - in effect saying that heaven could be pretty close to where we could be now. The Kingdom of Heaven, or the Kingdom of God as it is known started with Jesus, continues today and stretches to infinity.
What's the company like? Oh, we're on firmer footing now, because you'll be in very good company 'with living creatures and elders, angelic hosts and multitudes of the redeemed, drawn from every nation, bringing homage and praise'
How do we get there? All the arrangements have been made, we really don't need worry about that. There is only one route that can be taken, and the tour operator has already made the journey very successfully. In fact he's very keen that anyone who wants to should follow in his footsteps.
The cost is a difficult one. In theory you see, the actual cost of the journey has been taken care of, but it has to be said that there are some additional costs which might have to be born by the traveler. None however that can't be overcome with help.
The departure point is a real plus, because the journey starts from where we are at the moment we choose to travel - and how much more convenient can you get than that?
Excess baggage. Well, to be honest that's often a problem. Are you like my mother who, when she starts packing never knows whether to take clothes for sun, rain, cold or all three, and always ends up with far too much in her suitcase. That's true with this journey. You have to travel light, there's no other way. Leave the baggage at home, you won't need it where you're heading - it'll just be a hindrance and slow you down. Trust the tour operator when he says leave everything and follow him.
Confidence? Well, to be honest if we don't have confidence in the operator then we really shouldn't be travelling. We should be going back and reading the booking information again, until we're sure that this is a journey we really want to make.
It's a bit trite, I know. But put simply this is what the gospel story contained in this one verse is all about.
Becoming a Christian does involve a journey. It starts where we are - literally that point in our lives where we know for certain that this is what we want to do. It has a clear and defined destination, heaven. The Kingdom of Heaven, or the Kingdom of God starts in the here and now, and goes on into eternity. We have only glimpses of it in the bible, but enough to know it's worth travelling to. The company will be, and already is, worth the journey.
You have to travel light. We carry so much baggage around in our lives - all those cares, concerns, prejudices, hates and dislikes, all those dark thoughts and actions we're not so keen to admit. The people crying to Moses called their baggage sin, and God provided a means, through the snake lifted up on that pole - a symbol- for them to know that their sin had been forgiven. John tells us that in the same way Jesus on that cross is the sign that our baggage has been taken away - if we will believe his word - and there's absolutely nothing to hinder us in our journey if we hold on to that fact.
The cost has really been paid. But for each of us on that journey there may be additional costs to bear. The disciples had to give up everything to follow Jesus. We may not have to do that…….. but there's nothing to say we won't.
And confidence? Well, as I've said before if we're not 100% sure about this journey then we're better off to go back to the book and read up about it again. to read the small print, get an understanding of what this journey is all about, grab hold of the picture of the destination as it's painted by the writers in the bible, and be prepared to be challenged into a commitment that will totally transform your life.
'For god so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life .'
So who was Jesus?
And what did he do?