'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.'
'So God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.'
'God saw all that he had made and it was very good.'
'When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.'
'The the Lord God said...'What is this you have done?''
'So the LORD God banished them from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken...he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.'
'Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.'
'So Cain went out from the Lord's presence, and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.'
'...people moved eastward...and settled there'
'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 in the east and have come to worship him." Matthew 2'
These astrologers, these pagan astrologers, travelled from the East to come and find this new-born King, Jesus. They saw something unique and special in the stars that they were studying, within their own religion and tradition, and set out to discover who this unique sign in the sky was pointing towards.
These Magi were not good Jewish people, they were not good Christians(!), but astrologers from a far off land who would not have understood and worshipped YHWH, yet they were open enough to God to take a journey of discovery and find this unique child, God made flesh. They travelled from the East and discovered Jesus.
In the book of Genesis we read of how when people turned away from God, when they relied on their own strength and their own desires, they moved east; moving east was moving away from God.
In Genesis 11 we read of how people travelled eastward and built a tower trying to get to the heavens in their own strength. When their plan failed they were scattered to all the ends of the earth.
The birth of Jesus, this unique and mysterious event where the fullness of God dwells in the fragility and vulnerability of a baby, brings all people from all nations, from all backgrounds, back to God.
Humanity has travelled eastward and Jesus draws us all from the east back to himself to discover who He is and the beauty and truth of being in relationship with him.
And God is using the most unusual ways and the most unique signs to draw the most unlikely people to come and worship his Son, not only this Christmas, but throughout time.
God is drawing people from the East, calling them from the East, just as he called those Magi, to come and be in relationship with him through his Son Jesus.
On resurrection morning Jesus stood in the cool of the garden outside the empty tomb and called Mary by name and God continues to call humanity by name back from the east to walk with him once again in the garden in the cool of the day.
And he calls us just as we are. And because he calls us just as we are, we will be surprised and delighted by who is coming to be with Jesus. It is exciting. It is amazing.
So this year may we all see the special signs that God has displayed before us to draw each one of us from the East into relationship with him. May we all discover this Jesus, this amazing, unique, full of grace and truth Jesus, for ourselves. And in discovering him this Christmas, may we all encounter how beautiful, mysterious, fragile and radical that first Christmas was because of this beautiful, fragile, mysterious and radical God.