I’m always trying to rescue the Christmas story from the realm of fantasy and fable but that is no mean task given the way we shower it with snowflakes and embellish it with cute stable scenes.

That’s why I was so delighted to learn that the Sanctuary Foundation released the short video ‘Far from Home’ to highlight the link between the authentic Christmas story and the lived experience of millions of refugees in the world today.

The story of the wise men, whose visit to Jesus we celebrate this coming week, clearly points us in that direction. For as soon as they had gone an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to flee to Egypt with his family which he did, staying there until king Herod died in 4 BC.

As I read that story again I found help thinking about that dream and the various ways that God can guide us. Take angels for example. I have never had a personal encounter with one, or to be more accurate an angel has never spoken to me. But I’m sure I’ve been in an angelic presence. It occurred when I was preaching at a church in Newport, Gwent. Much to my embarrassment I fainted in the pulpit (a lack of sleep and no breakfast were to blame) but when I returned there some time later the church secretary told me that I might think he was daft but as I fell he saw a figure in white standing behind me with outstretched hands.

I’ve certainly known Him guide me in some remarkable ways though. Take the night I sensed Him calling me into ministry for example. I asked my pastor if we could meet up for a chat and as he agreed he told me he knew why I wanted to do that. ‘God told you to become a pastor tonight’ he said, adding he told me at the same time too!

But I suppose I normally experienced ‘His guiding hand’ through a combination of Bible study, prayer and wise Christian counsel. I felt led to write and broadcast for example when I heard a preacher talk about the woman in Samaria who had such an encounter with Jesus that she told her whole town. ‘So how can you do the same?’ he asked.

In the same way I became part of a group that took aid into Croatia in the early 1990’s. A friend of mine was impacted by the words ‘Blessed are the merciful’ and because of that we stepped out in an adventure of faith that was blessed way beyond anything we ever thought possible. As Lord Anderson of Swansea said in the Foreword to my book It Just So Happened: ‘So much of Croatia was destroyed, so many people killed, so much human suffering and so much destruction. We meet a string of impossible situations, but God brings this committed group of men safely through this. After the first ‘coincidence you know that there will be many more ‘it just so happened situations’

So why don’t you ask God to show you what you can do to make this world a better place in 2024? But a word of warning: if you do decide to do that, be prepared for anything to happen.

After all He is nothing if not the God of predictable unpredictability!