2 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”
9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11
Today Nouwen reminds us that true ministry is not just the giving of gifts – it is the giving of self. How then do we fit this with today’s Bible reading, which seems to be about the giving of gifts?
Perhaps the message is that it is all to easy to remember the gifts and be vaguely aware of the journey that brought the wise men there. Wise men? Magi? Sorcers? Members of an obscure sect? What does seem certain is that these travellers had come a long way, and ultimately risked life and limb if discovered fleeing from Herod without telling him where Jesus was – and that giving of self, as well as the giving of gifts, was a sign of their wonder at what had occurred and their need to pay homage themselves.
So to I guess it must be in life. I could just turn up to church on a Sunday morning, safe in the knowledge my standing order is in place. But I don’t. I feel called to do more – to give up time – far less than many, but still a fair amount given my somewhat insane work hours before Christmas. In setting an example in other spheres of life – I will muck in to cover for those who are sick or busy at work. I could go on, but I won’t.
There is, of course, a big risk that you, my reader (an estimate of one reader isn’t far wrong!) think that this is a vainglorious exercise and that I need to go read Matthew 6:1 “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Perhaps. But that isn’t the point I was trying to make. It is that with prayer, I realise that I cannot not do some of these things.
How much more so then for those called to the priesthood. In our lent course last year, we looked at the sacraments, and in one session we covered ordination. Our course was being led by a (then) aspiring (now current) ordinand, and we looked at the words of the Common Worship service for ordination: “Priests are ordained to lead God’s people in the offering of praise and the proclamation of the gospel. They share with the Bishop in the oversight of the Church, delighting in its beauty and rejoicing in its well-being. They are to set the example of the Good Shepherd always before them as the pattern of their calling. With the Bishop and their fellow presbyters, they are to sustain the community of the faithful by the ministry of word and sacrament, that we all may grow into the fullness of Christ and be a living sacrifice acceptable to God.” Again, we all realised that this isn’t something that you necessarily want to do – but perhaps something that those called to priesthood can’t not do?
Thank you, Lord, for the opportunity to serve you and to serve others. Help me not to turn a blind eye when I see those in need of my time. Help those called to greater service than I in their ministry of service to you and your people. Sustain them, uphold them, support them when they are unable to serve, and pray that we, in turn, may graciously accept that service and through it learn more of you. Amen.
And, as the readings seem to have skipped to Epiphany before we have even reached twelfth night, we might as well have a setting of We Three Kings. After all, why not a jazz version performed on an ice rink?