Thought for the Weekend: Like wise men, always do your best for Jesus
Rev Gareth Burke, Stranmillis Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Belfast
It was a nightmare moment. I had been chosen to sing the first verse of the carol We Three Kings of Orient Are at the school Christmas nativity event. I think I was about 10 years of age. The choir had been kitted out in angelic costumes - white flour bags with some gold tinsel for our hair.
At the time I felt that there were about a thousand people there, but that was, of course, the assessment of a 10-year-old. One to two hundred people is probably more accurate. Anyway, the great moment arrived. I stood on the stage before the assembled parents, friends and admirers but, unbelievably, when I was meant to begin singing, no sound came forth.
The pianist helpfully played the introduction again, but sadly the second time around the same thing happened. Silence.
It would appear that I was suffering from a condition normally referred to as 'stage fright'.
One of my friends, who even at such a young age had developed the knack for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, said to me afterwards in a attempt to comfort me: "You got on well tonight, Gareth!"
Looking back, I'm not so sure that it was as big a disaster as I imagined. Beautiful as the words and music are in John Hopkins' carol, I have come to wonder about the accuracy of that first line, 'We three Kings of Orient are'. The carol is, of course, based on the account in Matthew chapter two of wise men from the east visiting the infant Jesus and bringing to him their gifts. If we look carefully at the Bible account, however, there is no clear indication that there was only three of them and nothing to suggest that they were kings.
So, what can we say with certainty about these wise men? It would appear they were men of faith and that they brought expensive gifts to Jesus - gold, frankincense and myrrh - because they wanted to express their love and devotion to Jesus. They gave to Jesus their best.
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'What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man , I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give him: give my heart'