…what the wise men bring

Today on the wonderful @natwivity the wise men are really getting into their stride. They are looking up (at the star)  saddling up (the camels – including the dubiously named ‘Carl’) and setting off (for Bethlehem).

Theirs are the parts that little boys always want to play in the nativity play (wardrobe incidents not withstanding). They get to wear great costumes, carry expensive looking gifts, and rarely have to learn any lines.

As we grow up with the story we learn to appreciate their role in the drama of Christ’s birth too.  Coming from such a distance – both geographically and spiritually, they emphasise the global enormity of Christ’s birth.  By turning up at the baby shower, even a few days late, they fulfil long held prophecies concerning the Messiah’s arrival. As Isaiah had predicted “kings will be drawn to the brightness of your dawn” (Isaiah 60 v.2)

Some years ago at a family nativity service the wise men entered the church to the majestic strains of Aaron Copland’s ‘fanfare for the common man‘ . Someone afterwards queried how appropriate this was – given Copland’s Jewish roots and humanist stance. In my view it could not have been more appropriate as a fitting  fanfare for the arrival of unexpected and unlikely guests at the nativity scene.

I have another week to go until I preach on these men at a carol service featuring artistic depictions of the story from distant Ethiopia. My question is this – how to honour their story without sentimentalizing it? How do we extract the lessons of their persistence and humble worship for a Christmas congregation who will not all be Christians?

Suggestions welcome…