THE service at Crediton Methodist Church on January 8 was taken by Rev David Greenwood.  His theme was “The Fourth Wise Man".  Remembering the coming of the wise men we celebrated Epiphany which means "manifest" – the day when God is revealed to the world in Jesus.

The challenge was to show a favourite gift.  David said as a child the family always went away for Christmas.

He was learning to play the violin and had been supplied with a £10 Chinese made violin by the local education authority.

One year when he was about 13 and on holiday his parents sent him to practice his violin a couple of days before Christmas. He opened his case to find a nice violin in place of the £10 Chinese one. That was the best present he has had.

A lady had been given Chinese and Indian cookery books by her daughters and instructed to cook a different recipe from the books each week. This eventually led to her travelling to both countries.

Another lady had been given a box by one of her granddaughters with 365 messages of love to her grandma.

Another lady said a Thermos flask was her best present as she went out walking with friends each week and they were able to stop for a drink.

Finally, a lady showed a picture of earrings bought by her late husband. She was frightened to wear them in case she lost one as they were very precious to her.

David said the best presents live on in our memories. The tradition of giving gifts at Christmas comes from the wise men giving gifts to the baby Jesus.

David told a story written by Henry Van Dyke about Artaban, a rich astrologer living in Persia.  Like his friends, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, he saw a bright star and realised it signified a new king would be born. He arranged to meet up with his friends in Babylon in 10 days time and then follow the star.

He sold his house and bought a sapphire, ruby and pearl to give to the new King and set off to Babylon to meet his friends. On the way he came across a man who appeared to be dying.

Artaban stopped and nursed the man back to health.  He then told the man he had to go as he was journeying to Jerusalem to find the new King of the Jews. The man told him the king would be found in Bethlehem.

Artaban arrived in Babylon but his friends had left without him.

He sold the sapphire to buy camels to travel through the desert, eventually arriving in Bethlehem. He found a mother with a young baby who said Mary and Joseph and the baby had gone to Egypt.

Herod’s soldiers who were killing all the baby boys arrived. Artaban said he was alone and bribed the soldiers with the ruby.

Artaban travelled to Egypt but there was no sign of the King. He spoke to a Rabbi who said the king would not be found in palaces and among rich people but would be found wherever there were poor, needy, sick and hungry people.

Artaban travelled wherever there was need. Would he ever find the king and present to Him his remaining pearl?

He arrived in Jerusalem at Passover and was told that God’s Son was going to be executed.

He came across a woman about to be sold into slavery. Artaban gave the woman the pearl – the last of his gifts – so that she could buy her freedom.

Just then the sky went dark and the ground shook. A tile fell off the roof and hit Artaban on the head and he heard a voice saying "when you fed the hungry, healed the sick, visited those in prison you did it for me. Today you will be with me in paradise". Artaban had finally met the King.

David said he liked receiving gifts but sometimes some gifts are unwanted and unused and stuck in a cupboard.

God likes giving us gifts such as prophesy, healing, wisdom, knowledge, the ability to help others, teaching, preaching, administration. These gifts are given to us by God but are they always what we want?  Do we just put them out of sight and not use the gifts He has given us? 

In a couple of weeks we will celebrate our annual Covenant service when we say "put me to what you will, put me to doing".

It is a time when we re-commit and rededicate ourselves but do we really want to be used by God?

Worship is meaningless unless we use the God given gifts outside and offer ourselves and our lives to His service.

Henry Van Dyke was saying there are many people in our lives that need to be ministered to. Artaban’s journey to see Christ is a reminder that Christ appears in the homeless, the forgotten, elderly and the sick.

Bronwyn Nott

The Methodist Church will offering tea and coffee and a warm space on Fridays between 10am and 12 noon. Entrance will be down the steps to the left of the church – NOT via the entrance from the car park. On Saturdays coffee in the Church is from 10am to 11.30am.  You are welcome to come for a coffee and chat in the warm.