For the Son of Man also came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.
In the Orthodox Tradition, we celebrate the Nativity for more than one day. Fun fact, we don’t actually celebrate it for 12 days. We celebrate it for 7 days. Every service from December 25-31 replicates the hymns and other things from the Nativity. The “leave-taking” of the Nativity is December 31. We commemorate the circumcision of Christ on January 1, eight days after the Nativity. From January 2-5, we celebrate the “forefeast” of the Theophany, with the theme of the hymns and Scripture readings shifting our attention to the Baptism of Christ. Theophany is celebrated January 6-14. And forty days after the Nativity, we celebrate (and some say conclude the Christmas season) the Presentation of Christ in the Temple on His fortieth day. Because Theophany is 12 days after the Nativity, many people keep up their decorations (including us) until January 6, and if you keep them up longer, well, in the Orthodox world, that wouldn’t be considered weird. It is also traditional to greet one another with the greeting “Christ is Born!” with the response being “Glorify Him!” for the 7 days between December 25 and December 31.
The centerpiece of the Nativity is of course, our Lord Jesus Christ. So our attention shifts to Him this week and the theme is “serve like Jesus.” The theme for today is “Not to be served, but to serve,” based on the Bible verse from Mark 10:45, where Jesus says, “For the Son of Man also came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” We are losing the concept of what it means to serve. To serve ideally means to work without paying. Someone can serve as a volunteer. At church, someone might serve on the Parish Council or as an usher, and the proper verb would be serve, because these are volunteer positions.
Those of us who work for money do not often think of our work as service, because we draw a paycheck. We have a contract for how much we will earn, or it is implied that we will earn so much for every hour, or day, or year, of service provided. I’d love to say that I serve as a priest, but the truth is that I make a salary working as a priest. Just like people receive a paycheck from other jobs. Yet, we are all called to serve? How can we reconcile the two? In giving this some thought, the best way to reconcile the two is to work and draw the paycheck that you need to provide sustenance for yourself and your family, but not to lead with the money. Don’t work only for the paycheck.
Another way to serve is to have the needs of your employer, or customer, or client in mind at all times, to be cognizant of serving them, not just working for the money. Another way to serve is to do more than the minimum that is required. Going above and beyond seems to rarely enter into the consciousness. Strive for excellence, and not “just getting it done.” Employers will sometimes give job reviews to employees. Employees generally don’t look forward to these, sometimes they even resent them. But what about going to the employer first and offering “how can I better serve you and our company?”
Another aspect of service is attitude. Some places call it “service with a smile.” So many people come at work and clients, customers and co-workers with a poor attitude. Incorporating a smile is a great way to serve. We need to cultivate servants’ hearts even in the cases where we take a paycheck. I want you to know that I write things like this, not because I have mastered being a servant. I write these thoughts just as much for me as I do for you.
Many of us have volunteered at a Greek Festival in our church community. The goal of each Festival is to raise funds. And even though we are volunteering, many times it feels like we are working, because we have our own goal as a parish to make a lot of money, and we forget to serve the people that patronize the Festival. Part of serving puts the person in front of the dollar, we see those in front of us as people to minister to, not just as dollar signs, or clients, or customers. If we want to serve like Jesus, these are some good places to start.
Now is the prophecy nearing fulfillment. It mystically foretold, “And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are by no means the least among the rulers, as you make the grotto ready; for from you shall come forth for me a ruler of the Gentiles in the flesh, born of a virgin Maiden, Christ our God, who will shepherd His people, the new Israel.” Let us all give Him glory. (Idiomela, Royal Hours of the Nativity, First Hour, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Personal Reflection Point: How did Jesus serve others?