Christmas can be one of the craziest times of the year. If we were to go back to Thanksgiving, as soon as we left the gathering of our loved ones, many of you already had a list of things to do as long as your arm. You’ve been working, frantically working, to get it all done before you get in your cars and go to grandma’s house or before all of your guests arrive at your house. You hit “Black Friday” to try and find bargains. You penciled in dates on your calendar for office parties, holiday concerts at your kid’s school, and Christmas parties with friends. You made a list of the things you needed to buy for everyone on your list. You adopted a family in our neighborhood who was in need.
Some of you haven’t had time to make out a list because you’ve been so pressed by the urgency of the moment that you had to turn away from the minutiae of the extraneous trappings of Christmas just to make it through the day. You’ve got family problems that are keeping you up at night. You’ve got relationships that are strained and broken. You are drowning in a sea of debt. This will be your first Christmas spent alone while your “ex” has your kids. This will be your first Christmas spent without…you fill in the blank. You’ve gone from work to the hospital so many times you’ve lost count and you are worn out. There’s just so much going on that you’ve had little time to even think about the real meaning of Christmas.
I want us to stop. Right now. Stop thinking about what you have to do. Stop thinking about what’s left to be done. Let’s take just a few minutes tonight and worship. You’re frazzled, you’re exhausted, you’re lonely, you’re depressed…you really don’t even want to be here tonight, but you are here. Since you are here, just relax and listen for the next few minutes. I want to offer a thought, plant a seed, and pray that the Holy Spirit will begin to water it even now.
We’ve somehow become convinced that Christmas is about “Black Friday,” “Small Business Saturday,” and “Cyber Monday.” Trees, ribbons, wrapping paper, tinsel, and lights. Decorations, gifts, Santa Claus, countless trips to the mall, parades, parties, big meals, and living at a breakneck pace from Thanksgiving to Christmas day. I want you to know that Christmas is about worship. When you read the Christmas story in Matthew’s Gospel you can quickly realize that the Magi got it right. They were the least likely of any of the characters in the story, but boy did they get it right. Let’s read Matthew 2:1-11 and then we’ll talk.
1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: 6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.'” 7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” 9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:1-11 NIV)
A group of Gentiles called, “Magi,” traveled from a faraway land to worship Jesus, who was not in a manger when they arrived, but who was in a house. They weren’t Jewish. They weren’t Bible scholars. They hadn’t even been to Sunday school, but they went to worship Jesus.
There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the Magi. We sing the song, “We Three Kings,” but nowhere in the Bible are we told that there were “three” who visited Jesus and they are never called “kings.” Various Bible translations call these visitors, “magi” or “wise men.” This plural Greek word translated, “magi,” is “?????” (magoi) and it is a name given by the Babylonians, Medes, Persians, and others, to the wise men, teachers, priests, physicians, astrologers, seers, interpreters of dreams, soothsayers, sorcerers etc. They came from the East, probably Persia, or modern-day Iran. They traveled hundreds of miles. They saw the star, not just any star, but “His star,” and they mounted up and followed His star to see the One who was born King of the Jews. Why were they willing to make that long journey? They were going to worship the One who had been born King of the Jews. They hadn’t identified the destination, but they knew that their appointment was divine. They were going to worship Him and whether you know it or not, that is why we are here…to worship Him.
I noticed something this past week as I was reading the accounts of Jesus’ birth—worship is everywhere. At first, when Mary was told that she was carrying the Savior of the world in her womb, she was troubled, but her anxiety soon turned into an anthem of worship as she said,
46 …”My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me– holy is his name. 50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. (Luke 1:46-50 NIV)
“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” Mary worshiped. When Jesus was born the shepherds came. We are told that as they left Jesus, who was with Mary and Joseph, they were worshiping God. Read along with me in Luke 2:20.
20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:20 NIV)
Worship surrounded Jesus at His birth, but the most intriguing worship to me is the worship of the magi. These Gentiles wouldn’t let distance keep them from offering Jesus their worship and adoration. As they traveled hundreds of miles they didn’t have a map, they followed His star. Evidently following His star wasn’t as precise as they had hoped because they had to stop in Jerusalem and ask for directions. They didn’t know exactly where they were going, but they knew Who they would eventually find, and they would worship Him. Somehow, some way, they would find the newborn King and worship Him. They weren’t Jewish, they were Gentiles, not worthy of worshiping Jesus, but they didn’t let their unworthiness stop them from worshiping Jesus. There were so many things, so many obstacles, that they could have fallen back on, used as an excuse to avoid the trip, but no obstacle could keep them from the opportunity to worship Jesus.
I want to urge us to do the same, to have the same mindset as the magi. There is not a day of your life that you will not have ample reason not to worship Jesus. There will be obstacles. Sorrow, anxiety, busyness…they will give you plenty of reasons to not to worship Jesus. Power, prosperity, popularity…they will try and get your attention. As ironic as it may sound, the demands of Christmas can be used to justify our lack of worship. We must be like the magi and not allow anything to keep us from falling at His feet and worshiping Him.
There’s something else in the story that caught my attention this week. Those who knew where the magi needed to go, as well as Who they were looking for, never went. The magi traveled hundreds of miles to worship. It’s only 5 ½ miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and yet the chief priests and the teachers of the Good Book never flinched. The magi arrived in Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When news got to Herod he knew who could provide the answer. Herod called the pastors and professors together and they didn’t stutter, they quoted Micah 5:2.
2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2 NIV)
Now, this prophecy was made 700 years before Jesus was born. The world had been waiting a long time for the promised Messiah and nobody knew more about the details of His birth than the chief priests and the Bible teachers of the day. When they heard the news that He had been born, you would think that they would have led the magi all the way to Bethlehem, but they didn’t. And so it is to this very day. There are those who know the Bible backwards and forwards, they can quote chapter and verse, they know all about theology, ecclesiology, soteriology, eschatology, Christology, and pneumatology, but for these folks Jesus is a subject to be studied and not a Savior to be worshiped.
We were made to worship, wired to worship, and if we don’t worship the Savior we will find something else to worship. Don’t believe me? Just look around. Who fills stadiums and arenas? Worshipers. Who will sit for hours and spend their last dime at the casino? Worshipers. Who stands, lifting their hands in concert halls, moved to tears by their favorite band? Worshipers. Who can think of a million reasons why they don’t have time to worship, but would crawl on their belly on broken shards of glass to get to the golf course, the duck blind, the theatre, or the lake? Worshipers. Now, I know that not all of us who participate in these activities are worshipers, but if we understand what worship is, then we know that more than a few are. Worship is the act of delighting in that to which we attach the greatest value. That’s what led the magi to make that long trip from the East so they could bow down, with their faces to the ground, and worship Jesus. The magi were singularly focused on finding their way to Jesus. He alone is worthy, He alone possesses all glory, He alone is holy, and His majesty is beyond our comprehension!
We delight in the worship of our King because of who He is and what He has done on our behalf, but let me let you in on a little secret…our worship and adoration of Him will transform us. Max Lucado tells us,
Through worship, we come to see God more clearly. God invites us, through worship, to see his face so he can change ours. In worship, we simply stand before God with a prepared and willing heart and let God do his work. And he does. He wipes away the tears. He mops away the perspiration. He softens our furrowed brows. He touches our cheeks. He changes our faces as we worship. (Lucado, Max. One Incredible Moment: Celebrating the Majesty of the Manger. 2006)
I believe with all of my heart that if we will make the daily worship of our King our passion in life, if we will fix our hearts, minds, and the disposition of our souls on the worthiness, glory, and majesty of our King then so much of life that preoccupies us, paralyzes us, will fade in the light of His glory. Worship the King eternal! Worship in spirit and in truth. Fall on your knees and hear the angel’s voices this very night, O night divine, this is the night of our dear Savior’s birth. We’ve come to worship.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
December 24, 2013