CHRISTMAS IS FOR WORSHIP
This past Sunday we held our Christmas musical, Jesus Our King. On Christmas Eve we will have two special services. First will be our Family Christmas Eve Service at 4:00PM, where our children will play Christmas songs, participate in a spontaneous nativity, and help communicate the true meaning of Christmas. This will be followed by our Candlelight Christmas Eve Service at 6:00PM, where carols, candlelight, and Scripture will help us celebrate the birth of our Savior. Of course, we continue to worship each Sunday, focusing on Jesus as our King.
Why should worship be such a big part of Christmas? Christmas is ultimately about Jesus Christ and the salvation he brings, and the only right response to Jesus is worship. The story of the wise men, the magi, who come from the east to worship Jesus, helps us understand this. These men had studied the Old Testament, and they were aware that God was going to send the “King of the Jews,” the Messiah. At the same time, they were studying the stars and they saw something that convinced them the King of the Jews had been born.
It’s impossible to know exactly what the wise men saw or how they knew the star was pointing to Jesus, but what we do know is that God graciously worked through their study to lead them to Jesus. The star in the sky led them to the star “come forth from Jacob, the scepter risen from Israel” (Num 24:17). So they left their homes in Babylon or Persia and began the long journey to see Jesus. We don’t know exactly how many miles it was, but from Baghdad to Bethlehem is 547 miles of extremely inhospitable desert terrain. But even if it wasn’t that far, even if it was just 200 miles, why would anyone do that? Why would you put your life on hold, and walk or ride a camel for months, knowing with each passing mile that the return trip would be just as long? Why would you leave your wife and children, your friends and family, your home, for most likely a year, or even two?
For the wise men, that kind of trip was worth it, because they knew they needed Jesus and that only in coming to Jesus to worship him, to fall down before him and give him everything, would they find everything they had been looking for, would they find life. This is why we call them wise men, because wise men and women and children come from wherever they are, no matter what the journey might look like, to worship the King of Kings.
How did the wise men worship? How should their worship inform our worship? They worshipped with faith and great joy. When they finally saw Jesus, their hearts almost burst with joy, and they fell on the ground before him. Then they got up and opened the treasure chests they had hauled for months over hundreds of miles of desert. They gave Jesus gifts that a king rightly deserved; valuable, expensive gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Gold is the metal of kings, and it recognized that Jesus is a King, that he has the right to rule and receive glory. Frankincense was a type of incense from Arabia, used by priests as part of their offerings and sacrifices to God. It acknowledged that Jesus is not only a King, but a King who saves, who brings us to God. Myrrh was an expensive spice and perfume used in embalming, symbolizing that Jesus is the King who saves through his death.
We too need to bring our valuable gifts of worship in faith and joy to Jesus. We need to bring our gold, acknowledging Jesus as King, submitting to him in every area of our lives, going where he tells us, doing what he tells us, and living as he tells us. “Jesus, you are my Master, I am your servant. Help me to know you and follow you as I should.”
We need to bring our incense, living our lives as worship, offering thanksgiving and gratitude toward Jesus for everything that he has done for us. Remembering that we are to offer our lives as “living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Rom 12:2).
We need to bring our myrrh. It’s not only a symbol of Christ’s death, but of the spiritual death we must experience if we are going to have life with him. Have we died to our sin, laying it at Christ’s feet? “Lord Jesus, I know I’m a sinner, that I deserve nothing but death and separation from you for my sin, but because you died for my sins, I ask that you accept me as yours, forever.”