Can you imagine worshipping Jesus at Christmas without music, sound and lights? I suspect that for most, this would seem like an impossibility. Yet, for the wise men in the original Christmas story, this was exactly what they did. They didn’t need the usual audio-visual aids we have grown so accustomed to these days. Through their example in Matthew 2:1-12, we can learn so much from them and recover what worship is and involves.
1. Worship and Expectation
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.” Matt 2:1-2
When was the last time you went with expectation to worship Jesus? Over time, it is very easy to become familiar with the rituals, regulations and the order of worship that church can become routine and even a drudgery. The songs may help us worship but our worship is not dependent on how slick or tight the band is. The wise men saw the star and came with a desire to see Jesus, to worship Him. Their question was not “Where’s the band?”; but “Where is He?” Our worship of Jesus must carry with it a sense of expectation and desire of an encounter with Him!
2. Worship and the Word
“They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:…” Matt 2:5
I’d like to suggest that worship may be misguided and even incomplete without the Word of God. King Herod went against the Word with an intention to remove Jesus. The chief priests and scribes knew the Word but did nothing about it. The wise men was so moved by Scripture that they went the distance to worship Jesus. Out of Paul’s theology flowed his doxology. When our study of the Word results in the knowledge of the Living Word, Jesus, worship is the natural and expected outcome.
3. Worship Brings Great Joy
“When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” Matt 2:10
This was not any star, but “His star”. In other words, the star was a sign that pointed to Jesus. When the wise men saw the star, great joy filled their hearts! There are times we simply don’t feel like worshipping at all. However, regardless of how our circumstances may be, how we feel, Jesus is worthy to be worshipped all the time. Worship is not dependent on who we are but who Jesus is. You don’t wait for great joy so you can worship. You worship so you will have great joy!
4. Worship Is Submission
“And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.” Matt 2:11
There are many verses in the Bible that describe the lowering of heads & bodies in worship. This is because the literal meaning of worship is ‘to fall down’. More than just a way to show honour, it is also indicative of lowering, humbling and submitting of ourselves to Jesus and to His kingdom’s agenda. That’s what sub-mission is, the placing of our mission under that of His will. To lift Jesus up in worship is well and good. But if we have not bowed and submitted to His will, then perhaps, we have not fully and true worshipped Him at all.
5. Worship Reveals Hearts
“… Then, opening their treasures …” Matt 2:11
Matt 6:21 says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” As such, to open our treasures is to open our hearts. Jesus said that the Father desires those who worship Him in spirit and in truth. True worship is when we are real and open with God. We don’t simply go through the motion of attending church or singing a few songs. True worship involves open hearts. And Jesus wants real and honest hearts who love and worship Him.
6. Worship Is Offering
“Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” Matt 2:11
The wise men were ready and willing to part with what they considered precious. They considered Jesus worthy to receive their best. They revered Jesus enough to give their best. With gold, they worshipped Jesus as King. With frankincense, they worshipped Jesus as God. With myrrh, they worshipped Jesus as the Lamb who would be sacrificed for the sins of the world. True worship involves offering and sacrifice. Jesus gave us His life. Have you given Jesus your very best?
7. Worship Changes Us
“And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.” Matt 2:12
The wise men faced the same challenges and dangers but they went “by another way”. Similarly, we still have our lives to live and the challenges to overcome. However, our worship of Jesus changes our outlook and we approach the circumstances very differently “by another way”. Everything is now done to the glory of God with His strength and by His grace. We don’t return to life by the way of Herod but by the way of Jesus our King. Worship changes and positions us to carry this correct perspective.
Worship is not about us. It’s always about Jesus.
We have only drawn a few lessons about worship from Matthew 2:1-12 and yet these have challenged us to a much broader understanding of worship. And yet, we have only scratched the surface of what true worship really is and what it encompasses. If we would review these points and allow the Holy Spirit to enable us in our worship of Jesus to be purer and less adulterated, it would already be a very good first step in the right direction.
When the wise men worshipped Jesus, they did not require a celebrity worship leader, a cool band or the latest lighting system. For sure, it’s not about the songs we sing, if our hands are raised or whether the hall is brightly or dimly lit. Let us not fight over the expressions of worship that we miss the essence of worship. May we be reminded that worship is not about us. Worship is always about Jesus, our God and King.