Worship - Our Heart Response / Matthew 2:9-12
When we think of the Christmas story, so much floods our minds. Joseph and Mary trying to find a place in Bethlehem. The manger scene. The shepherds in the field watching and listening to the angelic choir. The story of the Magi seems to be the one that gets the least attention and is often changed the most. The Bible doesn’t tell us that there were 3 kings, but rather 3 gifts. Yet, in every nativity scene there are always 3 wise men. The Bible doesn’t even tell us these Magi visited the night of Jesus’ birth. It likely was months later.
Let’s consider what Matthew 2 actually tells us about the Magi and along the way we’ll learn 5 lessons about our worship of Jesus.
#1 - Worship of Jesus begins with PREPARATION.
“The star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.” Matthew 2:9
We know the Magi came from the East. Most scholars today believe this means they likely came from the capital of the East, which would have been Babylon. This means they traveled - by foot and camel - 1678 miles in search of the Christ Child. That’s roughly the distance between here and Salt Lake City Utah! People and camels carrying a heavy load can travel about 20 miles in one day. So their journey was at least 4 or 5 months using ancient roads and mountain passes. Plus the time it took them to organize their caravan. Plus the time it took to maneuver through the politics of King Herod and the Jerusalem court.
That’s A LOT OF PREPARATION!
This makes me ask myself, how much preparation do we put into our Sunday morning church worship? Are we thinking about it throughout the week? Are we praying, asking God for direction so we know where and how to worship the Christ? Do we put aside everything else and every other priority so that we can worship?
I believe our comparisons in the United States are all wrong. We know that only 20% or so of Americans make church a weekly part of their lives. So if we come to church most of the time, we think to ourselves, “Hey at least I’m in the top 20%!” How about we compare our preparation for worship to these wise men, who set aside everything for what was likely a year’s round trip away from home, ON FOOT, just so they may catch a glimpse of Jesus!
Let’s make our worship at church more than just an event on the calendar. Let’s think about. Let’s pray about it. Let’s prepare for it!
#2 - Worship of Jesus flows from our JOY.
“When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” Matthew 2:10
I have to admit that I don’t know exactly how this worked. What we do know from Scripture is that these Magi were following the star for a very long ways, for many months, and then somehow it stopped. They knew their journey was complete. They had arrived!
They were overjoyed! Not just satisfied. Not just a little happy. Not even just filled with joy. They were OVER-joyed. They had so much joy that they didn’t know what to do with it all. Their joy meter was off the charts.
That’s A LOT OF JOY!
Look back into your life and ask yourself when you were OVER-joyed. When that special person in your life told you they loved you back? When your first child was born? When you got that job or that promotion that meant your financial worries were gone? When you received the good news that the cancer had gone into remission? Each a highlight after a long period of search and wonder / or worry.
This is the kind of joy we must experience if we are to truly be able to worship Jesus in the way He deserves. Here’s the thing about joy. We can’t fake it. We can’t pretend it. We can’t just muster it up from nothing. In every case where you have experienced OVER-joy it followed long periods of preparation and longing. This is why there is such a strong connection to #1 - Preparation and #2 - Joy. If we don’t ever think about Jesus throughout the week, if we don’t look forward with longing to being able to experience Him in worship on Sunday, how could we ever expect to be OVER-joyed just because it’s Sunday morning?
#3 - Worship of Jesus involves HEART RESPONSE.
“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.” Matthew 2:11a
Just like preparation leads to joy, preparation and joy combined lead us to an automatic heart response of worship. Let’s get the accurate picture of what this verse is telling us. The wise men enter the house, they see the Christ child and His mother Mary, and their immediate response is to bow down and worship! None of the typical greeting time, no “should I take off my sandals?”, did I wear the right turban?, should I sit in the front or the back?, will they be singing my favorite songs?, what version of the Bible will they be using? None of that!
When we behold the human part of Jesus… when we see Him, really see Him… the Creator God in fragile human child form - vulnerable, needing, helpless, THE ONE Who gave up everything to be with us, how can we help but do anything other than immediately bow down to worship?
When we perceive the real Jesus, our hearts just melt. You’re probably not just like me, and that’s a good thing, but this is why I find my emotions are so off the charts in my worship. I can’t help but weep when I think of what Jesus has done for me. Not tears of grief, but rather tears of absolute joy. This is what worship is - a heart response that overwhelms us in the Presence of the Holy Son of God!
#4 - Worship of Jesus leads to our OFFERING.
“Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” Matthew 2:11b
The order of how this happened is important. The gospel writer of Matthew puts verse 11 in the right order. Worship THEN offering. Do you see that important word, “then”? Does this matter? Is Matthew simply informing us about what happened, or is there a deeper meaning for us to gather?
When thinking about this order between worship and offering, there are only two possible orders, right? Either offering THEN worship. Or worship THEN offering. What possible difference could it make?
(1) Offering THEN worship makes our offering purely a financial decision. In that sense it can be only a very rational choice. Here’s my budget. What have I budgeted for God this week. It can also lead us to feel entitled. I’ve paid my admission fee with my offering. Reward me with a worship thrill!
(2) Worship THEN offering makes our giving the result of our love and adoration of Christ. It is still the rational choice (who wouldn’t want to give to Jesus?) but also involves our emotions. Deep seated in every fiber of my being in bowed down worship of the Savior is this desire to make my offering. It’s not about order of time, but all about order of priority. My worship drives my heart to make an offering.
Of course the wise men prepared for this too! They didn’t just walk into Jesus’ house and reach into their pockets to find spare gold, frankincense and myrrh! They prepared for their worship and for their offering.
Because they prepared, their offering was all about God and not about themselves! Gold as a symbol of divinity. Frankincense as incense as a symbol of holiness and righteousness. Myrrh was a spice used for embalming symbolizing bitterness, suffering and affliction.
What about you this morning? When you prepare for worship do you consider your offering as an important part of your worship? Is your offering the result of your worship? Is your offering all about God?
#5 - Worship of Jesus results in our OBEDIENCE.
“And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” Matthew 2:12
We know this part of the story, but we don’t often think about it’s significance. Which scholar wouldn’t want to hobnob with the politically powerful? Who in the upper echelons of academia wouldn’t want their scientific study to be approved by the most powerful authorities? At the very least these wise men faced a conflict of obedience, did they not? Obey Herod’s wishes and return to him. Or obey God and follow another route? Their worship of Jesus led them in only one direction - obey God!
The same is true for each one of us. True worship leads to true obedience. There is no such thing as worship on Sunday morning and then doing our own thing on Monday morning. True worship, prepared for-, joyful-, heart response-, offering giving kind of worship always leads us to be different people afterward.
Worship changes us. It makes us all about God rather than all about ourselves. We realize that true worship is not just about the songs we sing, or the Bible version we preach from, or even the offerings we bring… no! True worship drives us to change from our plans to God’s plans, from our route to God’s route, from our dreams to God’s dreams!