An Advent Devotional by Stan Key
Shopping … Cooking … Wrapping … Spending … Eating … Parties … traveling … Visits with family and friends … Christmas is demanding! If our activities fail to include worship, however, we miss the whole point. Christmas is about worship. The biblical account of Jesus’ birth includes the story of the wise men who traveled many miles following a star for one purpose: to worship Jesus (Matthew 2:1-12). This is the first worship service recorded in the New Testament. And what an unusual worship service it was! By placing this story at the beginning of his gospel, Matthew is boldly announcing that the coming of Jesus has changed everything, especially how we understand worship.
The call to worship may surprise you. No one just wanders casually into the presence of God. One needs an invitation. Throughout history many churches have labored to make the “Call to Worship” meaningful by using a verse, a liturgical sentence, a hymn. The magi, however, were called to worship by a star! Jesus’ coming means that God will go to amazing lengths to make sure that everyone knows they are welcome to come to God.
The place of worship may shock you. This first worship service in the New Testament did not take place at the Temple but rather in a “house” (verse 11). Jesus’ coming means that the role of the temple has undergone a radical change. Jesus himself is the Temple (John 2:18-21) and, therefore, true worship need no longer be limited to Jerusalem.
The leaders of worship may offend you. There were no priests or rabbis leading this worship service. No liturgy, ritual or music. The worship leaders in this service were Gentile star-gazers, foreigners. Jesus’ arrival means that all nations are welcome to worship God, and all men and women can serve as priests (Exodus 19:5; 1 Peter 2:9). You never know who might be chosen to lead you into the presence of God!
The cost of worship may deter you. No one dares come into the presence of God empty-handed (Exodus 23:15). The wise men brought gold, frankincense and myrrh as an offering. These were extremely expensive gifts. But they had come to worship an extremely glorious Lord! David understood this concept of worship well when he said, “I will not offer to the Lord that which cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24).
The object of worship may astound you. It is one thing for worshippers to prostrate themselves in a beautiful temple where the architecture speaks of the glory of the Almighty God. But how startling to see these dignitaries on their faces in a house before an infant! Somehow they must have understood that in this child resides “all the fullness of the deity in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9).
The result of worship may amaze you. After worshiping Jesus, the wise men returned to their country “another way” (verse 12). Though the text is explaining that the magi traveled on another road so as to avoid meeting King Herod, the point is well made that all true worship is meant to change us! If we don’t return from a service of worship different from when we went, we haven’t truly worshiped.
You will be a wise man or woman too this Christmas if, in all your busy activities, you make time for worship.