Peninsula Community Church
What does Christmas Mean? Lessons from the Wise Men.
December 16, 2018
Matthew 2:1-2, 11 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.” And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
Today, we will continue our Christmas series “What does Christmas mean? Lessons from the Wise Men.” Today, our focus will be on how the wise men worshipped the Savior. In our passage we find they fell down and worshipped Him. They bowed low as an attitude of the heart and they worshipped as a gift given from the heart.
As I was preparing this week, I came across an interesting piece of information. Today, there are 3 or 4 people who are currently alive under the age of 18 that will be the President of the United States one day. While this is true, we do not find anyone looking for them, and certainly no one is bowing at their feet and honoring them as the president now. And yet, that is exactly what the wise men did. They knew this baby was different. This child was more than a baby lying in a manger. He was a king. Even though He was a child, they came to worship Him and give Him the honor that was due His name. He was not to become the King. He was not in training for Lord. He was already the King and He was already the Lord. He was born King. He was born Lord of all.
As we read this story, we find a significant contrast between two of the key players. Herod was the king of his day. He was the head honcho. He was the main man. He wanted worship and he demanded worship from those around him. It is noteworthy, however, that we do not find any record of the wise men giving worship to Herod. They did not pay homage to him. In comparison, they offered sincere, heart felt worship to Jesus. Yes they offered gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but they also offered themselves in worship. It is to be noted that the Christ child did not demand any action. He did not demand their worship. Their worship was given freely. In fact, I would suggest that anyone who demands worship, who demands respect, or demands honor may have an attitude problem and may be missing the mark of what true worship is all about.
In looking at the word for “worship” in this passage, we find it is the Greek work PROSKUNEO which is made up of two words which mean “to kiss.” The idea of this word comes from the ancient custom of putting one’s hand to their mouth in a kissing gesture and then extending the hand toward a person of higher status, especially a deity. It is like blowing a kiss. Secondly, some have suggested this word came from the idea of bowing and falling to the ground to kiss the earth in reverence to the one being honored.
In the New Testament, the word morphed to represent more of the inner attitude of worship which is characterized by humbleness and reverence. So it is the heart, the inner man, bowing low to worship the king who is absolutely worthy. The idea proposed here is that this is not some involuntary unconscious act of the will, it is a choice of the heart. They were not forced to worship, but they chose to worship Christ without pressure or undue influence. They bowed low to worship the King and lift Him high. This is a reminder of John the Baptist’s words when he said that “I must decrease, He must increase.” In other words, I get low, so He is exalted. I must move out of the way, so that He gets the glory and the praise.
As we continue to look at this passage, we find that on the journey to find Christ that they rejoiced with “exceeding great joy.” The idea presented here is that they were completely overwhelmed with joy in regard to the expectations of meeting and giving worship to Christ. They were consumed by joy. That is why when they arrived they did not hesitate to bow themselves in worship. This begs the question for us. How exuberant is your joy in worshipping Jesus? Has your worship of Jesus grown stagnate and cold? Have you lost your joy for worship? Have you lost your love for Christ?
The Wise Men were filled with “exceeding great joy” and they were not going to let anything get in the way of that. They would not be distracted. It is really so easy to get distracted and have our focus negatively impacted. The fact is we all worship something or someone. We tend to worship what we value, and we follow what we worship. You have heard me say this before “to worship means to place value on something.” Once we have placed value on something or someone, we begin to worship what we value and we will follow what we worship. We may overly value money, success, respect, and many other things. While none of these things are bad in themselves, we can begin to have an inordinate desire for these things that can be a distraction. In so doing, we can miss out on the best that God has to offer us.
You see the distraction away from worship is a major and very real issue. The fact is we can be distracted in our worship and forget that our worship should be for an audience of one. Christ should be the sole focus of our worship, and yet how easily are we distracted from the ways of Christ. The Pharisees remind us that we can worship for all of the wrong reasons. The Pharisees gave their offerings in such a way that everyone knew what they were giving. They prayed in such a way that people around them would praise them for the wordiness and grandeur of their prayers. They would fast in a way that everyone would know how pious they were. It goes on and on but our worship to God must always be focused on the one who is worthy of our worship. As we understand the truth of worship, we realize that Jesus is the only one that is worthy. No one else is nor anything else could ever be worthy of our worship like Jesus.
As we close, let me give you a couple of lessons learned from this story. First, our worship must be personal. We must bow our knees and our heart to Him ourself. What a powerful lesson in the way these Wise Men came to Jesus. They did not send their gifts by someone else. They came to Him personally. God wants you, in person, to come to Him. Undaunted by the long and difficult and tiring journey, they found the Christ child in a stable. After the magnificence of King Herod’s palace and his overpowering presence, it is amazing that they fell down in worship the way they did.
We began our series discussing the journey of the wise men. We discussed the fact that we must begin the journey and take the journey to find Christ for ourselves. We cannot depend on anyone else to take the journey for us. We need to come personally to Jesus in prayer, in worship, and in adoration. We need to give ourselves personally to Jesus this Christmas. That is the first and best of all gifts we can give.
Secondly, we must worship Him sacrificially. We must give our time, our freedom, and our comfort for Him. It is believed that it took many months for these wise men to travel to Jerusalem. This was no easy journey. It is estimated that they had to travel 1100 to 1200 miles to get to Jesus. They walked and rode across hot and arid deserts, through rivers, and across cold and dangerous mountain passes to get to Christ’s birthplace. The trip was worth it because they encountered Christ. They made the sacrifice, so they could be near Christ. It takes time to worship Him, but it is worth the time and the effort.
Thirdly, present what you have to Him. The Wise men brought prophetic gifts that pictured what Christ’s earthly work was all about. They brought Him what they had in their lives as wealthy rulers. You may not know where to begin. You may not have all of the answers, but you can give yourself to Him as a means of worship. Think through the people and the gifts God used in Scripture. Remember the little boy’s lunch that fed thousands? How about an anonymous person’s upper room that witnessed the Last Supper, the appearances of the risen Christ, and the prayer meeting of Pentecost? Then there was the borrowing of an unbroken colt, a donkey, to carry the King of Kings as He rode to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. And who can ever forget the expensive bottle of perfume that was broken and poured out just for the love of Jesus.
Present what you have to Him today. Give Him your mind and let Him fill it. Give Him your hands and let Him guide and use them. Give Him your future and let Him plan and direct your life. Give Him your treasures and He can store them and invest them in safe places that bring everlasting rewards.
This Christmas would you consider William Temple’s definition of worship. Here is what he said. “[Worship is] to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open up the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.” As the Christmas carol tells us to do. Oh Come Let Us Adore Him. Oh Come Let Us Adore Him. Let us worship Him and Him alone.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.
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