Forget the image from your primary school Nativity play of three miniature wise men – resplendent in fake beards and impressively shiny purple capes and crowns – negotiating their way past shepherds and donkeys to hand over equally shiny parcels (tied up with bows) to the Baby Jesus. The Wise Men mentioned by Matthew in his Gospel are not merely a sideshow, intended to add colour to the events that took place on the first Christmas Day; we can learn a lot about worship from their example.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”
The Bible does not tell us where Wise Men travelled from, other than “from eastern lands”, or how long their journey lasted, but it is thought that they travelled through many countries to reach first Jerusalem, and then Bethlehem. They undertook this long journey for one single purpose: to worship Jesus.
How far would I travel to worship Jesus? Would I journey across continents? To the nearest big city? To church on the other side of town? Even to the solitude of my spare room? We can meet with Jesus at any time of day, yet we often struggle to overcome even the tiniest obstacles to spend time with Him. How often do we skip church on a Sunday morning after a late night or because we can’t get the kids ready in time?
Lord, give me the same desire to worship You that the Wise Men had all those years ago.
And when they came into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary, His mother, and fell down and worshipped Him.
The Wise Men were filled with so much wonder and respect for Jesus that their only response to being in his presence was to literally fall to the ground in worship. I might be wrong, but I don’t imagine there were any Wise Men shuffling around, looking awkwardly over their shoulders to see what everyone else was doing before making themselves horizontal. If we all came to worship with an attitude of awe and respect and followed the example of the Wise Men, then floor-space might be a constraint in church, but we shouldn’t let our self-consciousness or apathy be the constraint.
Lord, when we enter your presence, help us to focus only on you and respond in genuine worship like the Wise Men.
And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Sometime in November each year, the words “frankincense” and “myrrh” re-appear in our vocabulary, only to disappear without trace sometime between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, as if put back in the loft with the tinsel and fairy lights. Although we get our tradition of gift-giving at Christmas from the Wise Men, we have missed the point somewhere along the way. The Wise Men didn’t give gifts to their friends, family or the girl from accounts whose name they drew out of the Secret Santa hat; they gave gifts to Jesus, the object of their worship. They didn’t bring gifts because of tradition or out of a sense of obligation – and I’m sure they didn’t wait until Black Friday to get a 20% discount on myrrh. They brought valuable gifts to the King of The Jews as an act of worship.
In the same way, we are called to worship through the giving of our time, money and resources. We collect an offering during our time of worship at church because this should be an important and integral part of our worship. In fact, Paul teaches that we should give our very lives to God as an act of worship in Romans 12:1 – And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.
Lord, please accept my life as an act of worship to be used for your Glory.