The picture of three Wise Men worshipping the baby Jesus at the manger is a familiar one to many people during the Christmas season. The reality is that there were no Wise Men at the manger. In fact, the Wise Men did not visit Christ until he was approximately 2 years of age and living in a small house in an insignificant town known as Bethlehem. It was there that the Wise Men worshipped Christ. Matthew 2:11 says, “And after they came into the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary; and they fell down and worshipped Him.” The Incarnation of Christ causes us to marvel. Indeed, there are Wise Men and Women today who worship Him still.
Somewhere around 332 Old Testament prophecies spoke about Christ. They spoke of Christ as the God-Man who would be a Prophet, Priest, and King. The worship offered by the Wise Men that first Christmas night was the culmination of centuries of worship which centered on Christ. Acceptable or unacceptable worship has always been defined by how it portrays Christ. I’m reminded of an account in 1 Samuel 13:8–14 where unacceptable worship was offered by King Saul. As the King of Israel, Saul offered sacrifices to God, an act that was reserved by God in the Old Testament for the priests alone. As a result God rejected Saul’s worship and removed him from his position as the King of Israel. Jesus is the only One who is a Prophet, Priest, and King. Saul’s worship lied about the Person of Christ and about Christ’s gospel. Therefore, Saul had to go. God raised up another king, King David, a man after God’s own heart.
What does your worship say about Christ? What does your worship say about the Gospel of Christ? In his excellent book Christ-Centered Worship, author Bryan Chapell points out our modern day tendency to evaluate worship in terms of how it affects me. He writes, “If a complaint comes (regarding the worship) it is not likely to be based on a rationale rooted in gospel priorities. People will instead talk about their lack of comfort with what is personally unfamiliar or uninspiring, or about someone else’s lack of respect for what is traditional. Because they have not been taught to think of the worship service as having gospel purposes, people instinctively think of its elements only in terms of personal preference: what makes me feel good, comfortable, and respectful.”
We must never forget that Jesus is the reason for the season. Christmas is about worshipping Christ on His terms, not ours. The story is told about a couple who had a newborn baby. They invited their friends and neighbors over to celebrate the newborn babe. As the night commenced the couple welcomed their guests, and they tossed their heavy coats on the bed in their bedroom. During the glorious festivities one of the guests said, “Congratulations on the newborn baby, by the way, where is he?” With this question the countenance of the mother fell. She rushed to her bedroom only to find that her newborn son lay crushed to death under the coats of their guests.
We shake our head at such foolishness, but in our familiarity with the Christmas story we can forget the Christ we are commanded to worship as well. 332 prophecies that predicted Christ! We read of one of those prophecies in Matthew 2:4–6; “And gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:
‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; For from you will come forth a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’”
The prophecy is taken from Micah 5:2 and it was written 700 years prior to the birth of Christ. Think of it! For 700 years the chief priests and scribes had read about the birth of Christ, and when He finally came they failed to join the Wise Men and worship Him. I pray that everyone who reads these words this Christmas season might escape such a dreadful fate. There is a tremendous difference between knowing about God, and knowing God. Jesus shows us God. Come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!