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  • Writer's pictureTim Hemingway

We Have Come to Worship Him


 

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magifrom the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:1-2


Christmas is a wonderful time. Everybody looks forward to it with eager anticipation. It seems like every year Christmas breaks into our lives earlier and earlier – the shops with Christmas themed windows; towns with Christmas decorations; and us with our trees.


And we all know exactly what to do with it when it does swing around each year. We know exactly what to do with a tree that we bring in from the garden centre or down from the loft. We know exactly what to do with decorations stowed away in that brown box we’ve had forever. We know exactly what to do with presents – when to start buying them, when to wrap them, where to put them. We know what to do with turkey on Christmas day, and even what to do with the left-overs on boxing day. We generally do not need much instruction about Christmas. It falls into place – albeit with some stress I don’t doubt – but it falls into place without too much instruction.


But when it comes to Jesus, things are not so simple. What are we supposed to do with Jesus? That is such a conundrum that, for most of us, it is just a lot easier to ignore Jesus altogether, than it is to find out what to do with him.

And that is quite strange when you think about it, because the very word ‘Christmas’ has Jesus’ name up front and central in it. Christ-mas. ‘Christ’ is Jesus’ name. It means ‘Messiah’ and Messiah means ‘Deliverer’. In fact, verse 4 tells us that the King of Judea – you might have heard of him, his name was Herod – asked his own advisors where Jesus was to be born and referred to him as ‘The Messiah’. The Deliverer.

So, Christmas literally means the worship-service (that’s the ‘mass’ part of the word) which has Jesus the Deliverer at the centre of it.


Now if that is what the word ‘Christmas’ means, and we are all so familiar with Christmas traditions so as to go through this season every single year, then how come we know so little about Jesus? How is it we don’t know what to do with him?


Well, I’ll let you take that one away with you and ponder it or research it. The point of this morning’s message is not to answer the question ‘how is it we know so little of what to do with Jesus at Christmas?’ The point is to show you what we should do with Jesus at Christmas.



The Magi and Jesus

And to do that, we are going to see what some very wise men of Jesus’ day did with Jesus at Christmas and see if they can show us what we should do with him.


Remember that Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem in Judea, Israel. The Magi were from the ‘east’ verse 1 tells us. In all likelihood they were the astrologers and kingly advisors of the Persian courts which would have been located in modern-day Iran. We can’t know their exact location, but it seems safe to say that there was probably some 1000km between their homes and where Jesus was born.

A thousand kilometres from here would put you somewhere in the heart of the south of France to give you an idea of scale.


So, the Magi were a long way from where Jesus was. Yet in verse 1 we learn that they had made that journey from Persia to Jerusalem. And when they arrived they started to ask around about a baby, verse 2 says, ‘who had been born king of the Jews. We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him’.


And I dare say, we’ve all been to enough nativity plays to be very familiar with this idea of foreigners coming to Jerusalem after seeing a star in the sky. It is one of the enduring images of Christmas, even in our secular times.


The express purpose for which the Magi came 1000-plus kilometres was to worship Jesus. So, I’m taking that as my cue for what we should do with Jesus.

If you’ve ever said to yourself, ‘I know what to do with the tree, I know what to with the presents and the turkey, but what am I meant to do with the main person at Christmas?’ This is the answer: Worship him!

That’s what the Magi would tell you this morning if they were here. They would say, ‘without Jesus there is no Christmas, and what you should do with him is worship him’.


But to simply say ‘worship him’ is too abstract, it doesn’t show us what worship is or what it looks like. But the Magi are here to help us out, because the account of what they did helps us to grasp what worshipping Jesus looks like.


I want to highlight five essential aspects of what worshipping Jesus is, that the Magi model for us. I think that if we do these five things whole-heartedly we will have not only discovered what to do with Jesus at Christmas, we will have done it.


Here’s an overview of the 5 things they did, the same 5 things you must do also. The first is they believed what was written about Jesus. The second thing they did was, they acted when he appeared on the scene. The third thing they did was, they came to him in person. The fourth thing is not an act it’s a feeling: They felt over-joyed to be coming to meet Jesus. And finally, fifthly, they treasured him.

So, I’m going to spend a few minutes showing you where I get those ideas from and why they are so important, and then sum up at the end.


Believe the Message about Jesus

The first thing they did was believe what was written about Jesus. These men were not Jews and they in all likelihood did not have the Jewish scriptures. In many ways they were a lot like us. They were the kind of people that lived in a world that had no regard for God and no knowledge of who God was or what he had said about them or himself.

We’re like that. We live in a country like that. And, they were also like us in the sense that they had access to some knowledge. We have access if we want to make use of it. God has revealed himself in a book called the Bible and we can get our hands on one of those very easily if we want to. These men might not have had all the Jewish scriptures that spoke about God but they clearly had some writings about God.


And I suspect that they had the writings of the prophet Daniel found in the old testament because he had been in exile some 550 years before hand in the very same Persian empire these wise men came from. I think that they had access to writings from Daniel that said things like: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man…he was given authority, glory and sovereign power, all nations and peoples of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14). That passage is talking specifically about Jesus, the Messiah, the Deliverer who was not on the scene in Daniel’s day, but was going to come in the future.

The reason I think the Magi had access to these kinds of scriptures is because of what they say in verse 2, ‘where is the one who has been born king of the Jews’. Where on earth did they get an idea like that from living 1000km out from Jerusalem? I think they got it from the scriptures they had access to.


But it’s not enough to have access to the scriptures, or even to have read them. For the Magi to commit the time and energy to making the journey to see Jesus they not only read the scriptures about him, they believed them. They believed that Jesus really was the long-awaited Messiah king; king over every king; ruler above all rulers; Deliver of deliverers. It was not unusual for dignitaries to honour royal babies who would one day be king, but I think it was unheard of for babies who would one day be king to be worshipped. The Magi saw a heavenly king when they read the scriptures and they believed that heavenly king had come in the flesh, confirmed by an unusual star that had appeared where the child had been born.


Jesus tells us in his own words that he came into the world not to judge the world but to save the world; to deliver the world; to deliver sinners from their sins. The question is when he says that’s why he came, do we believe it?

So that’s the first thing they did, they believed the message about Jesus: that he had arrived and was divinely special.


Search for Jesus

The second thing they did was to act on the information they had come to believe. There can be no worship of Jesus without action. When they saw the star appear and they put that together with the scriptures they had believed, they concluded that they must search out this heavenly prince who had been born.


The star was the pointer to the place where he had been born. And Paul showed us last week how another prophecy in the old testament had connected the arrival of the Messiah on the scene with a star. Here the connection is unmistakable. Verse 2, the Magi said, ‘we saw his star when it rose’.


And when they put the star and the scripture together they prepared themselves to make a thousand-kilometre journey to search him out. In other words, they went after Jesus. They didn’t settle for knowing about him only, they wanted to behold him also. That meant a journey of discovery; it meant enquiring after him in a foreign land; it meant some cost, some hardship and some perseverance. That is what Jesus wants from people. He wants us to search him out. He wants us to enquire after him; to ask for him; to not settle until we’ve found him. Jesus said, ‘For everyone who asks receives, the one who seeks finds; and the one who knocks the door will be opened’.


Meet Jesus In-person

Which leads onto the third thing they did, which is that they came to him personally. After enquiring about Jesus in Jerusalem, according to verse 7, Herod called the Magi to himself and told them that the child was born in Bethlehem. Now they could have thought to themselves, ‘this confirms the scriptures we read and the star we saw, so we’ll take it as red that Jesus is real and he has arrived on the scene and that’s enough for us’.


Lots of people deal with Jesus that way. They go so far in their discovery of him, but they don’t pursue him until they meet him. The Magi weren’t like that. They wouldn’t settle until they had encountered Jesus face-to-face. After leaving Herod, the star reappeared and they followed it until it came to a stand-still over the house where Jesus was living (verse 9). Jesus said, ‘the one who seeks will find’. That’s a promise. Don’t give up on Jesus until you’ve found him.


Ask for Joy

Fourthly, they felt something. When they saw the star come to a halt over the house where Jesus was, they were overcome with joy, verse 10 says. This is how Jesus must be approached. If our search for him is merely inquisitive then it’s unlikely any joy will be kindled in our hearts for him. But joy in Jesus must be kindled for us to be found to be worshippers of him.

In all the things we supremely love, which is just another way of saying all the things we ‘worship’ – in all the things we supremely love in life, they are pursued relentlessly for the joy they give.


No one would say, ‘I supremely love this thing’ without saying ‘it makes me so so happy’. If we derive such pleasure from things that are valuable only for this life then how much more must it be present for the one treasure of our lives which can endure beyond this life.


This joy cannot be created in us by us. It has to be created by God. God must do a miracle in us for that joy for Jesus to be kindled in us. Which means that if it’s not there, it has to be asked for. Jesus said, ‘ask and it will be given’.

Ask for the gift of joy in Jesus and he will give it to you – no doubts!


Treasure Him Above All

Fifthly, and finally, when the Magi encountered Jesus they thought that there was nothing too precious to present at his feet. Gold and Frankincense and Myrrh from amongst their ‘treasures’ verse 11 says.


I have no doubt that all the treasures they had brought were for Jesus, not just the gold, frankincense and myrrh. In other words, Jesus was so precious to them that he was worth more than every one of their most precious commodities. This is where we can fall at the last hurdle so easily.


For Jesus to be worshipped he must be supremely precious to us. That means that, by faith, we must lay everything else that is precious in our lives – we must lay them down at his feet and declare: ‘nothing is more precious to me than you Jesus’. Nothing.

At that moment he has become to you who he really is, your God. Whatever we treasure, prize, honour most highly in our affections is God to us. But every God that is not Jesus is a mute and empty God with zero eternal value for our souls.


Jesus, on the other hand, is eternally and supremely valuable because he will save us from the eternal consequences of our sins and give us the gift of eternal happiness with him forever.


So that’s what the Magi would say we should do with Jesus this Christmas and they have shown us how to do it. How to worship the saviour of the world. How to believe the scriptures that speak of him. How to pursue him relentlessly. How to find him personally. How to receive a heart-felt joy for him. And how to treasure him above all else. They have demonstrated those things.


If we follow their lead, we will encounter Jesus this Christmas – no doubt about it. And then we will have learnt what to do with Jesus at Christmas.

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