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 have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ” Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.” When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold and frankincense and myrrh. Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way. Matthew 2:1-12
Can you imagine worshipping Jesus at Christmas without music, sound and lights? I suspect that for most, this would seem like an impossibility. Yet, for the wise men in the original Christmas story, this was exactly what they did. They did not need the usual audio-visual aids we have grown so accustomed to these days. Through their example in Matthew 2:1-12, we can learn so much from them and recover what worship is and involves.
Worship and Expectation Matthew (2:1-2)
When was the last time you went with an expectation to worship Jesus? Over time, it is very easy to become familiar with the rituals, regulations and the order of worship that church can become routine and even drudgery. The songs may help us worship but our worship is not dependent on how slick or tight the band is. The wise men saw the star and came with a desire to see Jesus, to worship Him. Their question was not “Where’s the band?”; but “Where is He?” Our worship of Jesus must carry with it a sense of expectation and desire of an encounter with Him.
Worship and the Word (Matthew 2:5)
I would like to suggest that worship may be misguided and even incomplete without the Word of God. King Herod went against the Word with an intention to remove Jesus. The chief priests and scribes knew the Word but did nothing about it. The wise men were so moved by Scripture that they went the distance to worship Jesus. Out of Paul’s theology flowed his doxology. When our study of the Word results in the knowledge of the Living Word, Jesus, worship is the natural and expected outcome.
Worship Brings Great Joy (Matthew 2:10)
This was not any star, but “His star”. In other words, the star was a sign that pointed to Jesus. When the wise men saw the star, a great joy filled their hearts. There are times we simply do not feel like worshipping at all. However, regardless of how our circumstances may be, how we feel, Jesus is worthy to be worshipped all the time. Worship is not dependent on who we are but who Jesus is. You do not wait for great joy so you can worship. You worship so you will have great joy.
Worship Is Submission (Matthew 2:11)
There are many verses in the Bible that describe the lowering of heads and bodies in worship. This is because the literal meaning of worship is ‘to fall down’. More than just a way to show honour, it is also indicative of lowering, humbling and submitting ourselves to Jesus and to His kingdom’s agenda. That is what sub-mission is, the placing of our mission under that of His will. To lift Jesus up in worship is well and good. But if we have not bowed and submitted to His will, then perhaps, we have not fully and true worshipped Him at all.
Worship Reveals Hearts (Matthew 2:11)
Matthew 6:21 says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” As such, to open our treasures is to open our hearts. Jesus said that the Father desires those who worship Him in spirit and in truth. True worship is when we are real and open with God. We do not simply go through the motion of attending church or singing a few songs. True worship involves open hearts. And Jesus wants real and honest hearts who love and worship Him.
Worship Is Offering (Matthew 2:11)
The wise men were ready and willing to part with what they considered precious. They considered Jesus worthy to receive their best. They revered Jesus enough to give their best. With gold, they worshipped Jesus as King. With frankincense, they worshipped Jesus as God. With myrrh, they worshipped Jesus as the Lamb who would be sacrificed for the sins of the world. True worship involves offering and sacrifice. Jesus gave us His life. Have you given Jesus your very best?
Worship Changes Us (Matthew 2:12)
The wise men faced the same challenges and dangers but they went “by another way”. Similarly, we still have our lives to live and challenges to overcome. However, our worship of Jesus changes our outlook and we approach the circumstances very differently “by another way”. Everything is now done to the glory of God with His strength and by His grace. We do not return to life by the way of Herod but by the way of Jesus our King. Worship changes and positions us to carry this correct perspective.
We have only drawn a few lessons about worship from Matthew 2:1-12 and yet these have challenged us to a much broader understanding of worship. And yet, we have only scratched the surface of what true worship really is and what it encompasses. If we would review these points and allow the Holy Spirit to enable us in our worship of Jesus to be purer and less adulterated, it would already be a very good first step in the right direction.
When the wise men worshipped Jesus, they did not require a celebrity worship leader, a cool band or the latest lighting system. For sure, it is not about the songs we sing, if our hands are raised or whether the hall is brightly or dimly lit. Let us not fight over the expressions of worship that we miss the essence of worship. May we be reminded that worship is not about us.
Worship is always about Jesus, our God and King.