Celebrate in Worship

By Pastor Teck Uy

When the Lord Jesus Christ was born, his birth was announced by an angel to the shepherds tending their flock at night near Bethlehem. But in the distant countries, the birth of Jesus was announced through a star. While the wise men from the east were reading the Scriptures, they encountered the oracle of the prophet Balaam. This prophet was considered a wicked prophet, but he was certainly not a false prophet since his words and prophesies came to pass. In his oracle he said, “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the people of Sheth” (Num. 24:17). He was gazing into the future and could see that a king will come out of Israel.

The wise men understood from their reading of the Scriptures that a star will signal the birth of the king of Israel. Guided by the star, they travelled all the way to Jerusalem asking, “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” (Matt. 2:2). This question disturbed King Herod, the reigning king of Israel at that time, but through him the wise men came to know that Jesus was to be born in Bethlehem. As they continued their travel, the star reappeared and guided them to the house where Jesus was.

This star was referred to by the wise men as “His star.” It was not an ordinary star similar to what we see when we look up at the sky on a clear night. It was a special star in that it appeared so close in the sight of the wise men, and was moving and directing them. Indeed, this star was instrumental in bringing the wise men to where Jesus was. It must be understood that this star was not “Jesus” himself hence, should not be revered and worshipped because the worship of the heavenly array is prohibited as it is a form of idolatry. Instead, this star should be treated like John the Baptist that was used to lead people to the Lord Jesus Christ during his time. In his gospel, the apostle John said of John the Baptist, “He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world” (John 1:7-9). Every time people asked him if he was the one they were waiting for, he confessed freely, “I am not the Christ.”
The reason given by the wise men in searching for Jesus was for them to worship him. When the star finally stopped at the house where Jesus was, they entered the house and saw Jesus and his mother. They quickly bowed and worshipped him. But these wise men went beyond bowing to manifest their worship. They opened their treasures and presented to him their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. This is worship in the true sense of the word. It entails sacrifices both in terms of time, effort and resources. We are commanded in Scriptures not to go before the Lord empty handed. We should present an offering – the best that we could possibly give to him. In his epistle to the Romans, the apostle said, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (Rom. 12:1). There is no better sacrifice that we can give to the Lord than our own lives.

The acceptable worship that God demands from us is the offering of ourselves. This requires that we yield to him our whole being. While God is please with material offerings such as gold, frankincense and myrrh, these have to be offered to him with wholehearted devotion. The wise men’s offering was not just the material gifts that they brought. It included their whole being, as shown by the sacrifice of travelling long distances, carrying their gifts with them. This is not to mention that they needed to leave behind loved ones only to be able to get to where Jesus was. Similarly, we need to worship the Lord Jesus Christ with all that we have. We should not withhold anything, including our possessions which we must offer in a spirit of worship. It should be noted also that when the wise men reached the house where Jesus was, they entered it.  In like manner, let us enter the House of the Lord to worship him. Just as they were excited to enter the house without hesitation, we should also enter into the presence of God joyful, excited and ready to offer our bodies as living sacrifices. This is the offering that pleases God and will be rewarded in due time. Therefore, let us celebrate Christmas in worship. Glory to God!