Every year I struggle with my devotion at two particular times: Easter and Christmas. But after the struggle comes the blessing of having been brought closer to God through my studies of Scripture. This devotion is no exception; tying repentance to the worship of Christ at his first incarnation is a challenge. While many Christians struggle, grieving over lost ones, or are ill, hospitalized, or emotionally weak, I think that most of us rebel against the idea of intentionally dealing with difficulties while the world continually invites us to buy gifts, party, and make culturally traditional meals. But I have a friend who has been leading a GriefShare* group in our church. She was widowed a few years ago and felt compelled to continue working through her grief over this Christmas season, challenging as it is. Some of us need to follow her example, so our grief doesn’t prevent us from worshipping Christ; instead, it pushes us closer to him for comfort. Others need to remove hindrances to worship, such as distractions or anxieties about 2022, over which we have no control, repenting of our stress and fears. Scripture encourages us to do whatever it takes to be Christ-worshippers. The wise men traveling from the east are good models. They studied, prepared their gifts, and traveled far, searching for Jesus, to humbly worship him at his birth. Let’s do whatever it takes for us to draw close to Jesus in humility, prepared to worship him as the promised Messiah, fulfilling Old Testament prophesy.
Planning for Worship
“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 saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1-2) John Gill writes, “According to the Ethiopians, these wise men were three, whose names they give us; the name of him that offered the gold, was Annoson; he that offered the frankincense, was Allytar; and he that offered the myrrh, Kyssade. The Papists call them the three kings of Colen, and say they lie buried in that place.” (1) Specificity about Scriptural references gives us the ability to defend God’s Word and our faith in our Savior rather than yield to the cynicism of unbelievers. The Bible contains 456 details about the Messiah in 333 prophecies, written before 400 BC and 1400 BC. Dr. D. James Kennedy went on to say that the mathematical probability of only 48 prophecies being fulfilled is like packing a marked electron into a line of electrons one inch long, counting them at 4 per second for 19 million years, day and night. They would cover the whole earth, making a line 38 trillion miles long around it. Multiply that number of electrons by a billion. If a blind man from a spaceship can pick out the marked electron, this is the probability of one man fulfilling 48 Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah. (2) “The wise men likely traveled with a large number of attendants and guards for the long journey, which would have taken several weeks. For example, if they had come from Babylon by the main trade route of about 800 miles, averaging 20 miles per day, the trip would have taken about 40 days.” (3) The wise men’s journey to find the promised king was a direct fulfillment of Scripture. “A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord.” (Isaiah 60:4) Any doubts we have about God’s plans coming to pass, as specified in the Bible, should be given up, overwhelmed by the fact that Jesus came as promised and the events that surrounded his birth were foretold. Who are we not to worship Jesus in humility and repent of our little outbursts of cynicism or doubt?
Motivated and Prepared to Worship Christ
We all admit that shopping for gifts and making traditional Christmas goodies in no way prepares us to worship Christ. There are other things we should do to prepare for worshipping him. One way is to remember that we are celebrating the most important birthday in the history of the world. We need gifts for Christ, not for others or ourselves, unless they encourage faith in him. The wise men dropped everything in their everyday lives, brought the most expensive presents to him, and used their resources to set out on a long trip. What will we give to Jesus today? Teachers of preschoolers know this poem [or song] originally commissioned by a children’s choir in England to raise money for a children’s hospice: “What can I give Him as small as I am? If I were a shepherd, I’d give Him a lamb. If I were a wise man, I’d do my part. I know what I’ll give Him, I’ll give Him my heart.” (4) This two-part children’s chorus asks the question any child might ask about what gift to give at Christmas, and answers our question about what to give Christ—our hearts, fully devoted, cleansed by his righteous blood of our worldly anxieties or attractions. Recognizing our smallness at this time leads to rejoicing in Christ’s infinite, eternal love, redemption, and rulership, preparing us to worship him as the promised Messiah, who fulfills prophesy. We will appreciate what the prophets proclaimed, knowing that Jesus will do all the Bible declares during these last times between his incarnations. “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17) God’s joy is ours in Christ.
Worshipping the Messiah in Humility With Joy
“When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.” (Matthew 10:10-11) “Very probably before this, their hearts were sad, their countenances dejected, and they [were] greatly discouraged, having taken so great a journey, and as yet to so little purpose. They had been at Jerusalem, where they expected to have found him that was born king of the Jews; they had been at court, and conversed with men of the greatest figure and intelligence, and could get no tidings of him; people of all ranks and degrees seemed to be troubled at the account they brought; no body cared to go along with them to Bethlehem: all these circumstances no doubt were discouraging to them; but as soon as they saw the star their spirits revived, joy filled their hearts, cheerfulness appeared in their countenances; and they pursued their journey with inexpressible delight, till they came to the place where the illustrious person was they were seeking after…Upon the sight of the young child, they fell down on their knees or faces to the ground, agreeably to the custom of their country, and worshipped him as a king; giving him the same civil honour and respect, as they were wont to do to their own kings and princes.” (5) “Is a soul busy, seeking after Christ? Would it worship him, and does it say, Alas! I am a foolish and poor creature, and have nothing to offer? Nothing! Hast thou not a heart, though unworthy of him, dark, hard, and foul? Give it to him as it is, and be willing that he use and dispose of it as it pleases him; he will take it, and will make it better, and thou shalt never repent having given it to him.” (6) But repent, we must, of our lack of humble, joyful worship as Christ deserves, by removing all obstacles; it’s a most worthy struggle. We may have a sad countenance or a painful body, but our hearts and souls shall sing with delight at the incarnations of our Savior, both past and future. “Thou who art love beyond all telling, Savior and King, we worship thee. Emmanuel, within us dwelling, Make us what thou wouldst have us be. Thou who art love beyond all telling, Savior and King, we worship thee.” (7) “Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!” (Zephaniah 3:14)
Related Scripture: Genesis 25:6; 43:11; Numbers 24:17; 1 Kings 4:30; Psalms 72:10; Isaiah 60:6; Jeremiah 23:5; 30:9; Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 2:7, 16; Revelation 18:13; 22:16.
*For more information about GriefShare: https://www.griefshare.org
- Henry, Matthew, “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Matthew 2:10-11, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/matthew-2.html
- Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Matthew 2:10-11, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-2.html
- Kennedy, James D, Coral Ridge Ministries DVD, “Is Jesus God?” A sermon on “Prophecies Concerning the Messiah” (This sermon may no longer be available, as the old DVD was given to me by a friend, whose daughter had purchased it years ago.)
- English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Matthew 2:1-2, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
- Baptist Hymnal, #208, https://hymnary.org/text/what_can_i_give_him_poor_as_i_am
- Gill, Ibid.
- Henry, Ibid.
- Hymn, Houghton, Frank, “Thou Who Wast Rich Beyond All Splendor,”
December 23, 2021