Worship Matters Part 6
“O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant! O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem; Come and behold Him born the King of angels: O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord. True God of True God, Light from Light eternal Humbly, He entered the virgin’s womb. Son of the Father, begotten, not created. O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord. Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation, Sing, all ye citizens of heaven above! Glory to God, glory in the highest: O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord. Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning; Jesus, to Thee be all glory given! Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing! O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.” What a great reminder of what Christmas is really about. 1 Timothy 1:15 tells us why Jesus came. Paul says, “15 This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’—and I am the worst of them.” Jesus came into the world to save us, even the worst among sinners. This is the reason for worship – not just at Christmas, but in every season of our lives.
For an understanding of worship and in accordance with this great hymn, look no further than the magi in Matthew chapter 2. Matthew 2:1-2 says, “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, wise men from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star at its rising and have come to worship him.'” The magi went looking for the King of the Jews so they could worship him.
Most nativities display Jesus in the manger, Mary, Joseph, and the wise men. However, that is not the case. Popular nativity scenes are pretty, but they are not exactly historically always accurate. We can see in our text the Wise Men did not arrive on the night of Jesus’ birth – it was later. In fact, Matthew used a word that specifically means “house” instead of stable. He also used the word “child” instead of newborn. Based upon verse 16 in Matthew 2, we can infer Jesus was probably anywhere from 12-24 months old when the wise men visited Him.
True worship consists of seeking after Jesus.
When you think about the wise men… Often we hear different words for the men who came and visited Jesus. You have three different descriptions of the men who came. The first as we already mentioned, wise men, the second is magi, and the third is kings. Which one is correct? I love what John MacArthur says: “Because of their combined knowledge of science, agriculture, mathematics, history, and the occult, they became the most prominent and powerful group of advisors in the Medo-Persian and subsequently the Babylonian empire. Historians tell us that no Persian was ever able to become king without mastering the scientific and religious disciplines of the magi and then being approved and crowned by them.” Technically speaking, Matthew calls them magi who came from the East of Israel which is modern day Iraq and Iran. They had been traveling for a long time following a strange star in the western sky. There are many theories about how the star appeared along with this one…. Others believe it was a comet, others think maybe a supernova. But those theories seem to ignore one major facet and that is the star of Bethlehem moved. It finally stopped right over the house where Jesus was staying. I believe this miracle was a light that could never be explained by natural means. But they were not just following a star… They were seeking something greater. They asked Herod in Matthew 2:2, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star at its rising and have come to worship him.” The words, “Where is the Messiah?” are the first recorded words spoken by a person in the entire New Testament. In Matthew 1, only the angel Gabriel speaks. What do you think is the first question found in Old Testament? In Genesis 3:9, God asked Adam, “Where are you?” I love this truth here…. The Bible is comprised of 66 books written over 1500 years inspired by God but has one message and one dominating plot from Genesis to Revelation. The Old Testament can be summarized by this one question from God to man symbolizing our lostness before God. And the New Testament can be summarized by this question, “where is the Messiah?” I am not sure what you are looking for this Christmas, but it always will end the same. You and I will always be in the trench of one of those questions. The answer hasn’t changed because they tell them, the Messiah is to come and be born in Bethlehem. People who are lost will always be searching for the Lord. However, when you search, you will find Jesus and those who find Him will worship Him. The miracle of Christmas is that God didn’t look down on our search to worship and leave us. Instead, He sent us His son so that we may be saved by Him and worship Him completely. It is Jesus who came to earth to make a path for you to be given the right standing to worship Him in Spirit and in truth.
True worship consists of us giving all we have to Him.
Giving gifts is a symbol at Christmas to show love to family and friends. It is also a reminder of how the magi approached Jesus for the first time. What can you possibly bring to the one who owns it all? I love the song, Gratitude, by Brandon Lake that says, “All my words fall short, I got nothing new. How could I express All my gratitude? I could sing these songs, As I often do. But every song must end, And You never do. So I throw up my hands And praise You again and again. ‘Cause all that I have is a hallelujah, Hallelujah. And I know it’s not much, But I’ve nothing else fit for a King, Except for a heart singing hallelujah, Hallelujah. I’ve got one response. I’ve got just one move With my arm stretched wide I will worship You. So I throw up my hands And praise You again and again ‘Cause all that I have is a hallelujah, Hallelujah. And I know it’s not much, But I’ve nothing else fit for a King. Except for a heart singing hallelujah. Hallelujah.”  It is difficult to get the right gift for those we love and care for, but what are we to bring to the King of kings? In bringing our “all” to Jesus, we must first recognize that we truly have nothing to offer. We have nothing to offer that is fit for a King except a heart of worship. There is something to learn about worship from the gifts the magi brought.
GOLD: Worship the Lord with our first and best.
Worshipping the Lord should consist of giving Him our first and best that we have to offer. Gold has always been considered a valuable commodity. This is a gift that only earthly kings would have received. Psalm 21:3 says, “For you meet him with rich blessings; you place a crown of pure gold on his head.” The magi were making a statement here that they were recognizing Jesus as the true King. This is much more than just a simple financial donation from the magi. This is a symbol of who is king. Many people give to the Lord financially. However, each month, they pay all their bills and spend on themselves, and then if any is leftover, they will give to the Lord out of that. This is not how we should think of our financial gifts to our King, Jesus. He deserves our first, our best. Proverbs 3:9 says, “Honor the Lord with your possessions and with the first produce of your entire harvest.” This means we are to give the first and best of our time, resources, finances, and energy. This is what true worship looks like when we recognize who Jesus really is.
INCENSE: Worship the Lord with joy.
Our oldest, Ryleigh, was in the hospital for an extended period. For the first 6-7 days or so, we were not able to stay at the hospital with her in the NICU. So, the nurses gave Katie a cloth to keep with her and then Katie would leave that cloth with Ryleigh to help her stay calm with the aroma of Katie’s presence. We are all familiar with that feeling of when you smell something, and it can draw you to a significant memory. The Incense was used and burned by the Priests during worship because the aroma would help the experience of worship affect all the senses. The cloud created by the incense represented the presence of God that was revealed as a cloud to the Israelites to the Promised land. When the people could smell the incense, it brought them toward the joy of worship. Matthew 2:10 says, “When they saw the star, they were overwhelmed with joy.” Eugene Petersen paraphrases this verse in the Message and says, “They could hardly contain themselves.” Their joy was expressed as they bowed down and worshiped the Child. The aroma of our worship today for the Lord is tied to our joy in worship. In our walk with the Lord, we are to be the aroma of worship and Joy. The third gift is,
MYRRH: Worship the Lord with your life and loyalty.
Myrrh was an ointment that was used on dead bodies to slow down the process of decay. This gift from the magi reveals an understanding that this Messiah’s death was going to be different. Daniel prophesied about this Messiah and how he would be cut off or killed. The hands of this child will be pierced for our transgressions, that the child’s side that is soft and innocent would be pierced by a Roman soldier and this child would grow to rescue and redeem the world through His death. Jesus came to lay down His life so that our life can be lived in Him. Therefore we worship Him with our life and with a loyalty knowing that this is the only King who can give life to us. It is not what the magi brought; it is the act of worship that was so special because they recognized who Jesus really was. In our lives, it is not about what we BRING to the Lord; it is about what we surrender in worship because He alone is worthy.
I love the way Charles Wesley says it in a hymn in 1744: “Come, thou long-expected Jesus, Born to set thy people free; From our fears and sins release us, Let us find our rest in thee. Israel’s strength and consolation, Hope of all the earth thou art; Dear desire of every nation, Joy of every longing heart.” This is who we are worshipping this Christmas…. The wise men sought after God, found Jesus, worshiped Him, and surrendered everything to Him. It is the same with you and me when we meet Christ. He is not interested in the gifts you have; He came to rescue. He came to give you joy, to give you peace, to give you hope, to give you all the desires of your heart and your deepest longings. The magi came to give Him gifts because they ultimately recognized that in Jesus, they have everything they could ever need. Our worship to the Lord is a statement that Jesus alone is our treasure, not anything here on earth.
I want to ask that you pray about making a financial gift to the Lord through Green Acres. As I write this, we are still almost $500,000 behind our budget goal for the year. Will you consider helping us close that gap? You can give here.
Come and worship with us on Christmas Eve! This is one of my favorite gatherings of the year! Make plans and invite someone to join you on December 24th for our annual Christmas Eve Candlelight Service. This year’s service will be packed with great worship from our Worship Ministry, including a full choir and full orchestra! We will also have a great kids’ element that will make it fun for the whole family. We will take the opportunity to partake in the Lord’s Supper and will also be reminded of the Light of World that came to earth with Candlelight. You do not want to miss, so make plans to join us at 4:00pm or 6:00pm on Christmas Eve.
On Christmas Day, December 25th, we want to invite you to join us for worship at 10:00am! We will only have one service that day, and we look forward to worshipping on Christmas Day as a church family.
NEW YEAR’S DAY On New Year’s Day we will have only one service at 10 AM at the Tyler and Flint campuses. I’m excited to tell you that at the Tyler campus, our Pastor Emeritus Dr. David Dykes will be preaching! We love Pastor David and are thrilled to have him share with us! And then I am happy to have the opportunity to preach at the Flint campus on New Year’s Day.
CHURCH-WIDE BIBLE READING PLAN! Psalm 119:25-28 says, “My life is down in the dust; give me life through your word. I told you about my life, and you answered me; teach me your statutes. Help me understand the meaning of your precepts so that I can meditate on your wonders. I am weary from grief; strengthen me through your word.” It is no secret to anyone that if you want to understand the true value of God’s word, look no further than Psalm 119. It is filled with verse after verse on the importance of keeping and hiding God’s word in our hearts. I want to invite you to join our entire church family on a two-year Bible reading plan. You will have the plan emailed weekly to you. It will also be available on the GABC App, and you can pick up a printed copy of the 2-year plan. Come and dig into God’s word with us. We will begin on January 1st of 2023. There is nothing greater than a church praying together, worshipping together, and reading God’s word together. Join in!
I cannot wait to preach this Sunday as we conclude our Christmas series, “The King has Come.” We will continue to look at Isaiah chapter 9 with other supplemental verses to help us understand the significance of Christ dwelling among man. This week we will study, “The Peace of Christ in Chaos.” Christmas can become very chaotic at times. Schedules are tight, expectations of visiting family, friends, parties, and on and on and on. Come on Christmas Day and let’s worship together family style! This is going to be a great time of worship for the whole family. We will have a special kids’ element that will make this Christmas Day special for the entire family. Please come worship with us on Christmas Day at 10:00 am at our Tyler and Flint campuses.
Merry Christmas to all of you! You are loved and prayed for!