December 20: Worshipful Joy!
December 20, 2015
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
<![CDATA[ by Josh Moody Each year our family has a tradition of opening one Advent Bible reading starting on December 1 and finishing on Christmas Day, December 25. This year I am sharing those Bible readings with some thoughts based on them for use as a devotional during this season. To receive these Advent readings directly in your inbox, sign up here. Matthew 2:9-12:
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.The Magi, apparently none the wiser to Herod’s nefarious scheming yet, “went on their way,” and followed the star to “the place where the child was.” God in his sovereign power uses this “star” to guide them to the location of the divine Son of God. “They were overjoyed” – really, truly joyful – “when they saw the star,” realizing that their journey had come to an end and they had discovered that which they had sought. They go in to the “house,” they see the child and the child’s mother Mary, and they do what none could have predicted. They “bowed down,” bending low as a sign of obeisance. Had they treated king Herod this way? We are not told so. The account emphasizes the fact that the king they truly recognized was this child King, and they fall before him and give him kingly honor. But not only do they give him kingly honor, they also accord him worship: they “worshiped him.” Whether or not the Magi can be said to have understood all the intricacies of Christology that, for instance, Paul writes about in Colossians, we can see in all accuracy that in this child it was all there for them to see. The majesty and the meekness, the power and the humility, the glory and the poverty, all wrapped in one little babe. The only appropriate response was utterances of praise, body language bowed low, words acclaiming him as God incarnate as they “worshiped him.” Then they “opened their treasures,” a moment that has given delight to many a Christmas pageant. Many different theories have been developed over the hundreds of years that the devoted have reflected on this passage as to the meaning of these gifts. Matthew himself does not spell out their meaning. Often it is said that gold is given to represent Christ’s kingliness, frankincense his priestliness, and myrrh as a prediction of his death. That may be so, or some other variation along the same lines, and yet also it is asking a lot of these Magi to know all these things at this point, or before they even arrived, about Jesus. Alternatively, these gifts may have simply been expensive, and easily portable for their journey, gifts that were appropriate as an honorable present to the King of Kings. Then, another divine intervention in the lives of these Magi. They are warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, and so they slip his leash and go back to their own country by a different route. Christmas is a time when the Christ-child still draws people from every nation, east and west, to come and worship. Worship by its nature is costly. We are centering our lives on God, not on ourselves, and to enjoy the one we worship, the focus of our attention and existence has to be on that One that we do worship. Like the Magi, we must bow low and give the costly gift of our time, talent and resources, as we “worship him” and so be “overjoyed.”
O Star of wonder, star of night Star with royal beauty bright Westward leading, still proceeding Guide us to Thy perfect light Glorious now behold Him arise King and God and Sacrifice Alleluia, Alleluia Earth to heav’n replies
“We Three Kings of Orient Are” by John Henry Hopkins, 1857]]>
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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