One of my favorite Christmas carols is Joy to The World. The line “let every heart prepare him room” has always struck me, because the Christmas season is about making room for Jesus, for Immanuel, God with us. Think about that for a moment: God with us. Not God against us, or God aloof from us; God with us!
As the wise men set out from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, they saw the star and “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Matthew 2:10). They saw the star and were filled with exuberant excitement. The wise men traveled 800 to 1,000 miles for one reason: to worship. Matthew’s account of the birth of Christ clearly shows us two very different types of people and their responses to Jesus. There were those that got it and others that just completely missed it. There are true worshipers and those that were false worshipers.
The chief priests and religious teachers were the false worshipers that completely missed Jesus. After the wise men paid Herod a visit, he called in the theological experts to figure out where Jesus was to be born. They knew the answer all right. It was Bethlehem according to Micah 5:2. These men knew the right answer and yet these men, the supposed guardians of spiritual truth in Israel, wouldn’t bother to walk a few miles south to Bethlehem to find out if the Messiah of Israel had indeed been born. They knew the word of God, but they did nothing to respond to it. They were indifferent and too busy with themselves to be concerned about Jesus.
The same spirit of religion is at work today. Religion and legalism rob joy! They makes people feel guilty rather than loved, and produce self-hatred rather than humility. They stress performance over relationship, and point out how far short we fall rather than how far we’ve come because of Christ. If you feel guilty and inadequate, check your focus. Are you living by faith in Christ or by trying to live up to the demands and expectations of others?
Looking for the Messiah
The chief priest and religious leaders were looking for a different kind of Messiah. They didn’t want a Messiah who would suffer and die on the cross. Instead, they were looking for someone who would support their religious system and chosen way of life. These men wanted someone who would cater to their whims and conform to their wishes; someone who would keep them in power. It’s like people today that want Jesus on their terms; the kind of Jesus they can control, who will never challenge them or ask them to change their ways. They want heaven, but they don’t want to talk about hell. They want forgiveness, but they are unwilling to repent.
It’s possible to mentally know the entire Christmas story and never worship the One that the story is about. The Christmas story is about true and false worshipers. The chief priests and King Herod, who should have known the most about worship, knew the least and the pagan wise men from the East, who should have known the least about worship, knew the most.
The wise men were true seekers. They were schooled in astronomy and astrology and yet didn’t find the answers they were looking for in life and in their cultic practices. We can see that they were truth seekers, which drove them to be true worshipers. What can we learn from their worship?
Their Worship Was Intentional (v. 2)
They came to Jerusalem for the sole purpose of worship. Worship was why they left their homeland, why they brought their treasure, and why they journeyed. Worship was at the heart of everything we see them do in this passage. They had their hearts set on coming before the Lord Jesus to worship Him.
Their Worship Was an Act of Their Wills (v. 2)
They determined in their hearts that they would worship Him. No one forced them to leave home and family to travel across the desert to find Jesus.
Their Worship Was Personal (v. 2, 9-11)
They did not allow others to do their worshiping for them. These men involved themselves in the worship of the Lord. They journeyed a great distance by faith, rejoiced when they found Him, humbled themselves before Him, and willingly lavished their gifts upon Him. Their worship involved self, and they involved all the self they possessed in their worship!
Their Worship Was Confrontational (v. 3)
Not everyone was pleased by the worship of the wise men. We are told that Herod was “troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” Herod thought that since he was king, he should be worshiped. But these men didn’t bow to Herod, and he was troubled by that wise men had come to town to worship another King. The wise men did not come to town to worship Herod or to worship in the Temple. They came for one purpose, and that purpose was to bow themselves at the feet of a Jesus.
Their Worship Was Emotional (v. 10-11)
When these men arrived at the place where they would find Jesus, they were overcome with emotion. The phrase, “rejoiced with exceeding great joy” has the idea of exuberant excitement! Can you see them shouting, jumping, laughing, crying and hugging? They were filled with excitement at the prospect of seeing Jesus.
Their Worship Was Effectual (v. 3-8, 12)
Their worship influenced Herod, Jerusalem, and the scribes. It caused them to search the Scriptures and think about the things of God once more. It influenced their relationship with God as they were brought into a place of closeness and intimacy through their worship.
Their Worship Was Relational (v. 2, 9)
Their worship was guided by God and based on their relationship with Him. They gave Him worship because they were walking with Him and following His plan. They gave Him worship out of obedience to Him.
Their Worship Was Sacrificial
When these men came to worship, they did not worship “conveniently”. Their worship cost them something.
Making Room for Jesus
The wise men had true hearts of worship. Does your life represent a person that is a true worshiper of the Wonderful Counselor and Mighty God this Christmas season? Have you made room for Jesus, or has He been crowded out by a busy schedule? Having a heart of authentic worship means living our lives in a way that is pleasing to God. Our singing and public prayer are just the outward manifestations of a life lived daily for the glory of God. If Christmas means thankful, heartfelt praise and the openhanded yielding of your life to Immanuel, then this Christmas will not disappoint you and never let you down. Others may not experience God’s Christmas presence, but you will. And you’ll find it fresh and new every year of your life.
Often, those who are conversant with spiritual truth are in the greatest danger of indifference. If you listen to biblical truths with the wrong heart and no intention of applying what you’ve heard, your heart can grow hard to the things of God. If contact with holy things does not convert or change your heart, it can cause your heart to become jaded and cynical. We can become indifferent or flippant about the tender story of the nativity. We become immune to the message of the gospel because we have heard it so many times. If this is you, you need a Christmas revival. Don’t let religion crowd out the Savior. Let your heart prepare room for Jesus this year!