When I was a kid, I always tried to figure out what I was going to get for Christmas. I would search in closets and underneath things. When I found wrapped boxes. I would peel the paper away to try and figure out if it was the gift I had wanted.
What I didn’t know back then was that some of the greatest moments of Christmas are often not the big ones we get so psyched up about, like opening or giving presents or sitting down to the big meal. Some of the greatest moments are those simple ones that we often take for granted.
The wise men understood this. They knew what the objective was. They realized what was more important than anything else: that it was a time for worship. They came from the East. They arrived in Jerusalem and had an audience with King Herod, inquiring about the King of the Jews. Herod talked with his religious leaders, who carefully went over the Scriptures and said that Bethlehem was the place where the King of the Jews would be born. They were right. The wise men made the journey from Herod’s palace, following the star and looking for this newborn king. And when they found him, they worshiped him. The Bible tells us, “And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him … ” (Matthew 2:11 NKJV).
What would make a perfect Christmas for you? In one way or another, things or people or events will disappoint. But if you will do what the wise men did – that is, worship – then it can be the best Christmas of all.
Everyone worships at Christmas. Whether they have a nativity scene on their front lawn or spell out “Bah! Humbug!” in lights, they worship. Christians worship at Christmas. Skeptics worship at Christmas. Atheists worship at Christmas. Republicans worship at Christmas. Democrats worship at Christmas. Independents worship at Christmas. They may not worship God, necessarily, but they worship. My point is that everyone worships. Whether they believe in God or don’t believe in God, they worship. They bow before an altar. They may not call it a deity, but there is something everyone is passionate about, something they are committed to, something they believe in.
Some people bow at the altar of material things. They worship that object they can hold in their hand, or the almighty dollar. That is their god. Others worship their own bodies. They never met a mirror they didn’t like. They are always messing with themselves. They spend hours sculpting their bodies at the gym or injecting strange things into their faces. Other people worship a god of their own making. They say, “Well, my God would never judge a person for doing something wrong. My God is all-loving and all-caring, and my God is …” Effectively, they have created a god in their own image.
But here is the problem. We can bow at these altars, but none of these gods will save us. None of these gods will help us. And quite frankly, none of these gods are worthy of our worship. There is only one God who is worthy of our worship, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ whom we celebrate at Christmas.
So how do we worship God? One way is to verbalize our praise to him. Just as we tell someone we love them, we can express our love for God through worship and praise. One of the things I love about the Christian faith is that we have the good songs. We have something worth singing about, and there is victory and joy in the songs that we sing. Sometimes we don’t feel like praising God, but the Bible talks about offering the sacrifice of praise. So we should verbalize our praise to God.
Another way we can worship God is through serving others. In fact, one of the ways the word “worship” is translated in the Bible is to serve and minister. The Bible tells us, “But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Hebrews 13:16 NKJV). Years ago, I remember seeing a sign over the kitchen sink in Billy and Ruth Graham’s home that read, “Divine service done here three times a day.” And that is true. Worship can be that meal you cook or that present that you give or that clothing you provide for someone in need.
We can also worship through our giving. That is what the wise men did. The Bible says they gave gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to Jesus. By the way, I don’t understand people who attend birthday parties without a present in hand. It seems to me that if I am invited to a party for someone, I am there to celebrate and ought to bring something. It doesn’t have to be a lot. It doesn’t even have to be expensive. It might be a handmade card. Anything. Yet some people will go empty-handed to a birthday party.
In the same way, how totally inappropriate it would be for us to celebrate the birth of Jesus empty-handed. But what do we give to God? You can give yourself. That is the gift you can give to him as you celebrate the birth of Jesus. The apostle Paul said, “I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him” (Romans 12:1 NLT). Bring your life to God, bring your time to God, bring your future to God, and say, “Lord, this is what I offer to you.”
Everyone worships. The question is who or what are you worshiping? A Savior has been born. And he has already been given to us as God’s ultimate gift. So we should follow the example of the wise men and worship him.