"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..." - Matthew 2:11
A few weeks before Christmas as I was preparing to play my first concert in 9 months I remembered why I love the story of the Wisemen so much. It has to do with that word THEN. As a worship leader I've heard it said that worship is about hearing, or about seeing, or about responding. Those are all parts of that I agree. When they are all together I think we get the most complete picture of what it means to "worth" something or someone and the story of the Wisemen gives us a short brief lesson that has been helpful for me.
As you read the passage above consider this order.
1. They came to his house.
2. They saw him.
3. They humbled themselves and bowed in worship to him.
4. THEN... they presented him with their gifts.
I don't know about you, but I spend too much of my life trying to get to ME giving MY gifts to God. I think things like: "I know I mess up Lord, but see all the gifts I have for you?" Or sometimes I go in reverse and say "I have no gift, no good thing, no fruit of the spirit to show you and give you today Lord, so I guess we'll talk some other time". If you have ever FELT the pressure to produce gifts or if you have FELT like you can't talk to God because you know your sins, I think we need to get our spirit realigned and the Wisemen show us what scripture so often teaches us.
1. Come to God's house. You know, going to church really is a good thing. A place of public worship that we recognize as a "house" for God to be the center of. But the new testament also says that God's house, is in you too. That you and I, body and soul, are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Can't get there in person? Open up the Bible for yourself and just start reading. It is like going fishing with your Dad, or going for a walk with your Mom. It's the best quality time with your God. When we are concerned about what we produce for God, it's time to come to God's house.
2. See Jesus. Worship really is about the eyes of faith, seeing Jesus and hearing his voice. Do we see the Savior God. The name Jesus means "The Lord Saves". Do we acknowledge and believe that God saves us from sin and death through the perfect redemptive work of Jesus? Not sure? See it - as you read God's word in the Gospels. See the MAN who knows your every pain. See the GOD who forgives every sin and makes all things new. We need to ask God to help us see our Savior.
3. Sometimes I just need to get on my knees, literally, physically. It reminds me that I sometimes make way too much of myself. That I don't make me, God makes me new. God gives me worth. God directs my steps. Being humble is hard (especially for us people pleasers), but true worship is centered on Jesus, not me. It's centered on God's response to us, worship does not glory in my response to Him. I forget that, kneeling after seeing is so good for our souls.
4. THEN... I love that they searched for Jesus, came to his house, saw him, bowed down and expressed their love and admiration for him and correctly exalted Jesus above themselves. They did all this FIRST. THEN... they presented their gifts. They could stand in his presence and present what they had to offer. That picture of relationship that God has with us is amazing and worth a whole other blog post.
In a season that amplifies gift GIVING, it can be dangerous to me and my relationship with God when I make much of what I bring or don't bring to God.
In His mercy, on the days when I have made a mess of the life he has given me, I come to his house with empty hands, barely able to see him, not even wanting to be in his presence. And wonder of wonders, God covers me with his grace, I find healing under the safety of his wings. When I make life about my gifts to him, he lets me see the pride in my heart, that wounds my soul and hurts my relationship with him. There again, God forgives and makes me whole again. It is not about my gift at all.
My gift is a simple response to what God has given me. It is TRULY a gift when I give it from that posture as a response to God's grace. Anything else is just another form of works righteousness... me trying to earn God's favor.
My prayer for you and I in the new year is that God would help me, help us, keep our response to his goodness in its proper place. That he would inspire me to come to his word. To see Him with the eyes of faith. To see him rightly as my Father and King. And to wonder that he emboldens me to stand in his presence and present the gift of my life to him, as small and imperfect as it is.
May we SEE Jesus - THEN may we (like the shepherds) live for him in gratitude for all the things we have heard and seen, which are just as we have been told.