Your Response To Christmas
By Shawn Thomas
A kindergartener in England once commented on the wise men’s visit to Jesus: he said they brought Him gold “but Legos would have been better”!
Matthew 2 doesn’t tell us how many “wise men” (magi) there were. But it does show us three distinct responses people then had to the birth of Jesus, which people still have today. Which one of these reflects YOUR response to Christmas?
- The Intellectual Response
:4 says when Herod heard about Jesus’ birth, he asked the Jewish religious leaders where the Messiah was to be born. “They said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet …” These men knew this prophecy. Many Pharisees had the entire Law memorized. They KNEW the right answers — but that didn’t mean that they responded rightly to the birth of Jesus. There is NO indication they ever went to Bethlehem to worship Him. Knowing the right answers was as far as it went.
Many “lifelong church members” today fall short in this same way. It’s easy to think you’re right with God because you know some “right answers” about the Bible. But James 2 says even demons know there is one God — but they aren’t saved by that knowledge.
Knowing mere facts alone won’t save you. Just because you can quote John 3:16 doesn’t mean you are saved. Just because you know this Christmas story doesn’t mean you are going to heaven. You can “know” all the right things and still be lost. It’s been said many people will miss heaven by 18 inches — the distance from the head to the heart! The most important question for you today is not “do you know the right things about the birth of Jesus”, but have you personally repented of your sins and trusted Jesus’ death on the cross to save YOU? — and are you now worshipping and serving Him? Make sure that you have more than just a mere “intellectual response” to Jesus this Christmas.
- Herod’s Hypocritical Response
In:8 King Herod said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.” He made it sound like he really wanted to worship Jesus. But in reality, he had something very sinister in mind. :16 relates how later, Herod killed all the male children in and around Bethlehem. He had a selfish end in mind: to solidify his hold on the throne. His outward “worship” was hypocritical.
We can be like Herod today, and put up a facade of “worship,” when we’re actually more concerned with our own personal “agendas” than really worshiping God.
Cheryl & I were once at a party where we met a politician. I asked where he went to church. He told me, and then said: “You have to go to church to get elected to anything in this town.” That spoke volumes! He wasn’t as concerned about going to church to worship, as he was to get votes!
Ask yourself: “Why am I really in church?”: to worship Jesus — or for some personal agenda, such as to cultivate votes or business customers? Make sure you don’t have the “hypocritical response” of Herod.
III. The Worshipful Response of the Magi
We don’t know much about the magi, but one thing we DO know: they truly came to worship Jesus. We see several pieces of evidence of that:
- JOY:10 says: “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy” — literally “MEGA joy”! Joy is from the heart, which is essential for true worship. Jesus said in John 4, “Those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Think about something you really enjoy: your grandkids, football, hunting, etc. No one has to “make” you do these things; you “delight” in them. That’s how genuine religion is. When you truly love God, worship is NOT something you “have” to do; it is something you WANT to do. Real worship must begin in the heart. Are you just “going through the motions” at church, or worshipping from your heart?
- HUMILITY Verse 11 continues: “And they fell to the ground and worshipped Him.” The Bible’s word for “worship” literally means to bow down and “kiss towards” the object of worship.
Real worship involves humbling ourselves before God. You can either keep your pride intact or worship God – but you can’t do both. Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters” – you can’t serve your pride, and worship God.
When’s the last time you humbled yourself in worship — the last time you got down on your knees, went to the altar, or raised your hands? These things aren’t “requirements,” but they are ways you can humble yourself. Genuine worship involves humbling yourself before your King!
- Giving. :11b “Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” Thus began our tradition of giving Christmas presents. Giving is a basic part of worship. When you love someone, you want to give them gifts.
After one of the first times Cheryl & I went Christmas shopping for our grandbabies, Cheryl said, “If you want to get in the Christmas spirit, go shopping for kids in a toy store!” We bought little soccer balls, a toy laptop, and little metal pots & pans. Nobody made us do that; we WANTED to!
When you really love, you want to give. That’s why when we don’t give to God as we should, it’s an important spiritual indicator. If a person is not eager to give to the Lord, it’s one of the biggest giveaway signs that something is not right in their heart. Christianity is not all about money, as some assert, but the fact is that money really IS a “thermometer” that reveals your “spiritual temperature.” If that’s so, what’s your “temperature”? Giving is an integral part of genuine worship.
- Obedience. :12 says, “And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.” This is perhaps the best sign of genuine worship: when the magi left Jesus, they DID what God instructed them to do! They were warned by Him in a dream not to return to Herod – and they didn’t! They obeyed the Lord.
Jesus said in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord’, but do not DO what I say?” Your obedience shows how much you really worship Him.
St. Augustine wrote: “A girl might say to her lover, ‘Don’t wear that sort of cloak’: he won’t. If she tells him in winter: ‘I like you best in your short tunic,’ he would rather shiver than offend her.” (Augustine, Brown, p. 243) Augustine’s point was, if we truly love someone, we’ll want to please them.
That’s how it is with the Lord too. If we really worship Him, then we’ll do what pleases Him. Jesus said, ”If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” What we do in church doesn’t show our love for God, as much as how well we obey Him after we leave! Obedience is one of the best signs of genuine worship.
Which of Matthew 2’s characters do YOU resemble the most:
— The religious leaders’ “intellectual” response?
— Herod’s hypocritical response?
— Or the magi’s heartfelt worship, evidenced by their humility, giving, and obedience?
What will YOUR response be to Jesus this Christmas?
Shawn Thomas has been a Southern Baptist pastor for almost 35 years, he currently serves as Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Angleton, Texas. You can read more from Pastor Thomas Here.
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