This Wednesday: Christmas Eve. Next Sunday:
Prophecy Update, then in January we start Malachi.
For those of you who have been coming to church for a while, you have heard
the word “worship” more than a few times.
For most of us, we think of “worship” as the music part of the church
For the “worship snobs” among us, we know that true “worship” involves
certain songs. We think …
If it’s a Chris Tomlin song, it’s worship.
If it’s an old hymn, it’s not.
If it’s a Christmas carol, that’s definitely NOT worship.
I want to take you through the Christmas story this morning and take a peek
at how often “worship” occurs … and challenge our definitions of the word
I am not going to give you a complete idea of “worship”, but it’s a start.
Before Mary even got pregnant, her older cousin Elizabeth and a pretty
special pregnancy on her own. Though she
was old and had never had a child, she would become pregnant and give birth to
John the Baptist about six months before Jesus was born.
(Luke 1:39–56 NKJV)
—39 Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with
haste, to a city of Judah, 40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And it
happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in
her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Then she
spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and
blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my
Lord should come to me? 44 For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my
ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45 Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment
of those things which were told her from the Lord.”
:43 the mother of my Lord
Elizabeth knew when the Holy Spirit filled her that the baby inside Mary’s
womb was “the Lord”.
Even Elizabeth’s baby (John the Baptist) knew that Mary’s baby was special.
:45 she who believed
Mary had already been visited by the angel Gabriel and had been told about
the son she would give birth to. (Luke 1:31-33)
Mary was “blessed” because she believed what God had told her through the
Look at how Mary responded to what Elizabeth said to her…
46 And Mary
said: “My soul
magnifies the Lord, 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48 For He has
regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all
generations will call me blessed. 49 For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is
His name. 50 And His mercy
is on those who fear Him From generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in
the imagination of their hearts. 52 He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the
lowly. 53 He has
filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty. 54 He has
helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy, 55 As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham
and to his seed forever.” 56 And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her
:46 My soul magnifies the Lord
Mary was a worshipper.
She is “magnifying” God. She is
declaring that God is great.
From the inside
Mary’s “worship” came from the inside.
It came from her “soul”, from her “spirit”.
Worship is something that comes from the inside of you.
Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because their whole relationship with God was
based on outward things – learning to say the right things, learning to do all
the right things, bowing, incense, etc.
Jesus quoted to them from the prophet Isaiah –
(Isaiah 29:13 NKJV)
the Lord said: “Inasmuch as
these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me…
(John 4:24 NKJV) God is
Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Worship starts on the inside.
Outward things like “music”, raising your hands, or
kneeling before God can be important, but they are nothing if it doesn’t come
from the inside, from your heart.
NKJV) —18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary
was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of
the Holy Spirit. 19
Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a
public example, was minded to put her away secretly.
Joseph was afraid that Mary had been unfaithful and had slept with another
man, getting pregnant. He could have had
her stoned, but instead he was planning on just hiding her and keeping things
20 But while he
thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a
dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your
wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.
21 And she will
bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
The name “Jesus” means “Yahweh is salvation”.
He would save us from our sins by one day dying on a cross, and paying for
our sins with His own death.
22 So all this
was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the
prophet, saying: 23
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall
call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” 24 Then Joseph,
being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took
to him his wife, 25
did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called
His name Jesus.
Isaiah 7:14 is an amazing prophecy about a virgin becoming pregnant.
Jesus has many names or descriptions throughout the Bible.
This name means “God is with us”
God is not far removed from us, living on a distant planet in another
He entered our time and space when the eternal Son living in heaven chose
to empty Himself and take on human flesh.
(John 1:14 NKJV) And the Word
became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the
only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Jesus and Philip had a discussion about what God was like.
(John 14:8–9 NKJV)
—8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient
for us.” 9 Jesus said
to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip?
He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the
We see throughout the story of the birth of Jesus, that worship occurs when
people recognized that God was in their midst, that they were in God’s
He is also here today.
When you have a difficult time worshipping God, ask Him to
open your eyes to the reality of His presence here, now.
(Luke 2:8–14 NKJV)
—8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the
fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord
stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were
greatly afraid. 10
the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings
of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior,
who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe
wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the
angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 “Glory to
God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
:11 Christ the Lord
“Christ” is the Greek form of the Hebrew word “Messiah”.
It means “anointed one”, someone who has God’s special anointing oil on
them, someone on whom the Holy Spirit is resting on.
It is the title of the Jewish Savior, the one who would rescue the Jews from
“Lord” is what He is.
He is our master.
:12 lying in a manger
Shepherds were on the lowest rung of the social ladder.
Shepherds were known to be questionable people, dirty people, and thieves.
If the shepherds were leading their flocks through your town, you’d want to
gather up the women and children, hide in the house, and lock the doors.
They were usually thought of as “trouble makers”.
Where would these “shepherds” find this “king”?
They didn’t find Him in a palace.
He would be lying in a manger – a place where the animals were, a place
where even shepherds could come.
:14 Glory to God in the highest
The Latin translation of “Glory to God in the highest” is “Gloria in excelsis Deo” (“glory in the
highest to God”)
We often call these angels the “heavenly choir”, but it doesn’t say they
were singing, they were just “saying”.
The angels praised God by saying “Glory to God”.
glory – doxa – opinion; in
the NT always a good opinion concerning one, resulting in praise, honor
The angels know that there is no one of whom the universe has a “higher
opinion” of than God.
When you look for a restaurant on Yelp, you want to take your sweetie to a
restaurant with a higher rating. I’d
rather eat at a hot dog stand with five stars than at a fancy joint with 2
If God had a “Yelp” page, how would you rate Him?
Would you give Him 5 out of 5 stars?
Or perhaps you would give Him “10” stars, or better yet, “infinite”
What’s your “opinion” of God? Do the
people closest to you know what your opinion of God is?
(Luke 2:15–20 NKJV)
—15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven,
that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see
this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they
came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when
they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them
concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which
were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her
heart. 20 Then the
shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they
had heard and seen, as it was told them.
:20 shepherds …glorifying and praising God
I find it interesting that the first “evangelists” telling the world about
Jesus were the lowly, scuzzy, shepherds.
Worship doesn’t just belong in the realm of angels.
Even the lowest person can offer to God worship that is acceptable.
You may not feel that you are not very important to God, but it was the
shepherds who were the first to come and honor the king.
You are not too bad, too dumb, or too lowly for God.
Jesus came for all of us.
After the birth of Jesus, it seems that Joseph and Mary stayed in Bethlehem
at least for a couple of years.
They didn’t keep living in the “manger”, but at some point found a house to
NKJV) —1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod
the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying,
“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in
the East and have come to worship Him.”
:2 seen His star
One of the oldest of prophecies concerning Jesus came from the prophet
NKJV) …A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel…
It would seem that these “wise men” were astrologers. They studied the stars.
God spoke to them in a language they understood – the stars.
They saw in the stars that something special was happening in Israel.
3 When Herod
the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
Herod was a paranoid man. He was
always afraid that someone was going to kill him and take his throne. He didn’t like the talk of another “king”.
4 And when he
had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he
inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem
of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 ‘But you,
Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of
you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ”
The prophet Micah (5:2) told us the birthplace of the Messiah 700 years
before He was born.
7 Then Herod,
when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the
They apparently told Herod that the star had appeared to them two years
earlier (Mat. 2:16).
8 And he sent
them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and
when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and
worship Him also.” 9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which
they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where
the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when
they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and
fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they
presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
:11 fell down
It would be one thing for the shepherds to fall down, but these were the
honored “wise men”.
Folks in AA refer to God as their “higher power”.
God is truly “higher” than you are.
Worship requires recognizing that God is much bigger than you are.
You can’t worship God and think that you’re the greatest thing since sliced
bread and God is just lucky to have you.
Worship involves yielding to God, surrendering to God, falling down before
Keep in mind that here is a small child, perhaps two years old (though we
often think of Him still in the manger).
And these great wise men from the east, held in respect by kings (like
Herod), bowing themselves before this child.
A significant step to maturity in life is learning what healthy humility is
all about. Peter writes,
(1 Peter 5:5b–7
NKJV) —5b …Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be
clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” 6 Therefore humble yourselves under
the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time
:11 worshiped Him
worshiped – proskuneo – to
kiss the hand to (towards) one, in token of reverence; to fall upon the knees
and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence
Perhaps proskuneo was expressed
by the wise men as they fell on their faces.
Yet when I see the word proskuneo,
I can’t help but think of the emotions expressed by a kiss.
Not the passionate kiss of a husband and wife, but perhaps the kiss on the
cheek to a person dear to you.
True worship is about expressing adoration, love, and affection towards
:11 they presented gifts
The wise men gave gifts that seem to have prophetic significance.
Gold – the proper gift for a king.
Frankincense – incense for a priest.
Myrrh – the aromatic resin used for many things, including the embalming of
We talk each week before the “offering” about how we are learning that
worship of God includes the things that we “give” to Him.
This is not just about money – but all the things we give to God to honor
We give Him our time as we serve Him (such as those
working at the Food Outreach).
We give Him our abilities, allowing God to use all of who
We give Him our praise, even when we’re hurting.
Now that we’ve looked at some ideas about “worship”, does the music we sing
qualify as “worship”?
Of course. But it’s not the music,
it’s what’s behind it.
We’ve got a video that puts a lot of what we’ve seen all together: