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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

A Heart for Worship

By Craig Brian Larson
Dec. 14, 2014


The Christmas story speaks to that question. In eternity past, when God designed the events of the birth of Jesus, He had a perfect purpose in every detail: the virgin birth through Mary, the visits from angels, the dreams.

In one of the best-known events, Magi — also called Wise Men — visit from the East. You’ve probably heard the Christmas song with the words “We three kings of orient are, bearing gifts we traverse afar. ...” Who were they, and why did God fetch them from afar? (Keep in mind, we don’t really know if there were three, or five, or whatever. That number varies with Christian traditions.)

The ESV Study Bible says of the Magi, “In earlier times, wise men (Greek magoi, plural of magos) referred to priests and experts in mysteries in Persia and Babylon, but by this time it applied to a wide range of people whose practices included astrology, dream interpretation, study of sacred writings, the pursuit of wisdom, and Magic.”

Of the millions of people whom God could involve in the events surrounding His Son’s birth, God decided to include the Magi. They were Gentiles, not Jews, who likely lived some 500 to 1,000 miles east of Jerusalem in what we now call Iran.

If they used camels, they might have averaged 25 miles a day, and would travel some 30 days to get to Jerusalem and 30 days to get home. Traveling was dangerous, and riding exposed to the elements was much tougher than cruising in a car. This trip required a significant sacrifice of time, effort, and money.

The Magi had one purpose, which they revealed to King Herod when they arrived in Jerusalem. “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2, ESV, emphasis added).

When the Magi finally found Jesus a day or so later, worship is all they did — and with extravagance. “Going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11).

When they finished, the Magi started the equally taxing return trip. God in His perfect design knew it to be worth the Magi’s time, effort and expense to journey to Bethlehem to worship Jesus for perhaps an hour or two. God values worship. Great worship helps us focus on our great God. Inferior worship allows any number of distractions to get in the way of His presence and power.


When the Magi arrived, “They fell down and worshiped.” This was not lukewarm admiration, like the polite applause given to a speaker coming to the microphone at a civic event. No, the Magi put their faces on the ground adoring Jesus Christ.

Somehow God had revealed to the Magi Jesus’ greatness. They knew He was a King, and they lived in a time and place where, unlike today, people revered kings. Citizens of a democracy cannot truly grasp the significance of kingship.

Kings had absolute power within their realm. Citizens did not vote them into office. The king’s word was law and could not be challenged. Kings commanded armies. Kings came from families of royal heritage. Kings amassed wealth beyond anything a commoner could dream of.

But the Magi could never have fully grasped the royal greatness of the infant King of kings. King Jesus is divine — He is God — and so He rules not only Earth and all the people in it but all the heavens as well. He is the Creator; we are the creation. He is the Potter; we are the clay.

King Jesus has the royal heritage of being the Only Begotten, unique and beloved Son of God the Father. As the apostle John poetically put it, on His head are many crowns (Revelation 19:12).

Even with their limited glimpse of the glory of King Jesus, the Magi honored Him in a way that was worthy. They opened their treasure chests and lavished on Jesus gifts befitting royalty: gold, precious incense and myrrh. This was as much an act of worship as falling on their faces, because the gifts showed the worth they put on Jesus.

We give what we value to show what we value. That’s why a man who wants to marry a woman gives a diamond ring. The Magi gave much and therefore worshiped well, and that’s one reason God brought them.

Actually, the moment they began paying a price to come and worship Jesus they were already worshipping. Every tiring day on the journey was an act of worship. Every saddle sore patiently endured was worship. The travel expense of food and supplies was worship.

As the Old Testament sacrificial system shows — with its daily offering of valuable lambs, wine, and grain on the burning altar as an act of worship — paying a sacrificial price for God is itself worship. We give value to show value.

The New Testament says it this way: “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).


God commands us to worship. When Satan tried to tempt Jesus to worship him, Jesus replied, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve” (Matthew 4:10). That is a command: “You shall.”

God commands worship because He prizes it. He prizes your private worship as you go through your day. He prizes public worship in the gathering of believers. In Hebrews 2:12 Jesus sets an example for us, saying, “In the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”

Psalm 149:1 says, “Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly!” And so, God calls all true disciples to both private and public worship.

When we catch a vision of the greatness of God, the sacrifice we make to worship Him is part of the excitement, pleasure, joy and opportunity of worship. We yearn to worship Him in a way that is worthy, and we sense that any sacrifice is a worthy contribution to that exercise.

Worship begins hours before the worship band or organ kicks in. On Saturday night you might sacrifice whatever else you could do in order to go to bed earlier to be rested for enthusiastic participation at church on Sunday.

You might awaken early on Sunday — another sacrifice — to prepare your heart for public worship. Perhaps you spend time praying and reading your Bible at home to become sensitive to God’s presence and awakened to His glory. Then you leave home early enough — another sacrifice — to arrive at church before the worship service begins.

In reality, everything you do on any day of the week should say to God that giving Him worship as He prescribes is your priority. As the Magi worshipped the Christ child, we are to worship the risen Savior and God the Father through Him. That responsibility touches all of life.

“Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

CRAIG BRIAN LARSON is pastor of Lake Shore Assembly of God in Chicago.

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