Song: We wish you a Merry Christmas...
This week I started the third of four Christmas books that I will be reading this year. None of them are of any consequence, just fun little books to fill in the gaps between the study books I’m reading and other stuff that I’m doing. My favorite so far is Mary Higgins Clark, The Christmas Thief. But, I digress.
The third book I’m reading is Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Christmas Collection. (Don’t make fun of me, I love those books!).
The reason I bring that up has everything to do with the song we just sang...We Wish You a Merry Christmas.
The first article in the book, The Scrooge Who Saved Christmas, tells the story of the origins of Charles Dicken’s book, A Christmas Carol. The author of the article wrote that most people did little to celebrate Christmas by the mid-17th century. It was that little book that got people to celebrating again. And, writes the author of the article, it was Dickens himself who originated the phrase, Merry Christmas.
“We wishing you a Merry Christmas” apparently isn’t that old of a thing after all, about 160 years, if that.
Merry Christmas. Isn’t it something how we go around wishing each other a Merry Christmas?
Christmas we get...a mass or church service, a time to honor Christ, thus Christ’s Mass or Christmas.
Merry is an interesting word that literally means “short or brief” as in a short time of delight or festivity.
So in actually when we wish someone a Merry Christmas we are really telling them to hurry up and get to church, I guess... (maybe not).
We Wish You a Merry Christmas. We love to wish people a Merry Christmas.
I think if we’re honest with ourselves though,, we do a lot of wishing this time of year that has more to do with us than anything that really involves Christ!
Isn’t it something that we spend all of this time, money, and energy wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and so little time wishing Jesus a Happy Birthday? It is a celebration of Jesus’ birth.
If we’re going to discover the REAL Christmas we probably need to make sure that celebrating the REAL Christ is in there somewhere. (First priority wouldn’t be too far off.)
We probably could stand to spend a little less time wishing and a lot more time ADORING.
The more we adore the less wishing we would need to do.
Here’s a good motto: AS YOU ADORE MORE, YOU WILL FIND YOURSELF WISHING FOR LESS.
ADORE MORE – WISH LESS! The more you worship the less the less you will find yourself wishing – especially for things you really don’t need.
Wishing is all about hoping, wanting – ADOREation, worship, is about giving. You can’t honestly adore without giving. ADOREation is giving focus.
Just ask Terrie, she loves it when I adore her. She loves it when I focus on her. Come to think of it, I love it when she adores me! I know she does! That’s a great feeling...being adored!
In the REAL Christmas story there is a lot of ADOREation going on.
The Gospel of Matthew tells us that the Magi traveled from the East for the sole purpose of worshipping, adoring, the New Born King (Matthew 2:2).
But let’s stop here for a second...ADOREation?...Worship?
The rest of this talk is going to be about singing and going to church, isn’t it? That’s worship, right? I mean, we have a worship team...that sings. We come to Sunday Morning Worship...at church. Sunday morning is when I worship. That’s it...right?
There’s a reason we use the word ADOREation here. Not just because it fits the REAL acrostic, but because ADOREation helps us understand worship.
Jesus said this about worship some thirty-plus years after his birth: “For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)
The two elements that are key to worship are spirit and truth. In short that means that worship begins with our spirit – our inner being, our hearts and souls. Then, worship must always be based on what is truth.
It probably wasn’t a coincidence – it actually happens more often than I like to admit – but while I was doing a final edit on this talk I overheard five men conversing about truth. One guy had the Bible all figured out – it supposedly had a truth disclaimer at the end. Another one talked about how you had to be careful because there were obviously parts of the Bible that were God’s words. Another talked about “His Bible”...the tragedy was that all five were worshipping mistruths. Their perceptions in reality were not true.
I so much wanted to interrupt their conversation and encourage all of them to simply read the Bible since it was somewhat obvious that none of them really new a whole lot about it. It’s amazing how things change when you read God’s Word for yourself!
There are lots of people worshipping the wrong things; that’s where a lot of the wishing goes on.
Worship is meaningless if we are not worshipping the REAL Jesus.
So the foundation of ADOREation, worship, is Spirit and truth.
But how do we worship, ADORE, Jesus Christ?
In the REAL Christmas story worship takes on many forms and I’m sure as we look at a handful of them you will be relieved and challenged in how you worship God...because though worship is all about Spirit and truth – worship takes on many forms.
For Joseph, worship meant...well, watch this...
Video: Joseph: Obedience (Script below)
When I think if Joseph and how he worshiped God, I think of obedience.
Matthew tells us that Joseph, “...did what the angel of the Lord commanded.”
The angel had told Joseph to take Mary to be his wife even though she was pregnant with a child that was not his. Sure, the angel had given Joseph all of the details...
• the child was conceived by the Holy Spirit
• Mary was still a virgin – she had remained faithful to Joseph
• The child would be named Jesus and be the Savior of the world.
• The angel even quoted the Bible...
“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and he will be called Immanuel (meaning, God is with us.)
I know the angel told Joseph all that stuff, but I think it would have been very easy for Joseph to wake up, ignore the dream and go about his life – without a concern in the world for Mary or for what God wanted.
But Joseph obeyed God. He worshiped God by obeying God.
I’m reminded of that verse in the Old Testament that says, “...to obey is better than sacrifice...” (1 Samuel 15:22).
What good is all the so called worship in the world if we refuse to do what God asks us to do in His Word?
I believe that worship is all about obedience.
Worship is obedience; “to obey is better than sacrifice.”
We don’t often think of obedience and worship in the same sentence, but in the Bible the two are inseparable tied together.
The Apostle James said it this way, “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” (James 1:22)
Worship is obedience. Joseph understood that; which is why the Bible tells us, “24When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded” (Matthew 1:24)
Fast forward to the visit of the Magi, after they left the angel again appeared to Joseph and instructed him to take Mary and the Christ into Egypt and protect them there until after the death of King Herod who would seek to kill Jesus. Again... “That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary...” (Matthew 2:15)
I noticed that Joseph didn’t waste any time. As soon as he woke up he went and took Mary as his wife. As soon as he woke up he took Mary and the child into Egypt just as the angel had commanded.
As soon...that’s a good description of obedience.
We taught our kids early on the definition of obedience: “Obedience is doing what you’re told, when you’re told, with the right attitude.”
Joseph ADOREd, worshiped God through His obedience.
But worship is more than just obedience...
Video: Mary-Pondered. (Script)
Whenever I think of the Christmas story I think of Mary and how she pondered God’s work in her life. Mary spent a lot of time thinking about what God was doing.
“Luke tells us that Mary treasured all these things in her heart...” She carried God’s thoughts close to her heart.
I’m not sure it would be that easy – with all that was going on in her world – a pregnancy, a hurried trip from Galilee to the hills of Judea, giving birth to a baby in a stable, the visit of the shepherds and then later, the wise men. But somehow, some way, Mary was about to treasure, ponder, hold closely what God was doing through her and around her. She spent a lot of time thinking about those things.
I believe worship is about focusing on God and His work in my life. When I worship I think about God’s purpose.
Meditation can be a confusing word, but meditation on the things of God is a wonderful way to worship God.
It’s too bad that during the Season when we celebrate the birth of Jesus that I’m often way to busy to take much time to think about Him...
Yeah, it’s a shame that we are often too busy for the one act that could slow us down and bring some peace to an otherwise pretty crowded, hurried life.
Mary pondered; she reflected. She took time to treasure and hold close to her heart the work of God in her life. She rehearsed over and over again what God was doing in her life.
Do you ever spend time just treasuring God? I know we challenged everyone during our Thanksgiving Tree service to spend some time remembering God’s blessings, but Thanksgiving needs to be a day-by-day, moment by moment heart, spirit attitude.
If we are going to ADORE and worship God in Spirit and truth, what better way than to ponder the truth of God and His Word.
When you and I take time to reflect on God’s work in our lives the natural result will be ADOREation that leads to ADMIRATION.
The pondering that Mary was doing was admiration. She was admiring God’s work, thinking about it and treasuring it deep in her soul.
Here’s a great truth of life: the more you ADORE the more you ADMIRE. That works with God and it also works with others.
Are you having a hard time putting up with someone around you lately? Have you got someone in your life that you just can’t seem to get along with? If you take time to ADORE, really focus on the positive work that God is doing through them in your life – you will start to ADMIRE them as well!
Take time to rehearse the work that God is doing in their life and how God is blessing you through them – and you will soon begin to Admire them for that work. The more you ADORE the less you will be wishing they were different!
Joseph obeyed. Mary Reflected.
And, the angels sang...
Video: Angels:Praised (Script)
I guess it’s easy to think about the angels worshiping God. I mean they are “heavenly beings”. It’s like they get “paid” to worship God – that’s their job. I sometimes wonder what angels do other than praise and worship God.
I read in Luke that the angels sang “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favors.”
What a rush that must have been to be chosen as one of those angels. Not only did they get to praise God, they got to praise God in front of humans! For one of the first times ever, angels sang to creatures other than themselves and God. Their praise not only touched God – it touched people!
When I think of worship I think of praising God, but I also think about how my praise to God can touch others. When I praise God for who He is and for what He has done somehow others can be influenced. It’s not a showy thing – it just happens.
Those angels that night in Bethlehem weren’t showing off – they were announcing God’s entrance into the world. And, when we praise God we are announcing to all who hear us God’s work in the world.
God wants us to praise Him. Worship is all about praise.
The Psalms tell us, Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. (Psalm 100:4)
What good is worship if we don’t praise Him?
We sort of give the angels a pass when it comes to this whole worship and ADOREation thing, at least I do. I mean, it’s their job. They were created to worship God, right? Throughout the Bible the thing you see the angels doing the most is worshipping God. The Prophet Isaiah, in the Old Testament, tells us that there are specific angels that circle around God continually singing, Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty! The whole earth is filled with his glory!” (Isaiah 6)
ADOREation comes easy for angels, they live in the very presence of God.
And there, my friends is the key to praise! The angels might have been created to praise God, but their praise came as the result of their life in the very presence of God.
Praising comes from being in God’s presence.
Praise without presence is nothing more than flattery and God doesn’t need our flattery!
The reason God wants our praise, our worship and ADOREation is because they come as a result of spending time with Him!
Let’s look at it this way, I could spend all morning talking about Terrie. I could tell you every great and wonderful thing about Terrie. I could tell you about how she looks, how she cares for her family, how gentle, gracious and kind she is. I could tell you all sorts of stuff about Terrie. That would be praise and ADOREation.
Now suppose you left here this morning having never met Terrie. You’ve heard all about her from me. You feel you’ve known her all your life after hearing me talk. So, you leave here and go to a friends house and decide to tell them all about Terrie. You tell them everything that I told you.
Are you praising Terrie? Are you Adoring Terrie? Not really. You’re just repeating what you’ve heard.
Now suppose you meet Terrie for the first time and started talking to her, “Terrie you are such a wonderful person. You are a great cook. You are a fantastic mother and wife, and what a singer and piano player you are...you’re awesome.” But you don’t really know Terrie. You’re just repeating what you’ve heard or worse, just flattering her. There’s absolutely no substance to your words.
But, suppose you start to spend time with Terrie. All those things I told you, now you start to experience them in your own relationship with her...now you’ve got something to praise and ADORE.
The difference...you’ve spent time in her presence. You actually got to KNOW HER.
The angels don’t just praise God because it’s their job; they praise God because they spend a lot of time with Him.
And when you and I start to spend time with God praise and ADOREation will be the natural result. The more we get to know Jesus Christ the more we will adore Him!
Joseph ADOREd through his obedience. Mary through her reflection of God’s work. The Angels ADOREd and praised God as the result of living in His presence.
And the shepherds...
VIDEO: Shepherds: Telling (Script)
I guess I’m a person of action, because I believe that worship is all about TELLING.
If you look at the story of Christ’s birth you can’t help but notice the shepherds. They ran to Bethlehem and found Mary, Joseph and the Christ child just like the angels had told them.
I don’t really know what happened there at the stable. I don’t know if they prayed to the baby Jesus or asked to hold him, or just stood there in silent admiration. The Bible doesn’t tell us what they did at the manger – but the Bible does tell us what they did next!
“Then the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.” Luke 2:17
Worship for those shepherds was all about telling. Those guys were the very first evangelists sharing the Good News of the birth of Christ to the world.
I know that some people talk about worship being a personal and private thing, but I’m sorry, I don’t buy that. Worship is about telling. Worship is about proclaiming to the world that Jesus came to save us from our sins.
I want to worship by telling. I want people to be as astonished today as they were when the shepherds first shared the story.
Worship is telling the Good News that Jesus has come!
Here’s where worship get’s exciting. Obedience is great. Reflection is good. Praise in powerful. However, when I start to tell – that really begins to affect others.
Telling takes the first three types of worship and puts other people into the mix.
Telling is including others in your worship.
Telling is inviting others into the blessings of ADOREation.
One of my favorite Christmas carols is still, Go Tell It On The Mountain!
What good is all the worship, if it’s kept to ourselves? Worship may start in our spirit, but it should spread!
I don’t believe it’s possible to really worship selfishly. Selfish worship is not really worship. Self and worship are oxymoronic; they are exact opposites; they don’t fit together. But, if worship could be selfish it would be the kind of worship that leaves others out; the kind that refuses to tell.
The natural result of seeing something wonderful is to want to share it.
Telling others is an act of extreme worship. The shepherds told their story. They told what had happened, what the angel had said.
You want to experience radical worship? Go tell someone. Go tell it on the mountain. Wait, we actually live on a mountain. Go tell it right out there!
ADOREation – Joseph showed it through his obedience; Mary through taking time to reflect, ponder; the angels praised and the shepherds told.
There is still one more element to REAL ADOREation and it ties all four together...
VIDEO: WISEMEN: Giving (Script)
Worship...how can we even think about worship without thinking about giving.
The Gospel of Matthew tells us that Persian wise men traveled to Jerusalem to worship the new born King of the Jews. It must have been quite a trip, quite an ordeal, but as they say, the journey was definitely part of the gift!
I wonder though, these important men from a far away land, what was working in their hearts that caused them to fall in worship before a baby? How did they realize what most people just ignored?
The wise men worshiped by presenting Jesus gifts. I read that they opened treasure chests and gave Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Did you catch that? They had treasure chests!
I think each of us has a treasure chest too. Inside it we keep everything that we value; all the things that we treasure are kept in there. (Point to heart)
Worshipping God means opening up our treasure chest and giving God what’s inside.
There is no worship without giving...`
Honest, I had never really thought about the idea of treasure chests.
The original word there in Matthew chapter two, “Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts...”, the original Greek word simply means a deposit, wealth. They gave him what they had deposited in their treasure boxes.
We can do the same. As a matter of fact, ADOREation, worship is all about opening up our treasure deposits to God. When we ADORE Jesus Christ the outcome will be that we open our hearts to him. I believe that’s what Jesus meant when he said, “For where you treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:21)
ADOREation culminates in giving what we value most to God.
Christina Rosetti was a teenager when Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol encouraging everyone to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.
Christina grew to be an accomplished poet. One of her most powerful was entitled, In A Bleak Midwinter, about the birth of Jesus Christ. The ending of the poem goes like this...
Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.
Enough for Him, Whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, Whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.
Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.
Now listen to this last stanza...
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can give Him: give my heart.
What can I give Him: give my heart.
There is the power of ADOREation. It’s all about giving our heart. The greatest form of worship is to give God your heart. When you give Him your heart, your obedience will follow...so will your thoughts...and you praise...and your story...and your treasure. Because, where your heart is, so is your treasure. Where your treasure is, so is your heart.
To discover the REAL Christmas begins with a REALationship that eVALUEates what’s most important and ADOREs Him most of all.
Prayer: (Application Sheet)
For more information on this series or to request powerpoint slides and ideas visit our website at churchforfamily.com.