06 January 2018

To Worship the Lord Jesus in Faith and Love

The Magi were probably from Babylon or Persia, that part of the world, east of the Promised Land.  They were not magicians or alchemists, but scientists and scholars, astronomers.  We know that Babylon already had such people in the days of Daniel, and it is surely no coincidence that Daniel, after interpreting King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, was made the chief of all the magi in Babylon.  He also continued to serve in that capacity when the Medes and Persians took over.

So it is no wonder that Magi from the East had some awareness of what was going on among the people of Israel.  For the faithful Prophet Daniel, who lived according to the Word of the Lord, would also have confessed and taught the Wisdom of that Word, including the Prophecies of the Christ who was to come: The Scepter of Judah, and the Star of Jacob.

When the Magi observed a bright new light in the sky, in the area assigned to Judah, they would have known from the Word of the Lord what this meant.  The King had come, who would reign over the nations with a scepter of righteousness.  It was His star that had risen.

It is important to understand that, while the star was the sign of Christ’s birth, it was the Scriptures that actually guided the Magi to Him.  The Scriptures pointed them, first of all, to the land of Israel, to Judah.  And the Scriptures also then directed them to Bethlehem, to the City of David.

But why did they go?  Why did they bother?  Why did the Magi travel that great distance?  Why did they search so diligently?  And why did they rejoice so greatly when they found the Child?

They could have been saved by faith in the Word of God without making the long trip to see Him in person.  They could have rejoiced in the Savior from afar.  But they did not.  They undertook the journey.  They were compelled by faith and love to seek Him out.  And they tell us plainly why they went.  It was to worship Him.  That is why they made the journey: To worship the Christ.

Thus, when they entered the house, and they saw the Child with His Mother, they fell down and prostrated themselves before Him.  They worshiped Him with their bodies, with their treasures, and with their very lives.  They entrusted themselves to Him.  They worshiped Him in the beauty of His holiness, even in the frailty of His human flesh and blood, an Infant in His Mother’s lap.

They saw the same thing anyone else would have seen.  But the Word told them what to believe about this little Boy.  That He is God.  That He is the King.  That He is the Savior, the Christ, the Ruler who has come.  So they prostrated themselves before Him.  They humbled themselves in His presence.  And they gave Him their costly treasures.  As their lives belong to Him, so with body and life they worshiped Him who is manifest God in the flesh, and who has come to save them.

They came and worshiped Him, not as though to grovel and beg to get something from Him, but because they knew and believed that He had come freely, in love, to give them everything by grace.  There was nothing else they needed any longer.  In this Child they found and received everything that matters.  And that made all the difference in the world.

The same God and Savior has also revealed Himself to you.  He has also spoken His Word to you.  And He has given His Word to you, as well — His Word-made-Flesh — in outward, visible, external means of grace.  In the preaching and Ministry of the Gospel.  That is where and how you find the Christ, your Savior!  That is where and how you find the Lord your God.

Heaven and earth stand up and take notice, because in the simple preaching of the Word of God by ministers all over the world, from pulpits just like this one — and from this very pulpit — divine Mysteries are revealed, which even the angels know only by this preaching of the Gospel.

This Word tells you where God is for you.  And the Light of the Revelation of the Glory of God is revealed to you in the face of Jesus Christ, the Babe, the Son of Mary.  The Crucified One who suffered under Pontius Pilate.  In Him, in His Flesh, God Himself is with you.

The Gospel of Christ reveals Him to you by forgiving your sins in His Name.  It gives you His Life and Salvation, because it gives you Jesus Himself.  And in doing so, it calls you to faith in Him.

That faith to which the Gospel calls you is not a dead or dormant thing.  It is rather a living and active thing, and before it has even been told what to do, it is already busy doing it.

And what is it that faith does?  First of all, it listens to the Word of God.  There is nothing more vital to faith than that.  Faith gives attention to God’s Word and the preaching of it, because it is by His Word that God does and gives all things.  It is by His Word that He gives life.

Faith hears and believes what the Word of God declares.  And according to that Word, it receives the gifts of God within His Church on earth in the Ministry of His Gospel.  It knows that Christ is here at hand to save and to give life.  Faith is willing to stake everything on that.  Indeed, it will suffer and die a thousand deaths before it would ever give that up.

Faith will likewise travel a thousand miles, it will go even to the ends of the earth, in order to find the Christ Child, to worship and adore Him.  Faith spares no expense.  There is no treasure on earth that it would not freely give up, because Jesus has come, the Treasure of heaven.  The riches of God are here in Him.  Everything else is rubbish by comparison (and nothing at all without Him).

So faith seeks out the Christ where His Word has determined and directed you to go.  It looks to the Signs that He has designated.  Not to stars in the sky, not for you; that was for the Magi then.  For you the Signs are here on earth, within the Lord’s House, in water, bread, and wine.  That is where Christ Jesus is for you, the Lord your God in the flesh.  That is where you find Him.

And that is where you go to worship Him in faith and love, with heart and mind, with body, soul, and spirit.  To serve Him, not because you “have to,” although He is your Lord and God, and you are His creature and His servant; but you serve Him, as you love Him, because He serves you.

You love Him and serve Him because He has given Himself entirely for you and to you, and because your life is found entirely in Him.  Thus do you worship Him with all that you are and have.  In and with your heart, to be sure.  It is in and with your heart that you cling to Him by faith, come hell or high water against you, no matter what may happen to your body.

But as your heart loves and worships Christ Jesus, so does your body also, as it can.  You prostrate yourself before Him.  You bend your knees and bow your head.  You humble yourself before Him.  And you worship Him with your hands and feet, your mouth and lips and tongue, and with your whole life.  Your flesh is put into His service.  You’ll bleed and die if necessary, for the sake of this King who has saved you by the voluntary shedding of His Blood for you upon the Cross.

You will spare no expense to love Him, to serve Him, and to worship Him.  For whatever you have is from Him in the first place, and He will not fail to supply whatever is needed for your body and life, here in time and hereafter in eternity.  So you will do whatever.  You will open your treasures, be they great or small, and give Him whatever you have, because He has given you everything.

You worship Him with heart, soul, mind, and strength, with your body and life, your flesh and blood, and with your time, treasures, and talents.  You worship Him with all that you are and have.  Not to purchase His blessing (which is not for sale, in any case), but to thank and praise Him for all His grace and every blessing, for all that He is, and for all that He has done for you in Christ.

Thus, you live a very different life than the world does.  And you live in a completely different way than the Herods of the world.  You live in a different way because you have a new and different King in Christ Jesus.  And in Him you have found a new and different house and home with God.  You have a new Fatherland.  So you walk by a new and different way, just as the Magi did.

You love and serve the Lord Jesus, and for His sake you love and serve His people.  As the Magi served Mary and Joseph with their gifts — which paid for their flight into Egypt — so do you love and serve Christ by loving and serving His people, providing for their needs in this body and life with whatever means the Lord has placed into your stewardship.  You look for ways to love and serve Him by faith, by loving and serving those around you who are hungry, who need shelter and protection, mercy and care.  You do it for Jesus’ sake.  And in this way, too, you worship Him.

His Word tells you what to do and how.  He has not left you without guidance.  His Word warns you against all harm and danger.  As He warned the Magi against Herod, so does He warn you.  His Law warns you against the ways that would destroy your faith and life in Christ.  And His Law guides you, as well, in the way that you should go.  It guides your footsteps in the way of peace.

His Word teaches you how to live as a Christian.  How to live under Christ and serve Him in His Kingdom in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.

And by faith you do.  Because it is not only His Law that guides and warns you, but His Gospel lights your way.  His Gospel forgives every misstep, every wrong turn, every false direction.  His Gospel shines the Light of His grace, mercy, and peace upon you.  His Gospel forgives your sins.

He does not ask you to fight His battles, but He fights for you.  He is not a king like the rulers of this world.  He is God Himself, who reigns in love over His creation, the work of His own hands.

The kings of this earth and their subjects live in fear.  They are terrified of death, and so they fear the judgment of God against their sins.  They do not understand that He comes with forgiveness and salvation.  They tremble and shake at the coming of Christ Jesus.  And in response, they avoid Him, or else they seek to “worship” Him with a sword and violent bloodshed, because He threatens their existence, their self-chosen place and purpose in the world, and their idolatrous lifestyle.

Be on guard against that violence of unbelief in your own sinful heart and soul.  For it is not only those tyrants in high places who seek to be rid of the Lord Jesus.  It is whatever would dethrone Him from reigning over you as your King.  It is whatever would take His place in your body and life.  When you set Him aside in favor of your own passions and pursuits, you follow the lead of those who sought to end His life then, and the lead of those who refuse and reject Him to this day.

They suppose that He has come to take away what they love.  And to that extent they are right!  He has come to take away what they love, but so also to give them that which is actually worth loving, that which is necessary for life and salvation.  He has come to replace their false gods and idols with Himself, the true God in the flesh.  He has come to give them real life instead of death.

Now, by the grace of God, by His Word and Holy Spirit, you have been called from the darkness into the Light, into the Kingdom of His beloved Son, Christ Jesus.  Baptized in His Name, you live no longer for yourself but for Him who for your sake died and was raised.  No longer terrified by death, you fear, love, and trust in Him above all things.  You serve and worship Him by faith

Your King has set you free from the bondage of sin and the fear of death, so you may proceed in peace with exceedingly great joy.  You live according to His Word, because you are free to do so.  You are a free citizen of His Kingdom.  Wherever in the world you live, you are His very own.

He seeks you out, and He finds you.  And now, as then, it is God Himself who gives the greatest Treasure.  You worship Him, not because He needs your gifts, but because He has given you every good and perfect Gift already.  It is all yours in Jesus Christ.  He places it into your hand, into your mouth, and into your body, that you may have life in both body and soul, both now and forever.  Oh, come, let us worship Him!  Let us kneel and bow down at the Altar of the Lord, our Savior.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

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