Christmas and gift giving. The two have always been associated with each other for good reason. The magi gave Jesus the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The shepherds gave Jesus the gift of their time and belief. Mary gave Jesus the gift of her womb. The offerings seem practical. The wise men’s treasures could be used to fund the family’s escape to Egypt. The shepherds’ visitation would keep the family company. Mary’s womb would protect the growing child. But there is one gift that might appear a bit curious.
The angels’ gift of worship.
Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others — the armies of Heaven — praising God:
“Glory to God in the highest Heaven,” they sang, “and peace on earth for all those pleasing Him.”
When this great army of angels had returned again to Heaven, the shepherds said to each other,
Come on! Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this wonderful thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about. — Luke 2:13-15 TLB
The angels filled the night with light and the air with music, and, well, that’s it. They worshipped. Couldn’t they have done something more useful? Mary could have used a bed. Joseph would have benefited from an angelic escort back to Nazareth. Baby Jesus needed a bassinet.
These were angels. Didn’t they know better?
Then again, these were angels. Who knew Jesus better than they? Those who knew Jesus best loved Him dearest. Those who had followed Him the longest gave Him the gift of worship. They placed their love on a pillow of praise and presented it to Jesus. They did that night. They do so still. Heaven at this very moment reverberates with loud corporate worship.
Day and night they never stop saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy’. — Revelation 4:8
The word worship actually evolved from the Old English word weorthscipe. “To worship, then, is to ascribe worth to someone or something.”1
Worship happens anytime you turn your heart toward Heaven and say, “You are worthy.” When you clear your calendar for prayer, turn the radio dial to praise music, or use your morning jog to recite Bible verses or your lunch break to meditate, this is worship.
Worship happens in neighborhoods, in living rooms, in open pastures. And, yes, worship happens in churches. When the people of God make a public and plural declaration of God’s goodness, worship is happening.
God is on the hunt for those who will imitate the angels, for people who will open their hearts and mouths and declare, “Glory to God in the highest Heaven.”
The Father… is actively seeking such people to worship Him. — John 4:23 NCV
Perhaps you are wondering, But what if I don’t worship?
Oh, but you will. The question is not, will you worship? The question is, where will you direct your worship? We all worship someone or something. Why, I once worshipped a bicycle!
At the age of eight I asked my parents to give me a bicycle for Christmas. Not just any bike but a fire-engine red Schwinn bike with a banana seat and high handlebars. They did! Basking in the light of the Christmas tree, it beckoned me to climb aboard and ride away into the bliss of childhood.
I decorated the handlebars with tassels and bought a reflector for the fender. I attached a playing card to the frame so it would click, click, click against the tire spokes. I was cool. James Dean–level cool. My bike and I explored subdivisions, drainage ditches, and dirt roads. I loved the bike. I worshipped the bike.
But then I wrecked it. I crashed into a curb and bent the frame. My dad and I tried to repair it, but the bike was never the same. It let me down. I was counting on it to carry me, to deliver me, to entertain me, to fulfill me. It didn’t.
What about you? You were counting on that career to carry you, deliver you, entertain you, and fulfill you. But it hasn’t.
You were counting on that marriage to carry you, deliver you, entertain you, and fulfill you. But it didn’t.
You were counting on that retirement to carry you, deliver you, entertain you, and fulfill you. But it hasn’t.
You were counting on that education to carry you, deliver you, entertain you, and fulfill you. But it didn’t.
You were counting on that body to carry you, deliver you, entertain you, and fulfill you. But it hasn’t.
Worship might not be the word you’ve used to describe your passion, yet the term fits. Anytime we trust an object or activity to give us life and meaning, we worship it.
When we make good things the ultimate things, we set ourselves up for disappointment.
If we depend on a career or relationship to give our lives meaning, what happens when retirement comes or the relationship ends? The list of impostor gods includes sex, food, money, alcohol, success, and influence. In the correct dosage and context, these can be wonderful gifts from God. But they are dismal substitutes for God. To worship them is to be satisfied, then brokenhearted. Infatuated, then discouraged. Enthralled, then angry.
God-centered worship rescues us from bamboozlers, trompe l’oeil gods who never deliver on their promises. Worship does to the soul what a spring rain does to a thirsty field. It soaks down, seeps in, and stirs life. Are you stressed? Worship God, who could store the universe in His pocket and the oceans in an eyedropper. Are you ashamed? Worship Jesus, whose love never fades. Are you bereaved? Open your heart to your Shepherd. He will lead you through the valley of sorrow. Do you feel small? A few moments in front of the throne of your loving King will evaporate any sense of insignificance.
Worship works wonders.
For your own sake do what the angels did: make a big deal about the arrival of the King.
Give Jesus the gift the angels gave Him, the gift of praise.
Don the robe of grace, soar on wings of faith, and take your place in the heavenly chorus and sing, “Glory to God in the highest.”
- Terry Wardle, Exalt Him! Designing Dynamic Worship Services (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1992), 23.
Excerpted with permission from Because of Bethlehem by Max Lucado, copyright Max Lucado.
* * *
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty! Let’s join the angels in worship today! Come share your thoughts on the wonder of worship today. We want to hear from you!