See Jesus. Know joy.
As we approach Christmas day, the day of our Savior’s birth, we do well to ask the question: Where is our joy?
Joy, is a common and central theme in Scripture. It is both articulated as being found solely in the Lord, and it is expressed in us, his image-bearers, as authentication of that truth. As the Psalmist says, in Your presence is fullness of joy… (Ps. 16.11).
Matthew’s birth narrative offers us a foil for us to examine our heart’s desire to offer worship to Jesus. In other words, to ask the question: where is our joy?
On the one hand, we are introduced to Herod, who was an evil and corrupt king. The news of the birth of the One Who was born King of the Jews troubled him. In fact, it troubled all of Jerusalem. It seems likely that Herod’s reputation as a violent and wicked king, and his anticipated response to this news, was what troubled all the rest of Jerusalem. However, for Herod himself, he would spend his final days applying all of his skills to eliminate any threat to his throne, in other words, to resist his own dethronement as an act of worship to the rightful Heir to THE throne.
Herod models for us our own deeply sinful and self-deceptive nature - our desire to be at the center of all things. He models for us what was the result of the Fall itself, namely a shift from image-bearers who joyfully reflect the glory of God back to Him and out to the world, to a broken people whose focus is no longer on reflecting God’s glory, but instead on pursuing our own glory.
In short, we want to be King.
On the other hand, the wise men offer us a perspective on joyful, purposeful worship that is at the very essence of our image-bearing status.
To begin with, it is interesting to note that Matthew tells us almost nothing about these wise men. We learn from tradition that they may have been three of them, and we even learn their names, but not from Matthew. There are countless astrological theories about the nature of the star, but again, not from Matthew. Why?
I submit to you that it may well be because of Matthew’s intent in writing the gospel in the first place. In chapter one, Matthew labors to convince his readers that Jesus is the rightful King, and in chapter two, we are shown that He received that kingly adoration due His name. All of the other information would then be superfluous. All we need to know about the wise men is their singular mission. They came with a singular question that was inherently linked to that singular mission. What was that question?
Where is the One Who has been born king of the Jews?
What was the inherently linked mission?
To worship Him!
Matthew then tells us that when the star led the wise men to where the Child had been born, they responded with joy. In fact, Matthew tells us that they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
For the wise men, strangers to Jerusalem, their response to the prospect of offering worship to Jesus is one of rejoicing exceedingly with great joy. And why not? It is, after all, what we were designed to do.
As you approach Christmas morning this Advent season, may you take some time to reflect on whether the birth of Jesus and the prospect of offering Him worship stirs up joy in your heart. And when, inevitably, it at times does not, allow that to be a time to go before the Lord in prayer; seeking, by His grace, to see Jesus for Who He is, and to then joyfully worship Him.