Page 358 was a Sunday that began very early as I headed into work to do some cleaning and building prep as I waited for the snow to arrive. There was a feel of snow in the air as I headed out into the early morning darkness, but none had arrived yet so I began with giving the floors a good scrubbing when I arrived at work so they would be clean and dry by the time people arrived. Once the floors were ready, I turned my attention to bathrooms and the rest of the building as I continued my morning prayer and work. Once the building was ready for the day, I sat down to rest until the snow finally arrived just before the start of our morning worship gathering. It began as a very fine snow — almost a drizzle in snow form — so I went out to spread some ice melt on the walks to keep the early snow from sticking as it arrived.
It was a great Christmas Eve worship gathering filled with Christmas carols and reminders not only of the birth of Christ, but also of the purpose of His birth here on earth — to save His people from their sins. David’s sermon used the text of the Magi, or Wise Men, from Matthew 2 as we looked at the gift they gave that was even greater than the “gold, frankincense, and myrrh” that we are most familiar with — they came to give the gift of worship! Here are some thoughts that I took away from that message:
- Their gift was deliberate: These were not just some wandering nomads that decided to help out this poor family that they just happened to stumble upon as they traveled. They had studied every resource available to them and concluded that a sign they had seen in the heavens — a star — proclaimed a new king of the Jews had been born. Instead of simply noticing the star and thinking, “that was nice”, they set off on a deliberate journey and search until they found the one they were looking for. Given the time frame of their story, their arrival at a house where Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were living, and the decision by Herod to kill all infant boys two years old and under; it would appear that this search and journey could have taken the better part of two years! Yet through it all, their story to Herod and to Mary and Joseph, was their intent to come and worship this One born king. Are you and I that deliberate in our worship of God every day, or are we content to worship when we feel like it or someone lead us, and not give any thought to worship at other times?
- Their gift was given in complete humility: The Magi had the resources available to them to not only give gifts of great financial value, but also to travel the great distances and time required to deliver them in person. It would appear, because of their study, insight, and great wisdom, that they would have been thought very highly of in their homeland. The fact that they were even able to appear before Herod to inquire about the location a king of the Jews would be born in, would say that they were seen as very important people not only in their home country, but wherever they went. Yet when they reach the house where they find Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, their presentation of gifts is not a formal, diplomatic event but a humble act of worship. How we give is just as important, perhaps more important, than what we give. No matter how important, or unimportant, we think we are or others think we are, our approach to God must always be in humility. God says He “opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Our gift of worship is pleasing to God when we bow our hearts and minds and present ourselves to Him in full recognition of who we are compared to who He is.
- Their gift was designed by God to accomplish God’s purpose: There is so much of the Christmas story that we know, so much we think we know because we’ve heard it in certain ways for so long, and so much we don’t really know simply because God didn’t say. Some things are easy to “connect the dots” in a manner that makes sense and creates a finished “picture”, so the likelihood of things happening in a certain way becomes settled in our mind — whether true or not. What we can be certain of, whether we figure out the reason or not, is that God has a purpose for the gifts He has given us and as we share them, He uses them to accomplish His purpose. I believe we would not even know the story of the Magi if God did not have a purpose for which He used them and a purpose for us to learn from. While very little of the known world clamored around to celebrate the birth of Jesus, God sent people — shepherds and Magi — to worship this child born to Mary. I suspect that to Mary and Joseph, these unplanned visitors were reassuring to them that the news given to them by an angel had not just been some strange dream but was the very truth of God. And in arriving to worship and then leaving gifts of great value, it is likely that the Magi were used by God to finance the journey to Egypt that would be undertaken by Mary and Joseph to protect Jesus from the rage of Herod. The problem with what we have being used by God is that He usually expects us to be involved in the using of His gifts to accomplish His purpose. He doesn’t show up at night and take money out of our wallet to help a person in need. No, He supplies our need according to His riches in glory and then gives us the opportunities to be used by Him. As we live in obedience to God, He often calls us to simply give and trust Him to use our giving to accomplish His purpose.
After the church service, we got things around and headed to a family Christmas gathering. The snowflakes had become larger and more plentiful so the driving was considerably slower than usual. It was a restful afternoon and evening spent with family and watching birds outside the windows. The birds seemed just as excited about the food available to them as they humans were about the food spread out before them. 🙂 Today’s photo is one of my favorites from the afternoon as two birds shared a suet cake that was hanging in a feeder in the falling snow. As the day came to a close, I headed to bed with an unwritten page in my mind that I have now written the next morning.
As I reflect on the day, here are some thoughts/lessons that stand out to me:
- Rest is an interesting thing — not enough of it and I feel bad, too much of it (as if there is such a thing) and I feel bad, just enough of it and I feel good! 🙂
- I am usually much more productive when I am rested than if I try to start a task while I am weary.
- I like routine but sometimes thinking ahead helps me to see when my routine needs to be changed up a bit for a greater good.
- I will never offer God the worship He deserves by accident — I must choose to do so.
- I will never offer God the worship He deserves when I think too highly of myself — I must approach Him with complete humility.
- I will never offer God the worship He deserves if I keep His gifts to myself — I must make myself fully available to Him.
- Snowy days may slow us down, or at least should slow us down on the roadways, but they are still beautiful.
- Whatever we have brings greater joy and fulfillment when we share it with others.