MATTHEW 2:9-12 (NIV))
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
Just a few days ago, I loaded up the car with (what seemed like) half my worldly belongings, situated my little family with drinks and snacks, and drove 6 hours (or so) down the road to celebrate Christmas at my Mother’s. That little trip took days of preparation. And I’m fairly certain that I’ll be sore for another week. Though my purpose for going is to see family, make memories, and spend time together, if I’m honest, going home makes me happy.
Mom cooks all our favorite food, takes care of us for a few days, and I get to shut off for a bit. I pack, and travel, and push to be there, knowing that my soul will rest, and find relief when we visit. Just as I feel recharged, we pack it all up again and head out on the long journey home. Those few days of ‘going’ are so worth it, every time—mostly for what I get.
But the Wise Men, packed and traveled, endured and persisted, for the purpose of worship. And the essence of worship requires the opposite of selfish pursuit. Worship is the lifting up, the exultation of another, that chooses the self-denial necessary for giving away adoration. As the signs pointed to a King, these Wise Men invested in a pursuit that intentionally sacrificed for the glory of another; much like others over the ages, Simeon & Anna, Mary & Joseph, Abraham & Moses—those who sought, waited, prepared, and pursued God passionately. Without the luxuries of my Christmas trip home, the Wise Men went seeking only to give themselves away along the journey and upon their arrival. The Wise Men began their journey with expectancy and found what they were looking for, a Savior to worship.
Our searching for the things of God often comes with quite the opposite. Our journey to God usually revolves around what’s in it for us. We even embark on our search with skepticism and disbelief. We investigate, deconstruct, and dismantle the things of God in our searching; instead of embarking on the journey of discovery with the belief that what we’ve been told will be true. We start the journey of searching assuming God will be proven wrong.
Instead of assuming the worst about God, entering into a deeper discovery of his character and a more meaningful relationship with him, shifting the assumption to the best of God, may change everything about our pursuit. After all, Matthew later says, “ask and it shall be given, seek and you will find . . .” (7:7) It is possible to joyfully walk the road to Jesus with the assumption that what he’s promised he will provide, and what he’s said to expect will be satisfied.
We know these Wise Men assumed they would discover something good in their search because they came prepared to find it. They devoted themselves to the search and weren’t surprised when they found what they were looking for. Sacrifice and searching with the purpose of worship will always lead to holy moments; like a beautiful star pointing the way to your deliverer. The holiness of those moments will not simply be based on what we offer in the journey, but on what we believe God will do in his faithfulness. Those two things together, our sacrifice that leads us to seek God in worship and discovery, along with his character of goodness, and faithfulness—will always have us find him. And that discovery will always be for his sake, not ours, because that’s always the purpose of worship. The Wise Men sought Jesus for the sake of his glory.
Our searching tends to be in hope of our benefit because we want God to do something . . . for us. When the aim of our searching should be the discovery of who he is. The miraculous is found when our attention shifts to him, and our delight in his glory. In hindsight, the moments I’ve grown in deeper discovery of God have been in the uncertain moments of the journey, as I’ve learned to joyfully lean into God as I change course and find a new way forward. Even this journey through healing from stillbirth, though it’s been unbearably painful in its grief, has been ever so sweet with the presence of God as I’ve relied on him to lead me through.
The beautiful gift from the Magi isn’t the gold, frankincense, and myrrh, it was their sacrifice of worship. And in God’s great goodness, the sacrifice of praise does tend to do something for us in return. I’m confident the Wise Men found something in Jesus, in their worship of him, that returned their road-weary souls to rest, and gave them more than they needed for the journey home. But the tipping point is this, they took the trip to give themselves to Jesus without expecting anything in return. The miracle was the sacrifice of the journey to worship. Their filling was simply the benefit of their gift. Maybe your heaven meets earth moment will come as you pursue the same, a life of sacrificial pursuit for the sole purpose of worship.
Actually, I’m sure it will be.
Lord forgive us for seeking you only to wonder what you’re waiting to give us. Forgive us for searching with skepticism…wondering if you’ll really be waiting at the end of our journey. Awaken your Spirit in us to shift our focus from our benefit to our sacrificial search. That our journey in worship, our life with you would be for your glory. And in your grace, return our worship with something to fill us up for the journey.
In Christ our Lord,
As you pursue the things of God, is it your tendency to seek God for what you can get? Or what you can give? Do you approach your journey in faith with timid, baby steps of skepticism? And is it time to take big, bold, believing steps that assume the best of God, instead of the worst? What you can expect instead of what you might not?
Maybe, as the New Year approaches, it’s time to change the way you take the journey.
For the Awakening,