23 December 2009

Come to Worship

by Frank Turk

Before we get to the festivities, some/many/most of you may have heard that Michael Spencer is not well. Whatever it is that is ailing him has him in the hospital, and is a very serious matter. They are hoping to get an actual diagnosis for him in the next week – after they nurse him back to healthy-enough to start tests.

That is a lousy way for anyone and his family to have to spend Christmas. Before I start the mayhem regarding Christmas, take a moment away from your KB and screen, kneel down, and pray for God’s mercy for Michael Spencer. Pray for God’s healing, and for good to come from this evil; and in lieu of a miracle, pray God gives the doctors and care-givers wisdom, insight, real skill, and a steady hand.

"Y’all?!" as we say here in the south.

That word (sic) is funny because you non-Southerners think it just means, "you-all", a sort of red-neck "you-plural". But it’s such a much more versatile word. As in this case, it doesn’t just mean, "all of you": it can mean "what exactly is wrong with all of you." It’s an interjection.

"Y’all?! Do I have to write all the posts about Christmas around here?"

I recycled my series on our joy because of God’s wrath over at Evangel this year because obviously, those people needed to hear it. For those of you who missed it when I posted it originally, you can read through it without having to read the other stuff which may get you off your egg nog by chasing that link.

I will also have posted the traditional "6-part harmony" at Evangel this year (the link won’t work until 24 Dec 2009 around 0600 US-Eastern time), which you have also seen before.

"Yeah, cent: we’ve been meaning to talk to you about that," comes the very concerned and troubled brethren. "You seem to have sort of chummed up with those Colsonesque wobblies over there, and your total blogging in other venues has dropped off radically. Especially here. And what puzzles us most, dear brother, is that while you didn’t sign the MD, you are willing to co-bloggitate with all manner of theological canoodlers at Evangel."

After a long and solemn pause, the question comes, "What gives?"

Sheesh.

Yeah, first of all, the canoodlers over there don’t like my brand of blogging any better than they ever did, as you can see by the strange alliance of people lining up behind Mark Olson to tell me my Gospel isn’t big enough.

Yeah, I know: don’t laugh at them. They’re serious.

But this is actually a post about Christmas, so I’m going to see your intervention and raise you the hot toddy of the season.
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and we have come to worship him." When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

"'And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.'"

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him." After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
I know: this is post-Christmas scripture, if we ever cover it at all. It’s the part that leads to feast days and icons and other sorts of gift-giving and something which may or may not look like Santa but which avoids the jolly fat man.

But it is something we should consider seriously, and solemnly, and with a good bit of self-incrimination.


You see: wise men from the east came to Jerusalem when Jesus was born.

Now, what is east of Jerusalem? That is: for Matthew, the Jew, who is writing to his fellow sons of Abraham, what is east of Jerusalem?

In one sense, there’s nothing: there’s not a blessed thing east of Jerusalem after the Sea of Galilee which any self-respecting Israelite would care to mention.

But on the other hand, there is a massive piece of Jewish history east of Jerusalem: Babylon, and the Medio-Persians. It’s the place they lived in exile for 70 years. It’s the place of the nation’s punishment for being completely non-plussed by YHVH and completely gaga over the other nations and their gods. It’s the place where Daniel was among the highest of the rulers of the kingdom, but where he didn’t let it go to his head (or his mouth).

And from there, wise men came to Jerusalem. But not only that, they came to worship the king of the Jews – "he who has been born king of the Jews". That little quotation there deserves its own post, but this is the day before the day before Christmas – we don’t have a lot of time for nuance. It looks like Matthew is saying, "it’s sorta obvious that Jesus was amazing because even the Persians were sending guys in to see him."

And these guys came in publicly. They were walking around Jerusalem asking people, "Have you seen the one who was born the king of the Jews? We’ve come to worship him." They thought that everybody would know that this had happened.

But apparently, they were wrong.

Herod didn’t know it had happened, for example. And he had guys in his court who could cite the Jewish scripture.

So Herod, the acting King of the Jews, calls the wise men in secretly to ask them what it is exactly they are talking about. What the Persians knew and would proclaim publicly, Herod and his court wanted to keep a private matter – for their own reasons, which of course turn out to be nefarious.

Now, what of it? How does this relate to Christmas, and Evangel, and your complaint about the drunken master?

I think there are 3 basic take-aways here which you can take away at your own leisure:




[1] Coming to worship the one who was born King of the Jews is a public matter. This matter of a king in Israel (who is Jesus) deserves its own place in the world, which we cannot ever be ashamed of. If the Persians (and it could have been any stripe of Persians; it could have actually been Chinese as far as I’m concerned) could come to Jerusalem, where the people ought to have been looking for this baby, and want to worship so much that it was common knowledge regarding what they were looking for, we who say we know Him, and say are His people, ought to be unashamed to tell others we’re here to worship. Have you seen this Jesus? I’m here to worship Him.

[2] I’d be wary of anyone who wants to only talk in private about the one who was born King of the Jews. Not just because of Herod’s lousy example, but because any private Jesus is a phony Jesus. If your Jesus is just a Jesus inside you, or inside your church, or inside your blog, and that Jesus has to live in a bunker to be safe (or worse: so that you can be safe), that’s not the Jesus who calls men from pagan Persia to worship him. The Jesus who makes us unsafe, and who causes unrest in this world, and causes kings to have private meetings to decide what to do about him, is the Jesus we need to be following.

[3] This relates to my co-bloggitating in this way: I think people need to see more Jesus. I’m not at liberty to list all the names which were on Joe Carter’s original invite to come and make merry with the Ecumeniacal, but I didn’t see a lot of people from our neck of the woods on the list. I did see plenty of the priests in the temple, and the scribes, and the rulers of the people, and the Hewittites, and the Colsonites, and maybe one or two who were eating locusts and wild honey. In that mix, given that I would have the free reign to blog what was necessary and what I was willing to say, this was like going to Jerusalem to ask around, "excuse me – someone was just born King of the Jews. Do you know about that?"

This has plainly caused unrest in the Ecumenicamp. In fact, it seems to me that some of them have never actually encountered the idea of a Jesus greater than denominations and greater than our systematics before because their apologetics against such a thing are so, well, unimpressive. If signing the Manhattan Declaration could have caused this much unrest among those who were inclined to sign it, I would have used a big, fat magnum Sharpie to sign it and covered a whole page with my name.

So while I have blogged about generosity at Christmas before, and about the joy we have because of receiving Christ instead of wrath, this year I’m blogging (briefly) about the public offense of the child born in a manger, and the problems that he rightfully causes to our safe and secure ways of seeing him. You should be taking Him, and the news about Him, to the people who ought to know better so that they will worship Him. And only Him.

Good tidings of great joy to you, dear readers: let a real Jesus bring you repentance, a clean conscience, a sincere faith, and a true love of others as we consider this baby born King of the Jews.







19 comments:

Phil Johnson said...

:-)

I give you less than 6 months before they give you the left foot of fellowship over there.

I for one thought your self-interview was brilliant.

Thanks for injecting Christmas spirit here, too.

I preached on Matthew 2 a coupla weeks ago. It meshes well with what Frank says here. Have a listen. (Or right-click on that link and download for later.)

Frank Turk said...

This is my favorite time of the year.

Well, this and when people tell me they love all kinds of Christians except my kinds of Christians. But I'm in for that only for the punchlines.

witness said...

Someone once said "The Gospel is the solution for the culture."

I am inclined to agree... especially at Christmas time.

Frank Turk said...

That guy used to be my pastor. He's pretty bright.

Stefan said...

Frank:

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Two days before Christmas, and we have a convicting post about the birth of our King!

Both last year and this year, we heard advent sermons on this passage from Matthew 2. Of course, our senior pastor preached on the fulfilment of the Davidic covenant and so on, but there were also a few interesting exegetical points (with the obvious applications) that he drew our attention to this year:

* Of course, the magi travelled alone to Bethlehem. None of the elite in Jerusalem bothered to accompany them.

* When the magi saw the star again on the way to Bethlehem, they didn't merely rejoice, or rejoice exceedlingly, or even rejoice exceedingly with joy, but these worldly wise men who had no doubt seen a lot in their lives "rejoiced exceedingly with great joy," wrote Matthew emphatically.

* When they saw Jesus, they fell down and worshipped Him. In the context of biblical Judaism, this would have been idolatry (notwithstanding that they weren't Jews)—unless Jesus Christ was God incarnate.

* They brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These weren't just any old precious gifts. Frankincense is incense—free of impurities in a world where manufacturing quality control was an unknown concept—and myrrh was the costliest perfume in the ancient world. This is only fitting for a God who demands our firstfruits, and who has the right to our firstborn.

Stefan said...

And to join in the sermon festivities, the link to the sermon is here, with MP3 and Video links at the bottom of the page.

Hayden said...

Frank,

Thanks for the posts at the 'other' blog. They were great food to feast on.

To join the party, I too preached on Matthew 2 last week :--)

John said...

That red and green graphic looks suspiciously like an optical illusion. If i look at it cross-eyed will I see Turk-man lofting a hot toddy?

Rachael Starke said...

I always love your Christmas posts, Frank, and I totally love what you, you personally, are doing at Evangel. May God bless the work and you this Christmas.

Re: telling people that we've come to worship Jesus - you're not saying that that possibly applies to places like Facebook and blogs and such, are you? You mean - all those folks who post only inanities because they've got a wide swath of friends, and some might be offended if they talk about Jesus,

And all those other folks who use Facebook to rant and rail and cuss about how the world as we know it is ending because Obamacare might pass,

Those folks might be forgetting we're here to worship Jesus??

Hmm.

Trevor's Blog said...

Frank,

I have no clue what is going on over at Evangel, but I did catch a brief glimpse of the 'self-interview' you did. I love the wittiness and humor. Terribly funny. Ok, now forgive that off-topicness.

Honest pondering here: How would the people of ancient Israel know that they are supposed to be looking throughout Bethlehem for the Messiah's birth? The prophet (Zechariah? I forget.) definitely and clearly told them the location of the arrival of the king, but how did they know that it was at this time?

we who say we know Him, and say are His people, ought to be unashamed to tell others we’re here to worship. Have you seen this Jesus? I’m here to worship Him.

That is exactly the attitude I want when I go to church for corporate worship, to my personal devotion time, and really life in general. It seems pretty simple, right? "Why are you here?" "To worship the King, Jesus Christ."
Thanks for that.

- the young man who contacted you via twitter and whom apparently has "emergent hair"....and also goes to Northside Baptist

donsands said...

I shall pray for Michael Spencer.

Jesus was King of kings as an infant, and even more so now. King of kings. All shall bow to King Jesus; even angels.

Thanks for the great words. Good Christmas lesson.

Merry Christmas to you and your fam. And to the TeamPyro three amigos. May Christ fill your hearts. homes, and surroundings with great joy and peace. All for the glory of His holy name. Amen.

Frank Turk said...

Trevor --

Does Bruce still weep when he preaches? He's awesome.

To the problem of those in Jerusalem and timing, the wise men knew. The Jews could have figured it out, I'll bet.

Trevor's Blog said...

Frank,

Yes. He definitely does. It's kinda funny. :P

Gotcha. Fo' sho the wise men knew. And they were going to worship a baby! That's nuts! (Of course as they realized it was the Messiah it makes perfect sense, but if I imagine myself in their shoes...i'd be like "Well this is something I don't do every day.")

- Trevor (Hopefully I will become a more active commenter here on the Pyroblag with all you bloggernauts.)

Stefan said...

Donsands:

Amen to everything you wrote.

Trevor:

If I were living in Jerusalem 2000 years ago, I'm not sure in my heart of hearts that I wouldn't be one of the Pharisees thinking, "Do I really want to go there, based on what these crazy guys from the East are saying? I'd rather just wait and see."

Thank you for that, because it causes me to reconsider something that the Lord has put upon my heart.

Stefan said...

The Lord works in mysterious—and wonderful—ways.

This may sound crazy (and I won't go into details), but I really can't understate how much first-time-commentor-Trevor's last comment zeroed in on exactly the burden I am faced with right now.

Time to hit the bricks in prayer, and go back to the old standbys (Psalms 25 and 34 and Matthew 11:28-30).

Merry Christmas, everyone, and hopefully one of you three amigos will give us something again tomorrow that reminds us of how indescribably wonderful it is that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,

though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a Cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the Name that is above every Name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6-11, with capitalization).

P.S., Trevor: Numbers 24:17 and Micah 5:2.

Trevor's Blog said...

Stefan,

I'm glad the Lord would use something I said to spur your heart and mind. May Scripture be your guide alone!


Sola Scripturaaaaaa!!!


- Trevor

Bobby Grow said...

I'm praying for Michael Spencer!

stratagem said...

Frank
One of the best Christmas messages I've read / heard in a long time. Thank you.

Rachel
True - and let's not leave out those who literally think that the world is coming to an end, because of the lack of a tangible agreement in Copenhagen. Which is at least as inane as the ObamaCare thing.

Mark B. Hanson said...

But Frank, isn't Jesus "my personal savior"? So why do I need to share my worship of Him with any other person?

OK, with tongue removed from cheek, consider what the church has sung about public vs. private worship of Jesus:

"Joy to the world, the Lord is come.
Let earth receive her king."

"Shepherds, why this jubilee? Why your glorious strains prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be which inspire your heavenly song?"

"Come and behold him,
Born the King of angels;
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
O Come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord."

"Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
'Christ is born in Bethlehem'"

Almost every Christmas carol we sing is an invitation to others to worship with us.