I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…I LOVE OUR BAND! We are so incredibly blessed to have this kind of talent in our church. They could play on any stage anywhere, and yet they choose to play on our stage and lead us in worship every week. It blows my mind.
Welcome to Christmas at Connect. My name is Mike Edmisten, and I have the privilege of being the pastor of this amazing church. And I’m so excited that you have joined us for Christmas this year.
This is the third message in our Christmas series called Do You Hear What I Hear? In this series, we’re exploring the truth behind the words of some of the Christmas carols that we sing every year. Today, we’re going to explore the words behind one of the most classic Christmas worship songs of all time, O Holy Night.
In the chorus of O Holy Night, we sang the words, “Fall on your knees.” It’s all about hitting our knees in worship of Jesus.
Now, here’s the thing…everyone worships something, even if they don’t realize what it is. You’ve never met a person in your life that isn’t worshipping something.
We all get to choose what that something is, but this is the truth that we hold onto as Christ-followers. If you’re not a follower of Jesus, you may have a hard time buying this, and that’s ok. We’re so glad you’re here. I’m just going to be honest with you. I’m going to tell you upfront what we believe here at Connect. We believe that life will never make sense until we worship Jesus.
Everyone worships something, but we absolutely believe that life will never make sense until that something is Jesus.
We’re going to spend some time today talking about what that means. Let me pray for us, and then we’ll dive in.
Pretty much every parent has a picture of their kid on Santa’s lap where the kid…well, let’s just say the kid looked less-than-thrilled about the whole Santa thing.
I saw one of the funniest examples of that this year. Our friends Ben and Jocelyn posted a picture of their kids’ visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus. Jocelyn was in my first youth ministry as soon as I got out of college. And now, she and her husband, Ben, are in youth ministry themselves in central Ohio. And they posted a picture of their daughters’ visit with Santa on Facebook.
Here it is. Now, Mr. and Mrs. Claus look happy. So do Ben and Jocelyn. But check out their two little girls. These girls look ecstatic, don’t they? Don’t you think that picture should be their Christmas card?
Most parents probably have similar pictures. Pictures where their kids don’t look really happy in their encounter with Santa. Maybe pictures where they are screaming their head off. I don’t know how much Santa gets paid to hold screaming kids on his lap for a picture, but whatever it is, it isn’t enough.
But the reality is, for most parents, our kids’ first encounter with Santa wasn’t what we hoped it would be. Especially parents who have their first kid. They see their child’s first visit with Santa as something magical. It’s going to be amazing. It will be a picture that they will treasure forever and ever. And most of the time, they end up with a picture like that. They had the encounter pictured one way, but it ended up very, very different from what they had envisioned.
Today, we’re going to look at two different encounters people had with Jesus. One at the very beginning of His earthly life, and one near the end. And these two encounters probably didn’t go as they planned…but they were encounters than changed their lives.
These two encounters tell one consistent story. It’s a story of worship.
The first encounter is in Matthew 2. After Jesus was born, Magi, or Wise Men, came seeking Him. Here’s the way Matthew describes it. “[The Magi] 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.” (Matthew 2:9b-11a, NIV)
The second encounter happened over 30 years later, after Jesus had died on the cross and then risen from the dead. Two women had gone to Jesus’ tomb, but instead of finding His body, they met an angel who told them that Jesus had risen.
In Matthew 28, Matthew wrote, “So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. (Matthew 28:8-9, NIV)
These two encounters are both about worship.
Matthew says that when the Magi saw the child Jesus, “they bowed down and worshiped him.” (Matthew 2:11b, NIV)
And when the women encountered the resurrected Christ, “They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him.” (Matthew 28:9b, NIV)
Jesus was worshipped as a child at the beginning of His life, and over three decades later, He was worshipped after He rose back to life.
Both of these encounters are about worship. They both tell us a lot about what it means to worship.
First of all, worship means life isn’t about me.
When you look at these two encounters, you see that both the Magi and the women bowed down before Jesus. The Magi bowed before Jesus. The women fell facedown and clasped Jesus’ feet.
Kneeling or bowing down is what you do when you are in the presence of someone far greater than you. It is a sign of submission. It signifies that this person is more important than me.
That’s what happens in worship. It reminds us that we are in the presence of One far greater than us. It reminds us that life is not about us.
If you want a surefire way to be miserable, make life all about you. It works every single time. If you want to be miserable, make your life all about you. It never fails.
But worship completely changes our outlook. Worship reminds us that life is about Jesus, not us.
And there is some amazing stuff that happens when life is about Jesus, and not about me.
If my life is not about me, then my life is not defined by what I’ve done.
If I want life to be all about me, then I am defined by what I have done or have not done. Because, after all, it’s all about me.
But if my life is all about Jesus, then the whole equation changes. If my life is about Jesus, then I am defined by what He has done.
This truth really comes to light in these two worship encounters that we’re talking about.
The first one involves Magi. The term “Magi” is where we get our word “magician.” These Magi were actually astrologers. It’s also very possible these men were involved in some sort of black magic. And they probably worshipped the stars.
These astrologers were some of the first people to worship Jesus. That is incredibly significant because they were involved in a whole lot of stuff that God had condemned as wicked and sinful.
In Jeremiah 8, the prophet Jeremiah wrote, “They will be exposed to the sun and the moon and all the stars of the heavens, which they have loved and served and which they have followed and consulted and worshiped. They will not be gathered up or buried, but will be like refuse lying on the ground.” (Jeremiah 8:2, NIV)
It’s pretty clear how God feels about astrology. Now, don’t confuse this with modern day astronomy. The two are very different. Astronomers study the stars. In the first century, astrologers worshipped them. They looked to them for guidance. They believed that the stars directed all the affairs of Earth.
It’s pretty easy to see why God is so opposed to astrology. People were worshipping the stars instead of the One who created the stars. They were looking to the stars for meaning and direction and purpose instead of looking to Him.
And yet, these Magi came and worshipped Jesus. It didn’t matter what they had been. It didn’t matter what they had done. It didn’t matter what they had worshipped and believed in the past. What mattered was they met Jesus. Because when life is all about Jesus, we are not defined by what we have done.
In the story of the women who went to Jesus’ tomb, one of those women was Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene had been demon-possessed. We know that from the book of Mark.
In Mark 16, we read, “When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons.” (Mark 16:9, NIV)
Now, we’re not told exactly what led Mary Magdalene to that point, but you’ve got to do some pretty crazy stuff to open this kind of door. A demon can’t just take up residence in a person without that person getting involved in some really evil stuff. And for seven demons to possess a person…wow.
Now, what’s the point of all this? Think about it. Some of the first people to worship Jesus after His birth were Magi…astrologers…men who practiced black magic…men who worshipped the stars and thought the stars guided all the events on earth.
And after Jesus’ resurrection, one of the first people to worship Him was Mary Magdalene, a woman who had been possessed by seven demons.
But their past became completely irrelevant when they met Jesus. Worship centers our lives on Jesus, not on us. And when life is not about us, then we are not defined by what we have done.
In the first week of this series, we talked about what sets Christianity apart from every other major world religion. In every other belief system, it’s all about us climbing up to God. Only in Christianity did God come down to us.
Well, here it is again. This is what makes Christianity unique. In every other faith system, it’s all about what you do. Do this, don’t do that, do this, don’t do that. It’s all about what you do.
In Christianity, it’s all about what Jesus has done.
Every other religion in the world is all about do, do, do, do. But in Christianity, it’s done!
It is done because Jesus died on a cross, in our place.
Listen to what John wrote in his gospel about the moments right before Jesus died. “…Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30b, NIV)
As Jesus hung on the cross, He said, “It is finished.” But actually, this statement was one word. It reads as a sentence in English, but it was one word in the Greek language that Jesus spoke.
The word was Tetelestai. The word can be translated, “It is finished. It stands finished. It will always be finished.” There is a completeness, a finality in this word.
And when you dig a little deeper into the culture that Jesus lived in, you find out that this word, tetelestai, was also an economic word. Archaeologists have unearthed ancient invoices that have this word written across them in big, bold letters. In economics, the word means, “Paid In Full.”
Tetelestai means it is finished and it always will be finished. It also means paid in full. When Jesus cried out this word from the cross, he was telling us that the price for our sin had been paid in full, and that this payment will never be rescinded. It will never have to be paid again because the payment is forever finished.
When I fall on my knees in worship of Jesus, it is a declaration that I am no longer defined by what I have done. I am defined by what Jesus has done for me!
A whole lot of us walked into church today carrying some heavy baggage. There’s a lot of nasty stuff in this bag that we’re carrying.
Abortion. Sexual sin. Betrayal. Gossip. Anger. Pornography. Addiction. Hatred. Jealousy. Bitterness. The list could go on and on. But we brought this baggage in here with us. In fact, we take it everywhere we go.
But here’s the good news, the great news…when you worship Jesus, it means that you don’t have to carry the baggage of your past anymore. What you have done no longer defines who you are.
You are not your abortion. You are not your addiction. You are not your bitterness. You are not your anger. You are not your sexual sin. When you worship Jesus, those things no longer define you.
That’s what the song O Holy Night celebrates. “O holy night, the stars are brightly shining; It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth! Long lay the world in sin and error pining, Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.”
Because Jesus came, you can stop letting sin and error define you. That sin and error is finished. Your guilt is finished. Your shame is finished. Your regret is finished. Your past is finished.
That’s what happens when you worship Jesus. In worship, your life stops being all about you and starts being all about Jesus. You are no longer defined by what you have done. You are defined by what Jesus has done for you.
And it leads to incredible joy. Worship means life is about Jesus, and that leads to joy. Worship and joy are directly connected. We see that in the two encounters we’re exploring today.
Go back and look at the scene with the Magi again. “[The Magi] 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.” (Matthew 2:9b-11a, NIV)
The Magi came to worship Jesus, and they were overjoyed. Or as the old King James Version of the Bible says, “they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” Joy and worship are a package deal.
We see the same thing in the story of the women who went to Jesus’ tomb. “So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him.” (Matthew 28:8-9, NIV)
They were filled with joy, and they worshipped.
Worship and joy just go together. And like I’ve said over and over again, that’s why we do church the way we do here at Connect. That’s why we worship with passion and energy. That’s why things can get a little loud, and we’re okay with that. Because we’ve seen enough worship services that look a whole lot more like funeral services. Jesus is alive! And when we worship Him, it fills us with joy!
When you see Jesus clearly, joy is always the result. And that’s our entire purpose here at Connect. We exist to connect people to Jesus Christ and to lead them into a growing relationship with Him.
We want you to see Jesus. Every time you set foot in our church, we want you to see Jesus. When we kick off our brand new Connect groups in February, we want you to see Jesus. When you go to our website or our Facebook page, we want you to see Jesus. That is the sum total of what our church is all about.
It’s not about me. It’s not about anyone on this stage. It’s not about who has been in the church the longest or which family wields the most power. Maybe you’ve seen that garbage in churches before. So have we.
Here at Connect, it’s all about Jesus. We mean that with everything that is in us. In fact, it’s the very first core value of our church. It’s all about Jesus. We want you to see Jesus. We want you to encounter Jesus. We want you to worship Jesus.
And when you do, joy is always the result.
O Holy Night makes that exact same connection. “Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we [there’s joy], Let all within us praise His holy name! [there’s worship]”
Worship and joy are a package deal. They just go together. If you’re living without joy, you probably have a worship problem. Your problem is not your situation. Your problem is not what has happened to you. It’s not a problem with your circumstances. It’s a worship problem.
Everyone worships something. But none of the things that we worship can give us joy…except Jesus. Nothing else can do that.
This time of year is full of stuff that really just doesn’t live up to the hype. I’ll give you an example…chestnuts roasted over an open fire. Talk about some classic Christmas hype. Nat King Cole sang about it, and he made it sound awesome. “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose.” It just sounds absolute Christmas awesomeness.
But do you want to know the truth? They’re horrible. I know from experience. I had the chance to eat chestnuts that were roasted over an open fire. I was stoked. I was fired up. I was ready. I had Nat King Cole playing in my mind. This was going to be amazing!
And then, I spit them out. They tasted like a pile of hot dirt. They didn’t even come close to living up to the hype.
I know for a lot of people, this time of year doesn’t live up to the hype. For them, it’s not the most wonderful time of the year. For a lot of people, this time of year is anything but wonderful.
For example, maybe you don’t look forward to family gatherings at the holidays. Maybe you dread them. Instead of looking like a Norman Rockwell painting, your family gatherings look a lot more like the Griswolds from Christmas Vacation. Instead of happy, your family stresses you out. There is fighting and arguing and hurt feelings and lots and lots and LOTS of drama. You just don’t feel joyful.
Maybe for you, the holidays are a time of loss. You’re grieving the person who is not with you anymore, and it just seems to hurt a lot more around the holidays.
Here’s a critical difference that we have to understand…happiness and joy are two different things. Happiness is a feeling. Happiness is based on our circumstances. Like Warren Weirsbe said, happiness depends on right happenings.
But joy is different. Joy is based on something greater than what happens to us. Joy is found in something that is greater than our situation. Joy is found in Jesus.
We see that in our stories today. Both the Magi and the women were not in great circumstances. The Magi were under threat from King Herod. In fact, they had to completely change their route to go back home because if Herod found them, he would certainly kill them. Trying to outrun a bloodthirsty king doesn’t exactly qualify as a good situation. If that’s you, then life is not awesome.
The women in our second story were afraid, because Jesus had been crucified. And they knew that if the Romans would crucify Jesus, they could easily start coming for His followers, too. That’s why Jesus’ disciples had gone into hiding.
Both the Magi and the women were all in tough circumstances. They were scared. They felt uncertain. And yet, in both cases, they still had joy.
When we worship Jesus, we worship the One that is greater than our situation. Who is more powerful than whatever is happening to us. And that means we can have joy, even when life gets hard. Even when things are very far from perfect. We don’t live perfect lives, but we worship a perfect Savior. And there’s great joy there.
There is great joy in knowing that my life is not defined by what I have done. And it’s not defined by what happens to me. It’s not defined by how perfect or how imperfect my life is. I’m not defined by any of that. I am defined by Jesus.
It’s really the only way to make sense of this life. Things get so messed up in our lives. We fail. We fall. Things just fly apart. We get blindsided by stuff that we just never saw coming.
Jesus is the only way to make sense of it all. The only way this life makes sense is if we know that a better life is on the way. A life free from pain and tears and disappointment and failure and regret.
That’s the life that Jesus offers to us on the other side of eternity. And that’s why Paul wrote this in Romans 8. “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18, NIV)
What you are going through now can’t even compare to eternity. Because Jesus has paid the price of your sin for you, you can know that the life you have right now isn’t even worth comparing to the life that awaits you in eternity.
That’s what happens when our life stops being about us, and starts being all about Jesus.
No matter how many sermons I preach, I still can’t get over it. I still can’t get over what Jesus has done for me. It still blows my mind, because I know who I am. You may have an idea of who I am because I’m a pastor, but let me tell you who I really am. I’m a failure. I screw up. I fall short. I make a mess of things. I’m jacked up sinner.
But you also need to know this…none of that defines me. I’m not defined by what I’ve done wrong, I’m defined by what Jesus has done right.
I’m not defined by how many times I fall short, I’m defined by Jesus who stands tall.
I’m not defined by my sin, I’m defined by my salvation that I find in Jesus.
That’s the whole reason Christmas even exists. We needed a Savior, and God provided. We couldn’t possibly get out of the mess that we had made, so God came down to us in the form of a baby, who would grow up to die on a cross to pay for our sin. And then He would rise to life again, to give us a new life.
And the only thing that makes all of that possible is love. You can’t even begin to fathom the love that God has for you.
That love is why our church exists. We’re not perfect. We’re very, very, very far from it. We all know that we’re sinners whose only hope is found in Jesus and His love for us. And that’s why we’re here for you. Because we want you to experience that same love.
Every week, we have people in the Green Room who are ready to talk with you and pray with you. If you need somebody to lift you up in prayer, if you have questions or doubts about all this Jesus stuff, or if life is just becoming too much to handle, stop in the Green Room after church today. The people in there are awesome, and they’d love to pray with you.
If you’ve been coming to Connect for a while and you’re ready to make things official and become a partner with our church, stop by the Connect Center after church today. Fill out a card to declare that you’re all in with our church.
We’re going to close out our time together today doing what both the Magi and the women did…we’re going to worship. We’re going to get loud. We’re going to sing. We’re going to celebrate the love that God has for us. This crazy, illogical, unbelievable love that He has for you and for me. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. He loves you. He came for you. He died for you. And He is here with you.
How can we do anything else but worship Him? Let’s stand and let’s do that right now!