Nativity Devotion, December 18: I can Only Imagine

And going into the house they saw the child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshipped Him.  Matthew 2:11

 

Good morning Prayer Team!

What would your first reaction be if you walked into a room and Christ was there?  One can only imagine the scene when the Magi walked into the house where Jesus was, when they opened the door and laid their eyes on the reason that they had left home and followed a star for two years.  They fell down and they worshipped Him.  They must have had feelings of joy and awe, and probably also humility and unworthiness.

What will it be like the first time we cast our gaze on our Creator?  We will all see God face-to-face at the Last Judgment.  I remember hearing once that those who are not destined to be forever with God, those who are headed toward eternal condemnation, will not need to wait to hear that they are condemned.  They will see the face of God and know that they have no business being with God because their earthly lives will not have reflected the preparation needed to enter eternal life.  They will know this, they will not need for God to tell them.  On the other hand, those who have prepared for eternal life in this life, will gaze upon the face of God with joy.  It will be the triumphant end of a long journey.  Just like the Magi traveled over deserts and mountains for two years, trusting in a star, that it would lead them somewhere magnificent, those who travel the journey of life with their eyes on Christ will experience the joy of the Magi when God opens the gates of heaven for them.

Many people still don’t understand the concept of worship.  Many think that worship is only paying homage to God, even “giving Him His due.”  Worship is so much more than this.

Worship is learning.  We learn about God through worship.  As we sing hymns about the Lord, and hear Scripture passage and sermons, we learn about the Lord.

Worship helps us remember.  We are so bombarded with all kinds of information and stimulation in the world that it is easy to forget what God did for us.  One of the reasons we worship is to remember what Jesus did for us in coming to earth to teach us, heal us, and ultimately to die for our sins.

Worship provides a good support group.  Can you imagine a solitary wise man following a star for two years?  I can imagine a group of wise men following the star, and occasionally one becoming discouraged in the journey and being encouraged by the others to continue.  It’s hard to imagine how one person could make the journey of the wise men alone.  It would not only be dangerous, but lonely.  But for two years, to have no one to talk to about the journey, to have no one to offer encouragement, could the journey even have been made by one solitary man on a camel?  Could this person maintain his enthusiasm, even sanity, without someone to help and encourage him?  Because God made us in His image and likeness, then we crave to be in union with others.  Just as God exists in Trinity, we crave to exist in “unity” with others.  Worship helps in this regard.  Worship helps us to find encouragement in our faith because we are sharing the journey with others.

Worship offers us the opportunity to commune with God.  There is no such thing as a private “Communion.”  Communion by its very definition requires that it be shared.  In the context of worship, we are able to share in Holy Communion with one another.  Even when I am visiting someone who is sick, and it is just two of us, I am able to offer Communion in the context of two people worshipping God.

Worship affords us the opportunity to stand with God, to come to God in His house.  When we worship, we step out of the world temporarily and we enter into the Kingdom of God, made present on earth.

Worship puts us in the role of the Magi.  As we open the door to God’s house, we gaze in wonder on God Himself, in the sacrament of Holy Communion.  We stand with God, together with the saints and the angels and one another.  I heard a priest once say that if we understood fully what we are doing in worship, that we stand in the presence of God, that people would come to church and fall flat on their faces in awe.

The Magi made a long journey to the Christ, but when the star came to rest over the place where He was, they opened the door, beheld the Lord with their own eyes and fell down and worshipped Him.

Each week, we endure a difficult journey of life.  Each Sunday, we are supposed to come to the house where Christ is, with Mary, His Mother, and all the saints, and we are supposed to walk in the door and fall down and worship Him.  Today’s verse about the arrival of the Magi is something we should be experiencing on a weekly basis.

May the same faith and trust that sustained them in their journey to Christ sustain us in our journeys.  And may the same awe that they felt when they laid their eyes on Him, that caused them to fall down and worship Him, may that same awe come upon us in our journeys, that we too may fall down and worship Him, and that we may one day have the doors of heaven opened to us so we can gaze upon Him with our own eyes.

You rose from the Virgin O Christ, the noetic Sun of Righteousness, and a star pointed to You, the Uncontainable contained in a cave.  It led the Magi to worship You; and with them we magnify You. O Giver of Life, glory to You! (From Vespers of the Nativity, Trans. Fr. Seraphim Dedes)

Leave time for worship this (and every) week!

 

+Fr. Stavros

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Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John…
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