Merry Christmas to all the worship revolutionaries out there as today we celebrate the birth of the first worship revolutionary!
Through Jesus’ coming, the worship of Jehovah was changed forever in at least two ways: first the place of our worship; and second, the participants of worship.
John 1:14 says this:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 NIV)
The word “dwelling” is actually “tabernacle”. God’s tabernacle came amongst us. It is no coincidence that John used this language. He was about to unfold a theology of worship that transcended what the Jews had until then understood. Worship would no longer be site specific.
David used to long to dwell in the courts of the Lord; now God evinces a desire to dwell in the domain of humankind.
Isaiah 14:7 says:
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
God with us. Now the temple of God dwells with us but John takes it further.
In John 4, the Samaritan woman engages Jesus in theological debate as to where worship happens. Jesus answered that the entire basis of the woman’s question had been misplaced.
In the oft-quoted passage in John 4:23-24, Jesus responds:
Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.
Jesus was saying worship was now accessible to those who are born of God and filled with the Spirit. Worship was about to be, and indeed has already become, globalised.
Further it was no longer going to continue to be the privilege of the Jews. Now the participants of worship would be (to prefigure the language of Paul) first the Jews, then the Gentiles.
The Samaritan woman experienced this firsthand. Not only did her response constitute her worship (sans temple) representing a change in location and methodology, but her race and background no longer excluded her.
Two groups of worshippers bowed before the newborn Jesus in a lowly manger. First the Jews – the shepherds who tended the flock. I learnt something interesting today at New Creation Church (I’ll share more on this later): it was very likely that the shepherds were responsible for tending the blemish-less animals for temple sacrifice. So these participants were entirely familiar with the traditions of temple worship.
And then a second group came. The Persian Magi who anticipated the birth of a King. They were neither Jews nor did they understand temple protocol. All these seekers knew was that a King was born:
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1, 2 NIV)
First the Jews. Then, the Gentiles.
This revolution prefigured by the prophets was finally instituted by Emmanuel, God with us, born this day more than 2000 years ago. And so, Christmas is for worship.