One of the fascinating aspects of the Nativity story is the important place of worship within it, worship features both in formal settings and in everyday life. It is almost as if the paradigm for worship is given in an overview. The Biblical view of worship covers the whole of life not only the formal meeting of God’s people to worship him. The first two chapters of Luke give us many insights into the life of worship. We find the very humanness of some of its characters very revealing for us today. It is easy to look at the story and at some points be critical and at others envious of the amount of faith possessed by an individual. As we look at a few of these characters we will see that we have something to learn from them all.
Zechariah: Zechariah is a priest serving in the temple of the Lord but like many believers before and since he had his struggles, he felt that God had not answered his prayers as he and his wife had prayed for a child. It seems that that he had given up hope of this prayer being answered. He was one who loved and served the Lord and by his very service as a priest interceded with God for others. The scripture speaks very highly of his character, and we must therefore accept this evaluation. When Gabriel appears to Zechariah, he tells Zechariah that his prayers are now going to be answered, Zechariah just could not believe what he was hearing, how could this possibly happen at this age, surely he and Elizabeth were too old. Gabriel gives him a sign that his prayers will be answered and that sign was that Zechariah would be dumb until John was born. To not be able to communicate what has happened is one of the most frustrating experiences ever. I remember as a small boy being dumb for a time and the tremendous frustration of not being able to speak, this was the frustration that Zechariah was to have, ironically this whole situation speaks both of his belief and his doubt. He was in this situation because he and Elizabeth had prayed in faith for a child but when the answer is given through the Angel Gabriel, Zechariah expresses his doubts. Notice that this all takes place in the Holy of Holies, as Zechariah serves as priest, he is leading the people in worship and praying for them. Surely if we look honestly at this account we can see how we too can have faith and doubt almost at the same time, sometimes we can believe strongly that others will receive from God but doubt that he will bless us in the same way. Notice that when he had gone through all of this he comes out, and he cannot speak to the gathered worshipers. the next time he was to speak would be after his son was born. Then he is fill with the Holy Spirit so that he can prophesy. This story is exciting because it shows that God does not only deal with the people of great faith, but he also honours the prayers of those going through rough times. We can look at this story and realise that the God we worship is still the same as when Zechariah worshiped him, a God of grace and mercy.
Mary: Mary does not appear to have been doing anything spiritual or special, she seems to have been just going around her daily life when Gabriel turns up. Mary show a quiet and gentle faith, but she needs an answer to her question. Her question shows no sign of unbelief, rather she needs to know how this can happen to her. Gabriel gives her the answer that she needs, Mary’s question is utterly reasonable after all virgins do not normally get pregnant whilst still remaining a virgin. Mary hears the answer and knows that she is going to be the mother of the Christ of God. She submits herself entirely to God and his ways. Her song of worship comes out in the context of a talk with her cousin Elizabeth who has discerned the significance of this pregnancy. Mary breaks into song praising God her saviour. It is is in the very context of sharing in family life that worship bubbles up. Mary praises God with her whole heart, we tend to forget that only one or two people heard these words originally. Mart demonstrates that amidst all the ordinariness of life God can be worshipped.
The Shepherds: The shepherds were at work when they had an angelic visitation, They were not expecting anything different to happen on that night, it was just another work day. suddenly they find that that angels have revealed themselves and are telling them the best news they have ever heard about the saviour who just been born in Bethlehem. they hear the news and are wondering what to do about it when the angelic choir appears praising and worshipping God. At this sign they knew that they had to go to Bethlehem and see Jesus. The shepherds saw and believed and spread the news about the Messiah, they just could not contain themselves. Their lives had been changed forever by the grace of God.
At The Temple: when Mary and Joseph take the baby Jesus to the temple all they are expecting to do is offer the sacrifice, giving thanks for the arrival of this new life and dedicating him to the Lord. Yet here they were to meet two old saints who enjoyed close fellowship with the Lord and his people. Simeon comes along and seeing this baby recognises the Saviour, and he now knows that God has kept his promise, therefore he can trust the Lord for the outcome and Simeon can die full of faith. Mary and Joseph must have been taken aback by this and then Anna comes along and adds her words of prayer. Anna was someone who spent her whole life worshipping the Lord. She had been a widow for many years, but she had turned her sorrow into a life of worship and prayer.
Right at the centre of the nativity story we see the centrality of worship and how it affected the lives of those who received the promise of God in Christ as we enter this advent season let us also seek to worship the Lord.