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An Invitation to Adoration

December 20, 2021 | Dr. Jim Keena

“O Come, Let Us Adore Him” is the theme for this issue of Inscribed. Which raises the question, how can we adore Jesus during this Christmas season? I believe the story of Jesus’s birth in Luke 2:8-20 guides us because it’s the story of an unexpected invitation, leading to a glorious revelation, resulting in the shepherds’ adoration.

Unexpected Invitation

During the evening of the first Christmas, God interrupted several shepherds working the night shift. He sent an angel to them with an unexpected invitation. Their immediate response wasn’t adoration but terror! But God’s messenger soothed their fears, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10). What was the good news?  It was that the long-awaited Messiah had been born in Bethlehem. And they could find the Christ child by searching, not in a king’s palace, but an animal’s feeding trough.

The story of the shepherds’ adoration begins with God’s unexpected invitation. The Lord sought the shepherds before the shepherds sought Jesus. Ezekiel 34:11 reads, “For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.” God’s self-description is of a searching shepherd seeking His sheep. And in their case, God’s sheep were literally shepherds. 

God hasn’t changed, and neither have we. The only way anyone finds Jesus is that God first invites them. In the chess match of our salvation, God always makes the opening move. He speaks to us via the Holy Spirit, God’s Word, or God’s people. He speaks through creation (Psalm 19:1-6) and into our conscience (Rom. 2:15), or with a “gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:12). And ultimately, God has also “spoken to us by his Son” (Heb. 1:2). The person of Jesus is both God incarnate and God’s personal invitation. And Jesus still invites people to “Come and see” (John 1:46).

Glorious Revelation

For the shepherds, the angel’s appearance was unexpected but straightforward. There was only one angel with one message. But suddenly, the solo angel was “joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises: Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him” (Luke 2:13–14, The Message). Any doubts the shepherds were harboring disappeared the instant the angelic chorus appeared. Visually and vocally, they confirmed the angel’s message. The shepherds caught a glimpse of the supernatural. They saw the glory of God and heard the good news of the gospel.

Rachel Gilson describes this glorious revelation recorded in Luke 2:8-20:

The overwhelming tone of this passage is joy. God has sent his Son to earth, and heaven’s celebration spilled down to the world with praise and stunning glory. And to whom does the joyful announcement come? Not to the most glorious of humanity, but rather to the most normal, mundane, and even earthy. The text reeks of animals, from the sheep being watched by the shepherds to the feeding trough that cradled Jesus. Christmas is a stunning picture of the gospel: God did not abandon his creation, but went a great distance, at great cost, to personally redeem it.

Shepherds’ Adoration

The angel’s message and the choir’s singing were convincing. Afterward, the shepherds said, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened…” (Luke 2:15a). The shepherds became seekers. And God promises He “rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). A proper response to God’s glorious revelation is to seek the One who sought you. Why? It’s rewarding! 

The shepherds eventually found Mary, Joseph, and the baby. Luke records two different responses to finding Jesus. One was internal, the other external, but both are indispensable. Mary adored Christ in her heart, and the shepherds adored Him with their words. Luke writes, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). But the shepherds glorified and praised God for all that He had done. And that’s what adoring Jesus is, worshipping Him in our hearts and glorifying Him with our voice. It’s pondering and praising. 

So, returning to the opening question, how can we adore Jesus during this Christmas season?  Realize God takes the first step toward us. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). And our proper response is to seek the God who’s seeking us. We turn toward the God whose posture is turned toward us through faith and repentance. Jesus plainly said, “Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15). And the more we move toward God, the more we experience God’s love and glorious grace, which stirs our hearts toward adoration and our voices to praise!

One of my most memorable worship experiences occurred during college. A couple of well-known Christian recording artists led worship in our chapel service. As the concert concluded, they led us in singing acapella, “O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord!” As we sang, I closed my eyes and worshipped Christ the Lord. When the chorus ended, I opened my eyes to discover the couple had quietly slipped away through a side door. The stage was empty and quiet. The worship service ended without applause but silence. And even though it wasn’t Christmas, I adored Jesus.

Dr. Jim Keena

Professor of Pastoral Theology and Church Relations

Dr. Jim Keena was senior pastor of the Evangelical Free Church of Bozeman from 2008 through early 2020, when he joined the faculty […]

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