We saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him. (Matt. 2:2)
Have you ever worshiped a baby? I mean really worshiped one? Probably not.
Of course, babies have a certain wondrous charm and innocence. What facial contortions and strange noises we are prepared to make to elicit a simple response like a gurgle or a bright-eyed smile. What an amazing creation, mirroring in part the looks of father and mother. But the simple, soft perfection runs skin deep. Mummy’s little baby can be a fussy feeding machine with the habit of going into reverse thrust all over the nice, new suit. Tummy cycles bring the pungent reality of dirty diapers and stormy sleep shattered by piercing cries. El Niño indeed. Dad’s friend’s joking comment forecasts a frightening uncertainty, “Don’t worry, it gets better after the first eighteen years”. Those ages begin in helplessness that diminishes faster in the eyes of the “baby” than in those of the anxious parent. For all that, they are certainly adorable. But how could anyone really worship a baby?
Well, there was a time when a baby received worship. A group of angels hovering over scrubby hills in an obscure village shouted so loudly about the infant that rugged shepherds trembled. What does it take for an angel to worship a baby? Is there something special about angels? The few who have seen angels know that they are special. They obey orders, for one thing. These were angels on assignment. They also have the enviable privilege of looking into things eternal; that means they have incredible perspective.
If you were as privileged as a cherub on duty, with more than a glimpse of heaven, you would have no trouble worshiping the baby either. It’s not what you know; it’s who you know that matters. These angels knew the baby was special. They knew the real Father too.
“But”, you say, “I’m no angel.” Actually it wasn’t just angel worship. Those shepherds flew off into town to see for themselves and they ended up praising. I bet their worship didn’t come from any hymnbook. Perhaps strangest of all were some oriental gentlemen of above average intelligence. Their guidance was celestial, their gifts fabulous. Shuttle diplomacy across a hostile desert two thousand years ago was a risky endeavor. Those sages weren’t star-struck, they were serious fans. What can we make of the godly elders waiting faithfully for a lifetime just to cradle the child? They didn’t merely say, “Doesn’t he look like his father.” Their exultant words had more impact on his parents than that.
Motel guests, in town for a census, had no clue what was being birthed next door. How did herders, astrologers and octogenarians find themselves worshiping a baby? The perspective of heavenly hosts, celestial bodies and ancient scrolls helped for sure, but I think it takes more than that. It takes a lot of faith to trust that a simple, fragile child can really amount to what those oracles suggest. It takes a big dose of humility to walk in that faith from a fireside camp to a smelly stable, let alone across miles of burning sand or through decades of devotion to a distant call. Truth alone is bland and cold, hard to swallow, though nourishing and life-giving. It takes faith and humility to bow to infant promise. Isn’t that where worship begins: appreciation of eternal truth, seasoned with those two precious spices?
When I peer into the manger, I’m challenged: Will I climb craggy miles over towering years to get a better view of the Son in the crib? How do I respond when the screams of my situation or the cries of my own emptiness threaten to drown the still small voice of newborn promise? When the truth I trust doesn’t seem a match for the present realities of life, what do I do? Am I still willing to stoop and present the most precious and sweet-smelling gift of all? Will I trust the Father and worship the baby too?
What does it take to worship a baby?
Angels knew who He really was. Shepherds, kings, Mary, and Joseph had puzzle pieces and chose to believe the bigger picture. That’s our position too; we get pieces of the puzzle and must exercise faith when all we can see and hear are the whimpers of an unlikely dream born into the stable of a difficult world.
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