Whom or what do you adore? Be careful; that’s a tricky question. Some dictionaries say that the primary meaning of the word “adore” is “to worship.” And we know that to worship anyone or anything besides God is idolatry. Roman emperors and other egotistical heads of state throughout history have demanded that their people worship them. And when they don’t get the adoration they thing they deserve they take great offense as Herod does in the story of the Magi in Matthew 2. Herod tells the Magi that he wants to know where this new king can be found so he can go and “worship” him. But Herod really wants to do is go and kill Jesus because he feels threatened. Contrast that with what the Magi do when they find Jesus: “And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him.” (Matthew 2:11).
The question that story raises for us today is “To which King do we give our allegiance? Herod or Jesus?” And secondly, “What does it mean to ‘adore’ Jesus?” I believe that Jesus doesn’t want worshippers; He wants disciples who will be his servants in the world. And that brings us to the other definition of “adore” which is the more common usage today. According to Merriam-Webster that other definition is “to regard with loving admiration and devotion.” Our relationship with Jesus should be more like that definition of love and devotion. That devotion requires obedience and striving to live by Christ’s example.
When we celebrate the birth of Jesus this year let’s learn two lessons from the adoring Magi. Let’s honor Jesus by keeping our focus on him, but after Christmas we must stop following the example of the Magi. Here’s how Matthew describes the Magi’s brief encounter with Jesus: “And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.” (Matthew 2:11-12).
In other words when the going got tough the Magi’s fear of Herod was stronger than their devotion to Jesus. Yes, we know that Mary and Joseph also flee to Egypt with the infant Jesus, but we also know that when it was safe they came back home and there Jesus fulfilled his mission. That mission of grace and love is still a work in progress, and we are the ones called to turn our adoration at Christmas into the work of spreading God’s love here and now. Come, adore, and then go out to serve!