Triplets in Scripture reflect God’s Triune nature, as we have seen in earlier posts. In the Old Testament, God prescribed feasts and other patterns of worship to reflect His Trinity. Thousands of years later, New Testament worship continued to honor God’s Triune nature as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Worship of God the Son began when Jesus was in Mary’s womb and continued through His infancy and early childhood. Patterns of three continued to be evident in this early worship, in the announcements of this amazing news, and in the circumstances surrounding Christ’s birth.
When Jesus Christ left His heavenly throne, He wrapped Himself in flesh and dwelled among us (John 1:14) so that we could behold His glory. As foretold in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 9 23-24), man was not to glory in his own wisdom, power, or wealth, but in God’s love, judgment, and righteousness. In the person of Jesus Christ, and in Him alone, were these three sources of glory fulfilled.
Before Jesus was born, three persons (Zacharias, Mary, and Joseph) crucial to His earthly life were visited by an angel who revealed their special roles in the birth of the Messiah. The angel Gabriel appeared to the old priest Zacharias to tell him that Elizabeth, his barren and aged wife, would give birth to John the Baptist, who would prepare the way for the chosen Messiah (Luke 1:7-19).
Then Gabriel appeared to the virgin Mary to tell her that God had chosen her to give birth to the Savior foretold by the prophets, Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost (Luke 1:26-35). The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, telling him that Mary had conceived the Messiah by the Holy Spirit, and that he should marry her as planned, for Jesus would save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:20-21).
Even before Jesus was born, the first worship service of three congregants (Mary, Elizabeth, and John) honoring Him took place! Jesus later said that wherever two or three were gathered in His name, God was in their midst (Matthew 18:20), and this was literally the case on this occasion!
This happy meeting occurred when Mary arrived at the home of her cousin Elizabeth, and the Holy Spirit allowed both women and the unborn John the Baptist to recognize the unborn Jesus as their Lord and Savior. John was filled with the Holy Ghost while still in Elizabeth’s womb (Luke 1:15), and when Mary entered the room, John leaped for joy to be in the presence of Jesus! (Luke 1:41-45). At the same moment, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost and she proclaimed aloud that Mary and her unborn Babe – her Lord -- were blessed indeed.
Mary responded with a hymn of praise (known as the Magnificat) inspired by the Holy Spirit, exalting God and His Son, the Messiah Who would deliver them (Luke 1:46-55), The Bible does not say that Mary sang this hymn, but because of its poetic format, I believe it is reasonable to assume that she sang it, just as the Psalms were sung to praise God. This first praise and worship service honoring Jesus therefore incorporated three expressions of praise: dance, spoken praise (prayer), and song!
At and shortly after Jesus’ birth, He was worshipped by three groups of beings: the angels, the shepherds, and the wise men. The glory of God lit up the heavens, the angel of the Lord announced His birth, and a multitude of angels offered sweet anthems of praise and adoration (Luke 2:8-14).
The glory of God described here may have been one of three reappearances of the Shekinah Glory (the glory of God that filled the Old Testament tabernacle; Exodus 40:34-38) surrounding the birth of Jesus. At the time of His birth, the brilliance of God’s glory shone in the heavens surrounding the angel of the Lord (Luke 2:9), in the star of Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1-12) and in the person of Jesus Himself (John 1:14).
When the apostle John refers to man beholding the glory of God dwelling among us (John 1:14), the word for “dwell” is similar to the word in Exodus 40 referring to the tabernacle, thus strengthening the reference to the Shekinah Glory filling the Old Testament tabernacle and then tabernacling among us as the fully divine Man. That prophecy was foretold by Isaiah 9:2 and revealed more completely in the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36; 1 Peter 16:18).
The shepherds, who in that culture were considered to be vagabonds of ill-repute, represent saved sinners who repented (abandoned what they were doing and changed their priorities once they heard the Good News), ran to worship Him, and witnessed to others of what they had seen (Luke 2:15-17-18).
The wise men (Matthew 2:1-12), who were the most learned scholars of their day in the fields of astronomy, science, and philosophy, sought and found Truth not in their parchments and scrolls, but in a young Child Who knew all things.
The three gifts brought by the wise men to worship and honor Jesus were gold, frankincense, and myrrh, representing His three roles in our salvation. Gold is the most precious metal, fit for the King of Kings (Revelation 17:14; 19:16); frankincense the most costly spice, suited to burn in worship of the great High Priest after the order of Melchisidec (Hebrews 5:6, 10); and myrrh is used to anoint the dead (John 19:39), representing that He came to die as the perfect, sinless Sacrifice (Hebrews 10:12-14) to pay our sin debt.
Included in the wise people who worshipped the young child Jesus were not only these kingly scholars, but also Simeon (Luke 2: 25-35) and Anna the prophetess (Luke 2:36-38), as these faithful Jews recognized Him as the promised Messiah Who would deliver their people. May we too have their wisdom to seek God, find Him, and give our lives to Him!
© 2012 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives
Wonderful post, Laurie. And I can't believe that some actually deny the Trinity. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas, and we know that He is the reason for the season. May you have a wonderful and safe holiday and I hope that 2017 will be a joyous and prosperous year for you.
Thank you, Linda, for your faithful encouragement and good wishes! May you and yours have a wonderful Christmas celebrating Christ's birth, and wishing you all blessings for 2017 and until He comes again!
Love in Him,
I have always been impressed how Mary, in Elizabeth's presence, singing (or reciting) the Magnificat, which can be viewed as an edited version of Hannah's song of praise after giving birth to Samuel, recorded in 1 Samuel 2:1-11.
But there was also another female, Deborah the prophetess, who with Barak, sang a song of victory and deliverance of Israel from its oppressor Sisera, the military commander of King Jabin of Canaan, recorded in Judges 5.
The songs of all three women at different times and places were about the goodness of God and his commitment to deliver his people from all oppression, the final enemy being sin and its sting, death.
An excellent blog.
Wishing you a happy Christmas and a prosperous year ahead. God bless.
Some weeks ago I made a note to myself in church -- three songs, three women -- as a possible blog post. But I was thinking of Mary, Hannah (whose song Mary paraphrased) and Miriam, and I had forgotten about Deborah. Thank you for reminding me! Although that now makes four songs, perhaps the 3 Old Testament songs are meant to go together, looking forward to true deliverance in the person of Jesus Christ. The Magnificat then capitulates and resolves the songs of Mary's predecessors. Thanks as always for the food for thought and further study! Merry Christmas to you and Alex, and all blessings in the New Year and until He comes again!
Excellent post. it has long fascinated me that in a nation which had supposedly been looking for Ajesus comming for centuries, so few took notice when he came, even when he was brought into the temple to be dedicated to God. Only the few you named, Simeon and Anna, and a few wise men, the shepherds and a group of wise men from a distant country took notice of his birth, When the wise men came nearly two years later, even the priests were not aware of his birth, though they knew the prophecies.
Thanks, Donald! In announcing the birth of the promised Messiah, God honored the faithful, the wise, and those of ill-repute (the shepherds), who no doubt were recognized as sinners and had acknowledged this to themselves.
I have always loved what it says in John 1 v.14 '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.'
How wonderful that Jesus became the One and only mediator between man and God. Eternal life would not even exist without Him.
Have a lovely Christmas with your family and friends Laurie. God bless you
Amen, Brenda! I love all of John 1, especially v. 1-14. Beyond comprehension, how God could become man to save us and give us eternal life. May you and your loved ones have a blessed Christmas and all good things in 2017 and beyond!
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