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 promised Savior, 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 (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 sang 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 Shechinah 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 Shechinah 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 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!