Why is it that we sing songs of adoration at the time of the Incarnation?
It is interesting to me...we do not sing songs with the word "adoration" when contemplating and celebrating Jesus' death and resurrection. Rarely do we look at the cruel cross and the suffering Messiah and think "I adore you." Even in the triumph of the resurrection we are more thrilled and stunned than in the quiet, worshipful "pondering and treasuring" of the events surrounding the birth of Emmanuel - "God with us."At Jesus' death and resurrection we know that God has done something extraordinary for us - and we worship Him with thanksgiving and praise!
Adoration is different, though. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that adoration, in it's purest form, exists for the sheer delight of the other. I cannot truly adore something if I gain from it. Similarly, I cannot truly adore God for what He gives (and what I gain) as much as for the simple fact that He is - apart from any benefit or mercies or favors received. It is one thing to think of God in terms of "I love Him for what He does and has done for me." It is quite another to think of God in terms of "I love you, delight in you, treasure you because of who you are, not what you give. I just like being with you." There is still too much "self" in the former...loving because it is reciprocated. And in the former it is easier to speak about Him than to Him. (Does anyone else feel awkward and selfish telling Him, "I love you for all the good stuff you do for me.")
I'm not saying to love Him for what He is doing and has done and will do is bad or wrong. I can muster up praise and thanksgiving in recollecting His faithfulness to me and in anticipating the fulfillment of future promises. But it seems that because adoration loves regardless of reciprocity, it is not something I can muster up. Instead it is a gift, in the form of a longing, that God wells within our our inmost being. It is a longing that compels us to follow whatever "star" or "heavenly hosts" or even an "oppressive governmental census for taxes" that He allows to lead us to Himself. And when we finally behold Him, when our longing is met by His presence, adoration silences our words...it is recognized by awe and fear and enjoyment and curiosity of being in the Presence of God without expectation or agenda.
The wise men had this adoration. There was nothing they could gain from the toddler Jesus. He didn't "save" them or heal them or speak blessing over them. At great cost of both time and riches, they were led by God to seek out and adore Jesus because of who He was - and they didn't really even fully know, but knew enough to bow their knee in selfless sacrifice. What was their gain? The chance to adore Him for Himself. Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, Simeon, Anna, the Magi - all the "characters" who witnessed His birth gained no tangible benefit from Jesus in the way we speak of benefiting from Him (forgiveness, salvation, abundant life etc.) Perhaps their benefit was the validation of their painful journeys and personhood, as they either anticipated or sought Him. Their lives became more meaningful because of His coming to them, more than their coming to Him.
I find that I often "like" God (and think that I am adoring Him) when I am benefiting from Him. It is much harder to come to this purer form of adoration that exists apart from any gift, profit or blessing that He might give.
And isn't that really the whole point of Christianity? I am in a posture to receive, to lean into my longings for more, and to learn to adore regardless of what I receive.
O come let us adore Him - not for what He gives
O come let us adore Him - not for gaining any benefit
O come let us adore Him - not because I have unmet desires that I want fulfilled...
Christ - the Messiah, Emmanuel, - the LORD.