December 7, 2011
We’ve had a few great Christmas worship services already. I’ve sensed a unity of the Spirit as we’ve come together to adore, Christ the Lord. Yet, every year I hear people comment on how they don’t find singing Christmas carols worshipful. Our sermon series this Christmas, called “Christmas Unwrapped,” promises to help us not only marvel at the gift that our Father gave us in his Son, Jesus; it also helps us to allow his coming to transform our thoughts and actions as we think about three essentials that should define all those who follow Christ: humility, generosity and abundant life. Gary’s message last week, The Gift of Humility, caused my heart to erupt in praise with a fresh perspective and strengthened faith. I’d like to share a few pointers that I wrote last year on how to fully engage in worshiping God this Christmas in our worship services.
Many Christmas carols are familiar, causing us to find ourselves easily going through the motions, singing the words without connecting to our hearts. A heart connection is an essential component of true worship. A second difficulty is that most of the traditional carols tell the story, are proclamation of wonderful truths (Christ is the Lord) or exhortations to worship (o come let us adore him), but include very little dialogue with God. While story telling, proclamation and exhortation are valid and important expressions of corporate worship, the act of worship is incomplete without a dialogue with our God whom we worship. Our souls are made to meet with God and not just talk about him. So here are some tips I have discovered that help me meet with God during Christmas.
I try to meditate on some of the profound phrases that we sing in our familiar Christmas carols. I love to go to the Scriptures to dig deeper into the truth that is expressed within the song. Nearly every carol we sing is packed with profound truth that is worth unpacking and uncovering. The challenge is that we often plow through the song or skip those less familiar verses. We are “ever singing and never hearing.” The simple act of reflecting on a particular phrase helps turn proclamation into dialogue with God, and moves the truths from our lips to our hearts. For example:
O Holy Night verse 3: “Christ is the Lord, O praise His name forever. His power and glory evermore proclaim.”
Wow! This feels like a Revelation moment to me and I sing it from my heart as if I am bowing before the Lamb upon the throne proclaiming this powerful truth … in reality, that’s exactly what we are doing. “Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!'” (Revelation 5:13 NIV) And then with the angels and all the saints, we “fall on our knees.” “The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.” (Revelation 5:14 NIV) I did one Christmas Eve. I knelt on the floor, and wept as we spotlighted the name, CHRIST during the singing of “Christ is the Lord…” I will never forget that profound moment of meeting with God and have never sung O Holy Night without having that heart connection since then.
I’m going to give you a hint on the BIG IDEA that shows up over and over again in our familiar Christmas carols. Herein lies the key to entering into heartfelt worship at Christmas time, and the major challenge to the worshiper, the worship planner and leader … beholding the glory of the One and Only Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! We must come longing to behold the glory of the Lord revealed in the gift the Father gave in sending his Son as an infant. We who plan and lead must strive to help our people see and experience God’s glory so that loving hearts will indeed enthrone him. We must tell the story with compelling beauty and find ourselves caught up in it, the objects of the wondrous love of our Heavenly Father. Then we must be careful to encourage and plan space for dialogue to occur.