December 15, 2010
I have had recent conversations with people who long to worship God, but find it harder to do so in our worship services at Christmas time. I resonate with their desire and the difficulty. 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. Here are a few examples:
Silent night verse 3: “Son of God, love’s pure light, radiant, beams from Thy holy face with the dawn of redeeming grace, Jesus Lord at Thy birth, Jesus Lord at Thy birth”
I love to meditate on the fact that Jesus was born, Lord, and tend to sing that thinking of the opening of John 1, Colossians 1 and Hebrews 1. “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” (Hebrews 1:3 NIV) Taking pleasure in this very truth as we sing it; feeling a surge of faith, a spark of joy, and sharing like-mindedness and unity with the other worshipers – these are important aspects of worship. We don’t always have to be talking to God. The most important part of dialogue may be listening, letting the Almighty talk to us. Perhaps that’s something we can experience more often within the proclamation and exhortations of our Christmas worship songs. Our talking back might simply be a whispered, “Thank You,” or “I believe.”
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.
Hark the Herald Angels Sing verse 3 “Veiled in flesh the godhead see. Hail the incarnate deity. Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel. Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the new born King.”
This captures the wonderful truth that, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 NIV)
I could go on and on about some of the key phrases in our familiar carols that inspire worship through meditation, but do you notice the BIG IDEA that shows up over and over again? 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.