Christmas: “The most wonderful time of the year” (for most). For everyone except Worship leaders. Worship leaders get to have the pressure cast upon them of providing the ultimate worship experience for not only the churches regular attendees and family, but for those C & E Christians with drug problems (got drug to church) for one of maybe only two services out of the year. Statistically over 10 times more of our population visit a church of some kind during Christmas than any other time of the year. It’s followed at Easter with about twice the average.
In the case of many worship leaders the full load gets tossed on them to provide a huge production and be the focal point of the entire service. Others, like New Walk, choose a fairly normal service format with the minister still delivering the message. Some not only have a special production type service, but also a Christmas Eve service. Candlelight. Hours of cleaning wax out of the carpet.
A Worship leader will put in hours and hours of preparation and prayer. He or she will chew their fingernails in the quick. They will worry themselves to the point of not sleeping, afraid they have left out a small detail. When the rehearsals start, they are drained by every sour note, or choir members having their own little party on the risers while they are trying to direct.
I could go on and on, but we have a rehearsal to do. The reality is this though, that a successful Christmas program relies on one thing and one thing only. That one thing is God. If God isn’t in it, it’s just another group of people hanging out singing and playing music. If God isn’t in it, why would we even bother with the stress and jumping through all the hoops. Or reconfiguring the sanctuary to fit more people in. I mean, let them stand if there’s not room.
We won’t do that, and we’re not going to do that. We also are not going to leave God out of the service or out of the rehearsal. Instead, we are going to lift up the most high God, and we are going to Worship him, not just on Sunday morning but right here in this place at this very moment and every moment of every day.
There are many descriptions of the birth of Jesus. You know the ones with Mary being awakened by an angel and being told she was having a baby. And of course, the journey to Bethlehem and shepherds. All that stuff. But recently I was at the Chris Tomlin Christmas Concert in Orlando and had the honor of hearing Pastor Louie Giglio give a different spin on this whole Jesus and Christmas thing. I’m not Louie, but let me see if I can put a spin on it for you.
If you have ever looked though the bible you will notice first of all how much thicker the Old Testament is than the New Testament. The Old Testament takes us through creation. And then there are years and years of stories of people messing up and wars, floods, murders, and before long we start feeling like God is a pretty angry guy. He’s throwing down plagues and diseases, he is commanding people to kill. Heck, even his favorite guy, King David, from whom the blood line of Jesus descended from, had an affair with a married woman, and then had the husband killed. It was some messed up stuff.
The word of God was pumping all through the Old Testament. And then at the end of Malachi, it stopped. God stopped talking. The gap between the Old Testament and the New is about a 400 year period. For 400 years God was silent. Now I don’t know about you, but when I am getting the silent treatment I think something is up. Guys are you with me? When my wife isn’t speaking either she is depressed or angry! I believe that God got angry. And when he got angry he decided he needed to take a deep breath and regroup. Let the people feel what it’s like to be away from him. He was still there, but he was silent.
Then, after 400 years of silence God spoke. Now he could have spoken in this large bellowing voice of Thunder like James Earl Jones. “World, I Am You Father”. He could have had an opening act of a million angels singing “the Hallelujah chorus”. But it didn’t happen like that. After 400 years of silence God spoke through the sound of a little baby’s cry. In a cold cave, lying in a feed trough, at that moment God became flesh through the birth of his son Jesus and the faint cry of a small newborn baby was the sound God made. Come to live among us as human as possible, to feel our pains, face our temptations, and to save us from our sin. Born to die for you and for me.
In describing the birth of Jesus there are the depictions we read and tell about Mary and Joseph, the Shepherds and Wise men. But the one from John explains it to me as clear as any picture of why God sent his son to this world.
The Word Became Flesh
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.
3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
6There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
10He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14The 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.
15John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ ” 16From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 17For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.
Jesus, God born in the flesh, come down to save the world from all it had become and is still today. Jesus, light of the world. He came into this world to die the most horrific death one can imagine for you.
And now, we get to take a few hours and commit to serving him, by allowing God to use us as a vessel to deliver his message. To be the clay molded into whatever shape he wants to make us in order to do his work. Do you understand what kind of privilege that is? Do you understand that God has made you his disciple just for this very moment in time?
Sunday will be a busy day; a long day. You will be tired. Your throat will get a little sore, and the musician’s hands and feet will start to ache. And it will be very easy to get caught up in all of that. This Christmas I urge you to reflect of what has been said here. Show respect to Jacob, who has worked so hard to put this program together, by listening and being attentive to his instruction. Respect everyone else’s time by not wasting it with idle chatter. But most of all, honor God by giving your very best and keeping focused on him.
Group prayer circle: Prayer
Chorus: How Great Is Our God
1 John 2
1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
3 We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4 The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
7 Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. 8 Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.
9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.
Isn’t it amazing that we can get so caught up in our opinions, wants, and desires that we can become blind to the truth? If only our vision was clear enough to keep us from working at it. Think about how much trouble and suffering we would save ourselves and others.
This passage brought me back to reality today. I read it during my devotional time this morning and God spoke to me through it. We must be obedient to God’s commands. We must remember the sacrifice given for the grace that erases our sins; everyone’s sins. There is a fundemental command to Love on another. It is essential for us as Christians to hang on to that and make it our daily bread. We must be faithfull. And we must remember every day that we are ALL the children of the most high God!
As you read this entry ask yourself, “Do I truly understand the sacrifice for my sins?”