One of my aims in my Twitter account was to be able to link it directly to my more substantive blog, “Keeping Your Head In The Game.” It is especially hard to take inspiration and limit it to 140 characters! This is what gave birth today to this Christmas article.
One of the many things that sets Christianity apart is singing and the power of song. This is why Christmas and music are synonymous: from music in the Malls, to airports and hotel lobbies, all of the places of business, and, of course, all the radio stations. This is not accidental, cultural, or traditional; but it’s one of the cornerstones of God’s workings in the lives of His people. His people have always been a singing people! Think about some of these truths with me for a moment.
The Melody of Redemption
One unique aspect that stands out about Christianity is that we have a singing faith. This is unique among the religions of the world because singing and song are not a major part of their worship! When was the last time you saw a Muslim singing with joy? Or, the last time you heard a Buddhist breaking out in praise? You probably have not heard an atheist caught up in the rapture of his or her “non-faith”! This is sad because singing is an expression and has tremendous power and ability to influence. Think about how patriotic songs can stir in us a sense of national pride. The air waves are filled with love songs because of the impact they have on people’s emotions. Military training involves the bonding that marching cadences and ballads can bring.
We’re talking about a prominent feature throughout the Bible. God’s acts in creation and redemption have always been accompanied by song! (Job 38:7) says that at creation, “the morning stars sang together” because they were witnessing something truly amazing. Miriam’s song in (Exodus 15:20, 21) celebrated their fantastic deliverance, as they sang, “the Lord has triumphed gloriously.” David’s Tabernacle had the unique feature of employing people in song, music and praise 24/7 (1Chron.9:33). The Book of Psalms was not just inspirational devotional reading, but it was actually Israel’s “hymnal” or songbook (we still sing them today). This reality reaches its climax and finds its ultimate expression in heaven. Heaven is going to be a place of much music, song, and vibrant expression of worship and praise to God and the Lamb! One of my favorite books in my library is by Robert Coleman, “Songs of Heaven,” where he goes through the various songs contained in the Book of Revelation and their meaning for our lives.
The significance of this is that it shows us the activity which takes place nearest the throne of God! “Worship is the proper response of created beings (human or angelic) to the glory of God.” There’s something about the revelation of God: His majesty, His holiness, His greatness, His acts, His love, His glory, and His goodness that demands and gives birth to song! It’s as if these things can only be adequately expressed through the medium of song, because it is the language of the soul. The Christian life begins with a song, it continues with song, and it will one day end with song. The melody of redemption rests in the heart of every true child of God!
The Miracle of Christmas
Christmas is a season for singing! This is why Christmas hymns and carols (comes from Latin word, choral song) are some of the best known songs in the world. Even with the battle with the prevalence of “Politically-Correct Christmas” which gives us the “winter holiday” and “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth” instead of Christ and Christmas, songs are part of the season. This is why it seems every musical artist releases his or her Christmas albums, since no one wants to miss out on this lucrative market. I’m not saying that all of this is wrong or anti-Christ, but tradition or attempts at creating an “artificial atmosphere” can never compare with the profound depths behind the real reason of Christmas. Let’s visit the real thing that we find in the angel’s announcement to the shepherds, “And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Lk.2:8-11) Suddenly, this was followed by the fitting response and tribute of a heavenly chorus, (Lk.2:13,14) “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!" Only a heavenly choir could do all of this justice. The first Christmas carol was sung by angels in the fields outside of Bethlehem. Billy Graham wrote, “Christmas is not just a date on the calendar. It is not just an annual holiday. It is not a day to glorify selfishness and materialism. Christmas is the celebration of the event that set Heaven to singing, an event that gave the stars of the night sky a new brilliance. Christmas tells us that at a specific time and at a specific place, a specific Person was born. That Person was ‘God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God’ ---- the Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Christmas began with praise, and since then, the birth of Jesus the Messiah has been the inspiration of countless songs and hymns. Luke’s Gospel is filled with music, especially the first 2 chapters, where we find 5 hymns: Elizabeth, Zachariah, angels, Simon, and Mary. I think Mary’s “Magnificat” captures the essence of this as she exclaimed, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” This is awesome because it is sung by a young girl whose mind is obviously filled with Scripture, and her song is like a beautiful tapestry. Ruth Graham Bell captured this by saying, “We should sing when we feel like it, for it is a shame to miss such an opportunity. We should sing when we don’t feel like it, for it is dangerous to remain in such a condition.”
Martin Luther who was one of the spearheads of the Reformation fought for two things: the first was to give people a Bible they could read on their own, and secondly, a hymnal so they could sing on their own! There’s a lot of people today who talk about the “worship wars” but my conviction is that strong preaching and strong worship go together. One is not complete without the other. (Ps.47:1;6,7) says, “Clap your hands, all peoples!
Shout to God with loud songs of joy! Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm!” Congregational worship makes possible an intensity that cannot occur individually. Spirit-filled Christianity is a song-filled Christian. (Eph.5:18-20) defines it so clearly, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Carlyle once said, “Let me make a nation’s songs, and I care not who makes their laws.” This is a huge testament to the power invested here. Let me re-phrase one of the disciple’s questions to bring a conclusion here, “Lord, teach us to sing.” This is not talking about becoming the next American Idol or winning the X-Factor or releasing your new CD, but spiritual songs can be learned by each and every one of us. Here are a few brief singing lessons for us all.
Focus on the lyrics. Pay attention to what you are singing. We’re told to “sing praises with understanding.”
Call to participation. A whole lot of today’s “worship music” is a performance, not participation. It might make us feel good, but it is not true worship. If I could also add one other aspect: if it cannot be sung congregationally, especially by men, then it is of limited and notlasting value. It might be a “worship experience” but it falls short of Biblical worship.
Necessity of whole-heartedness. Sing with “gusto.” You don’t need to have a beautiful singing voice, or to possess perfect pitch to sing the Lord’s songs; just do it with your whole heart.
There is a very simple secret here: the harmony that comes out of us must first be within us! Mary’s song came from a surrendered heart. (Lk.1:38)LB “Mary said, ‘I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to do whatever He wants. May everything you said come true.” I remember one of the most awesome worship times I ever heard. It was in Freetown, Sierra Leone, West Africa, in an area called Ferry Junction. I can remember driving towards the church and turning the corner, passing the U.N. compound on the left side of the road, and just past that to approach The Door Church, and to hear the sounds of the saints of God there singing and worshiping!
O Come All Ye Faithful, Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him, Born the King of Angels;
O Come, let us adore Him, O Come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.
O Sing, choirs of angels, Sing in exultation,
Sing all that hear in heaven God’s holy word.
Give to our Father glory in the Highest;
O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.
All Hail! Lord, we greet Thee, Born this happy morning,
O Jesus! For evermore be Thy name adored.
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;
O come, let us adore Him. O come, let us adore Him. O come, let us adore Him. Christ the Lord.