At Gateway Church in South Austin we continued our series called “Christmas Around the World”!
Maybe you start playing Christmas music the first day of November or right after Thanksgiving dessert. No matter what or when, music is so essential to the Holiday season. It’s a reminder of the spiritual reality that all of Creation sings God’s praises. You and I can join in that chorus with our own “song” when we really encounter God.
Work through the following questions and scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.
Big Idea: Worship is what happens when you realize who God is and what He’s done for you.
Music is everywhere. Throughout human history and in every part of the world… music is such a powerful thing. Many have said that music is the only international language.
Across all cultures, music becomes the soundtrack of important life events, it effectively underscores so many of the most reflective times in our lives, and it seems to express our feelings and emotions better than anything else can.
There’s something about the way we were created that we must make music. Music and song is deeply ingrained in creation as a means of reflecting worship to its creator.
What about you?
Maybe you start playing Christmas music the first day of November or right after Thanksgiving dessert. No matter what or when, music is so essential to the Holiday season. It’s a reminder of the spiritual reality as described in Psalm 148 that all of Creation sings God’s praises. You and I can join in that chorus with our own “song” when we really encounter God this Christmas season.
All of Creation sings God’s praises. We can too!
The challenge for so many of us is that the holiday season is typically one of the busiest and most chaotic times of the year. To really encounter the presence of God this Christmas season, we might just need to slow down a little.
- Maybe we don’t have to feel obligated to attend every “ugly sweater” party we’ve been invited to this year… just one or two of them.
- Then maybe we use some of that space we’ve created to just spend some quality time with God – praying while on a hiking trail, reading the Bible, journaling, meditating on God’s goodness and all we have to be grateful for, and singing worship songs.
- Quiet things down just enough for God to remind of His presence in the ordinary moments of our day.
I love this Psalm of David and the imagery it creates for us.
My heart, O God, is steadfast; I will sing and make music with all my soul.
2 Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. 3 I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. 4 For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. 5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.Psalm 108:1-5
We know David was not only a warrior poet… but he was also a musician who played so beautifully that he could stir the emotions of King Saul, as depicted here in Rembrandt’s 17th century portrait of Saul and David
When I read Psalm 108… I picture David’s stringed instruments hanging on the wall just above his bed. David lying in his bed, just as the night is giving-way to the morning. The city is still silent with only a light breeze blowing through the open window of David’s bedroom. As that breeze reaches the wall above his bed, it moves like a bow across the strings of David’s harp… creating a beautiful sound that could only be heard in the quiet of morning.
Thus, David pens these words…
See, whether it’s the portrait created by Rembrandt, in response to God’s Word or David’s song in response to God’s presence in the quiet of the morning…
According to Scriptures, these responses are not exceptional (as beautiful as they are)… they’re actually appropriate because
All of creation exists to bring praise to its Creator
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music;
5 make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing,
6 with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn— shout for joy before the Lord, the King.Psalm 98:4-6
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.Psalm 19:1-4
All of creation was intentionally crafted in a beautiful order that God deemed “good”, and the Majesty & Glory of our Creator is shown through His Creation.
We saw Avatar: The Way of Water and there is a storyline involving a very intelligent whale type creature which reminded me of the documentary on Disney Plus called the Secrets of the Whales. Did you know humpback whales sing? Other species of whales are known to create underwater sounds, but the humpback whale is one of the very few that are recorded as creating long, specific songs.
Only the males sing and they used to think it was just for mating but they haven’t found much evidence to support that. But the songs of humpbacks is remarkable and there’s so much we don’t know but here are a few things we do know:
- However, when males come in close proximity to other males singing, they often change their tune to match. Almost like a chorus
- The singing of a humpback whale is said to travel an amazing 10,000 miles in distance!
- Some humpbacks who aren’t even family will traverse thousands of miles of separation and gather only once a year in the same locations and sing their songs together as they communicate to feed communally. It becomes like tradition. Isn’t that amazing!
It’s just one example of trillions of creation singing God’s praises! It drives home Jesus’ point when he marched into Jerusalem a week before being crucified. People are singing and dancing at his entry and in Luke 19 the pharisees are MAD about this.
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”Luke 19:39-40
It’s as if Jesus is saying, oh you can stay silent but I AM HIM and whether you like it or not, all of creation was designed to bring me glory!
Have you ever seen the beauty of creation and just been in awe of the One who created all this?
Let heaven celebrate! Let the earth rejoice!
Let the sea and everything in it roar!
Let the countryside and everything in it celebrate!
Then all the trees of the forest too will shout out joyfully
Before the Lord because he is coming!
He is coming to establish justice on the earth!
He will establish justice in the world rightly.
He will establish justice among all people fairlyPsalm 96:11-13 CEB
Not only does the creation sing His praise and reflect God’s Glory… but it does so in joyful celebration and anticipation of what’s yet to come… but why?
In Genesis 1-3, the narrative of creation and the fall are followed by God promising a rescuer who would come from the “woman’s seed”- the one who would crush the serpent and set right all that went wrong.
Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things;
his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.
2 The Lord has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. 3 He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God…
7 Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.
8 Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy;
9 let them sing before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.Psalm 98:1-3,7-9
There are elements of music and song throughout the (OT) Hebrew Scriptures, giving hope that this rescuer is on His way… i.e.
- Hannah’s song
- Isaiah 55:12-13
- Psalm 2, 110, 22 (Messianic Psalms)
It makes sense that song would be a part of Jesus’ arrival on the earth.
Mary & Elizabeth Story
- John leaps in Elizabeth’s womb when she sees Mary, and Elizabeth erupts in praise
- Mary responds in a song of rejoicing, reminiscent of Hannah’s song in Samuel, and several Psalms.
- The Angel’s shout out glory to God at His birth.
Have you ever jumped for joy?
Has something ever happened to you where you just kinda lost consciousness or care of what you looked like to the people around you and you just let your body react …so overjoyed by the news or the realization of something happening that you just leapt for joy.
- Maybe this question feels childish to you… like jumping for joy is just something kids do on Christmas morning when they open the present, they asked Santa for.
- Maybe life has made you cynical and to you… leaping for joy is reserved for someone who hasn’t actually looked around to see what this world really looks like.
I don’t know… like maybe a baby in his mother’s womb… just like John in Elizabeth’s womb.
What about breaking out in song?
Have you ever been so moved or overjoyed, that words and/or melodic sounds came out of your mouth? Now, if I’m honest… we all worship together in this room every week and so I’ve heard many of you sing. Melodic may not be the word I’d use for some of those sounds …but we could just be talking about…
- a sound of joy or excitement, representative of the culture you grew up in
- or maybe words expressed in written form… lyrics or poetry
- I know that for some of you, there’s no words at all… just music that pours out of us, either familiar tunes we’ve heard from others or even original music that just comes from our heart and gets expressed though our voice, or drumming with our hand, tapping our feet or even playing an instrument.
Just for a moment listen to this beautiful song from Mary, the mother of Jesus:
“My soul glorifies the LordLuke 1:26-56
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
If you say, “not me… I’ve never leapt for joy or broke-out into song” …my question for you is, What would it take for that to happen?
In the third week of Advent which is the season we anticipate the birth of Jesus – Advent is Latin for “coming” – it seems appropriate to ask…
Is there anything joyful enough that it might help you break-through the cynicism of our culture… any “Good News” that might shift your perspective and fill you with such joy and hope, despite your circumstances, that you might just moved to want to express that joy in some way?
When we fully understand the beauty of the Christmas story – that God came to rescue us by becoming a baby, growing up living a perfect life, teaching with authority, healing the sick, befriending the outcasts, and starting a movement that would take his message of hope and love to the ends of the earth! His identity as the Messiah confirmed after his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead and the transformation seen in the lives of those who follow Him.
Knowing Jesus, finding forgiveness, experiencing unconditional love, discovering peace and joy – all that comes with following Jesus should lead us to a life of worship.
Singing is the easiest way to worship!
Worship means acknowledging God’s greatness!
Paul the church planter summarizes worship this way:
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” – Romans 12:1
When we fully understand the miracle of Christmas and the power of the resurrection, our only response is to willingly lay down our lives to follow Him.
Not only do we sing or jump for joy, but we seek to overcome the sins and struggles that slow us down. We willingly give of our finances, our time, our energy, and our expertise.
Think about it this way:
What is the price tag for peace? How much would you pay to see someone you love experience a changed heart? How can quantify unconditional love?
You know when we give of our finances, our time, our energy, and our expertise to God’s work through the local church we’re literally investing in peace, love, and changed hearts and lives.
Have you ever watched the news and wished there was something you could do to make things better in our world? Ever been overwhelmed with all the awful things going on?
When we invest in God’s work through the local church, we’re actually bringing more of heaven to earth!
We’ve seen children discover faith and God’s unconditional love. We have seen teens and young adults who were going in a dangerous direction – a danger to themselves and a danger to others find forgiveness in Jesus and find a community that would encourage them and help them grow. There are singles who were hopeless, confused, and lonely discover newfound community and friendship. We have seen marriages that were on the brink of divorce find healing and hope.
You cannot put a dollar amount for what any of these intangibles are worth, but the beauty of giving generously to God’s work through the local church is we are advancing, God’s invisible kingdom, through what happens on our campuses, through our groups through our teams, and through our local partners and global partners
That’s why we don’t shy away from asking those who are in our church family at this time of year to pray about what God might want us to give in the season. What God has done for us is worthy of our worship through singing, serving, helping, giving financially, volunteering, and sharing the story of Jesus with others!
The Joy of Jesus’ birth pierced through the sorrow of a world lost in darkness and chaos.
Look at this picture of “Mary Consoling Eve”, painted by Sr Grace Remington.
I think this beautifully illustrates what’s happening.
Notice Eve’s sorrow and Mary’s joy.
Notice the snake wrapped around Eve’s leg and how Mary is crushing the head of the snake with her foot.
Notice Eve hanging her head in shame, naked and exposed, the fruit still in her hand, while her other hand is reaching out and touching Mary’s belly, hoping…
She is us, humanity, deep in sin and shame, groaning for a Savior. And Mary, cups Eve’s cheek in her hand, a knowing look in her eye, and a smile that says, “It’s ok, dry your tears. He’s here now.” The snake’s head, crushed under her foot, like it’s no big deal. Joy overcoming sorrow.
The songs we sing at Christmas are that much sweeter when we realize what side of history we live in. We are also Mary, reaching back in history, rejoicing that God has truly done what He promised. We have been rescued. We always have a reason to sing.