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Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee [12-6-20]

We're going to talk about worship today. Like a backcountry road, you find worship winding its way through the Christmas story. Today we're going to look at two major worship themes in the Christmas story.

What is worship?

Here's something you might want to write down:

Worship is Declaring the Worth and Greatness of God.

That is worship - declaring the worth and greatness of God. Worship is not about us. As the Westminster Catechism says, our primary purpose is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever. So if worship is declaring the worth of God, then the question is, "What is God worth to you?" However you answer that question will drive your worship. In other words, our feelings about and toward God will be reflected in our worship.

Think about it this way. Because your life is a reflection of what you value,

your love for God will be reflected in your worship.

So, how do we worship Jesus at Christmas? The gospel Christmas narrative serves as our guide. We see it in Luke. The angels praised God. As singing was prominent in the worshiping life of Israel before the birth of Jesus, it is natural for us to sing praises to God. Singing is a musical way of praising God. And the shepherds shared what they had seen and heard. That's another of the ways we worship.

Let's start with Luke 2:8-14:

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 great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of 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. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 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!”

Two Advent songs flow out of this passage:

  • "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing."

  • "Angels We Have Heard on High."

But what doesn't verse 13 say? Exactly…the angels praised God and said…it doesn't say they sang. "Hark! The Herald Angels Said?"

Here's what we know. The word translated "saying" can only mean the spoken word. It means what it says. The word translated "praising" has its root in the word meaning to speak of the excellence of a person, object, or event. More specifically, elsewhere in the New Testament it is used to denote the joyful praise of God expressed in doxology, hymn, or prayer, whether by individuals or in groups. So while it is accurate to say that the angels spoke in verse 13, it would be appropriate for us to advance their proclamation to include singing. Our praise of God, expressed in worship, should not be limited solely to the example of the angels. We are not angels. God has given us the gift of song to be used in worship. Are you

with me on that?

The angels praised God. And so our worship ought to be focused on praising God.

Here's what makes our Christmas worship special {you might want to write this down, too}:

Singing Praises to God.

I love the songs of Christmas. I start listening to them before Thanksgiving. And I'm not talking about the cheesy songs. No Frosty or Rudolph, or Santa Baby, as much as I like the Eartha Kitt version best. Interesting side note. Eartha Kitt, reflecting on the struggles in her life, once said, "We're all rejected people, we know what it is to be refused, we know what it is to be oppressed, depressed, and then, accused, and I am very much cognizant of that feeling. Nothing in the world is more painful than rejection. I am a rejected, oppressed person, {and so} I can understand others {who are also}."

What a sad perception to carry through life. When people can never get

beyond the secular expression and experience of Christmas, they miss the freedom and beauty and joy of knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Too many people are living unfulfilled lives because they won't move beyond "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer," however cute or kitschy it might be.

Our worship is filled with songs that point to Jesus. Songs that praise Jesus. We sing songs of faith packed with meaning and truth. Singing is about praise and worship.

Here are two examples.

"O Holy Night":

Long lay the world, in sin and error pining 'Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices For yonder breaks, a new and glorious morn

Fall on your knees O hear the angels' voices O night divine O night when Christ was born.

Pining means wasting away from a broken heart. That's one of the greatest struggles of the fractured human psyche. Feelings of worthlessness. "Til he appeared and the soul felt its worth." In Christ, we are not worthless. What is the worth of your soul to God? All you have to do is look to Christ. He was born to die for us. For our sins. We have been made valuable through the death of Jesus Christ. Really, who cares what others think about you? So we sing about the worth of our souls. Worship happens as we praise God for His grace and mercy.

Another great song is "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing." My favorite verse is the third:

Hail the Heav'n-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Son of Righteousness! Light and life to all He brings Ris'n with healing in His wings Mild He lays His glory by Born that man no more may die Born to raise the sons of earth Born to give them second birth Hark! the herald angels sing: "Glory to the newborn King!"

Two Biblical passages are mentioned here. Malachi 4:2 says, "But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall." And then Philippians 2:5-8:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Christmas carols are so rich in Biblical truth. That's why we sing. It's a great way to express and learn Biblical truth. There's a message in every song.

So we sing the songs of Christmas…whenever…wherever…but most

importantly when we worship together. Let those songs be the soundtrack

of the season for you. As Revelation 5:8-9 tells us, "And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song." Our singing now prepares us for heaven, where there will be singing and praise in the presence of our Risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. That is worship.

We worship during Christmas with singing.

Second, we turn to the shepherds to see how they worship.

Here's how Luke 2:15-20 describes it:

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

It's amazing that God chose shepherds to be His first evangelists.

Human nature has always been driven by position, power, and prestige. Two-thousand years ago is no different than now in that regard. Shepherds had none of those three desirable qualities. They were nobodies. We don't even know their names. But they mattered to God. And that's all the mattering that matters. As the beautifully simple carol asks:

I wonder as I wander out under the sky How Jesus my Saviour did come for to die For poor ordinary people like you and like I I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

Here's the grace of God. Something happened to those shepherds. It was so powerful, so compelling, that when they told their story, it says, "And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them." Considering who they were, it's amazing that anyone would even listen to them. But God not only inspires the speaker, He also makes the hearts of the hearers receptive to the good news. Considering the long history of how God worked in the lives of shepherds, who else would He choose to be the first to share the good news of Jesus' birth? Here's another thing you might want to write down:

God chose shepherds to tell the story of Jesus, the Lamb of God.

What a wonderful thing that is. And if God uses shepherds to tell people about Jesus, think what He can do with poor ordinary people like you and like me. You have a story to tell. Your life makes a compelling case for Christ. Your life in Christ, how he has changed you, the kind of person you have become, how you are using your time and resources to serve Jesus,

is all compelling evidence in the case for Christ. Jesus' story is written in the lives of people who are being changed by Jesus Christ.

Here's another thing to write down:

I am a part of Jesus' story.

When you are loving and joyful and peaceful and patient and kind and

good and faithful and gentle and filled with self-control, such fruit of the

Spirit gives witness to a life lived in Christ. Your life tells the story of Jesus

and his love.

Do you remember the story of Jesus and the man who was born blind? It's in John 9. Jesus gave sight to the man. Then the religious leaders grilled him, looking for some theological explanation of what happened and who Jesus was and where he had gone and all the kinds of questions that scheming, nosey people ask. Do you remember his answer?

"One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”

Sarcasm is alive and well in the Bible. Basically, the healed blind man is saying, "I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you."

There are hundreds of life-changing stories within this Body of Christ. What has Jesus done in your life? Luke says that the shepherds spread the word about all they had seen and heard. What have you seen and heard in your life with Jesus? What was your life like before you became a devoted follower, and what has it become since then? What difference has Jesus Christ made in your life? How has he given you hope? How has he brought you comfort? How has he given you strength? How has he overcome your fears? We all have stories to tell. People will be amazed by what Jesus has done for you. That is worship.

So how will we worship Jesus this Christmas? Let us be encouraged to worship by singing our praises to God. Let the songs of Advent draw you closer to God. And let us share our words of encouragement and changed lives with others. "Come and see what Christ has done for me." Will you do those two things?

Always remember:

What God Wants Most From You in Worship is You.

And together, the people of God said - Amen.

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