This week, Pastor John hands over the TAGD keyboard to Geoff Grant, Northpoint’s Director of Worship.
Merry Christmas? Or Meretricious?
It’s so exciting to get to say something to you before the holiday season. It’s been a good exercise for me to stop my Christmas busyness to try to articulate something that would be useful for all of us this time of year. I have a word on our corporate worship in this Christmas season that I hope and pray will be encouraging to us all.
Whilst driving this past week I tuned into KOST 103.5, my official holiday music station. I caught it on a good number. Andy Williams’ – It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Alas, this might be the only time of the year when people my age are glad to hear Andy Williams. Following Andy was the classic White Christmas by Bing Crosby, to which I joined in, word for word, trying to match my faux croon to his voice, and nailing his whistle solo note for note.
For eleven months out of the year, we diligently resist hearing these songs, even to the point of debating the appropriate time to roll out the Christmas albums (It’s the day after Halloween by the way). Then for two sweet months of the year, these songs rush back into our ears, flow out of our mouths, and fill our lives with memories and tradition. I would guess that all of us have many Christmas carols and songs memorized. I would guess we have heard them so many times, that often we don’t really know what the words are, but rather recite them like a kindergartener does the Pledge of Allegiance. These songs are a beautiful tradition of Christmas, and our familiarity of them make it both easy to sing together, and dangerous to do so in a routine and perfunctory way.
As a church family, we sing together on a regular basis for many reasons. A few are: to encourage one another, to admonish one another, to magnify the character of God as a family, to recite the gospel together, to confess our need for Christ together—the list could go on. Our practice of worship in the season of Advent is no different. We still come together to sing for these reasons, only the focus is remembering the incarnation of Christ 2000 years ago and anticipating his return. The danger we face in our singing this time of year is the blending of the traditions of Christmas, be it sacred, or American, Hallmark, or Disney, with the Christ-centered practice of singing songs that remind us of one of the most important days in the history of human existence. It is so easy, for myself included, to recite these Christmas carols as we always have, allowing the words to flow with effortless ease while being completely unaware of the message they proclaim.
One song that many of us may find ourselves reciting in this way is Joy to the World, which we will be singing again this Sunday. We’ve all heard it so many times. Isaac Watt’s classic Christmas hymn. However, most people don’t know that the Christmas favorite was not originally written as a Christmas hymn. In fact, when you look closely at what we’re singing, it is really a hymn about the second coming of Christ, not the incarnation!
He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of his righteousness
And wonders of his love
That’s second coming language. And yet, completely applicable to our Advent singing! What depth of lyrics! Verse 3 is my favorite:
No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found
Christ has paid the debt that humanity accrued! Genesis 3:17-18 reads,
“Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;”
Christ bore the thorns, ridding humanity of the curse we brought upon ourselves, and will return again bringing total peace and redeeming the earth itself! We are proclaiming that truth with this song! I implore you, do not allow another week of this Christmas season to pass without thinking and feeling deeply as we sing together. This is our time to boldly declare the majesty of God in beauty and unity!
In preparation for this week, here are the songs we will be singing with a brief note on each.
Joy To The World
He comes to make his blessings flow, far as the curse is found
– We anticipate and long for Christ’s return; come Lord Jesus and redeem your creation in totality!
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
God and sinners reconciled
Mild He lays his glory by, born that men no more may die
– Christ born in the form of a baby to live in perfection, die as our sacrifice, and rise again demonstrating his power to conquer death!
O Come All Ye Faithful
The word of the Father, now in flesh appearing
O come let us adore him
– May adoration for our Christ flow from our hearts as we reflect on his gracious provision.
All Glory Be To Christ
Let living water satisfy
The thirsty without price
– We have nothing to contribute to our sweet salvation; Christ has paid the price in full.
He Shall Reign Forevermore (Choir)
In the bleak midwinter, all creation groans
for a world in darkness, frozen like a stone
– The world in its sinful state groans and longs for redemption.
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Bid thou our sad divisions cease
And be thyself our king of peace
– Come quickly Lord; unite and redeem your creation.
Merry Christmas to you all; let’s worship the Christ together.