Archive for December 2009

Merry Incarnation!

December 22, 2009

Systematic theologian, Wayne Gruden, at the conclusion of his discussion of the dual nature of Christ, wrote, “The fact that the infinite, omnipotent, eternal Son of God could become man and join himself to a human nature forever, so that infinite God become one person with finite man, will remain for eternity the most profound miracle and the most profound mystery in all the universe.”  Here a theological scholar extraordinaire who has studied and researched all the great truths of our faith declares this event and its extension by implication to be the “most profound mystery in all the universe.” (Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, 563)

As a human being I am sometimes overwhelmed by simple realities.  I absolutely love the Shaker song, Simple Gifts (I think I tear up everytime our Tennessee Ladies Chorus sings their beautiful arrangement), as it captures an expression of thanks and praise that resides deep in my heart.  God is so gracious to allow us to live with the deep joy of simple gifts.  Many of these gifts are accentuated in this season of the year as we gather with family and experience the warmth of human love, the unbridled excitement of children’s response to surprise, the satisfaction of favorite foods prepared by caring hands, the peaceful rest of casual conversation, and memory making of raucous laughter.

As overwhelmed as I am by God’s kindness and grace expressed in these simple gifts I am also reminded this time of year of the truths that are so large, so incomprehensible and pregnant with mystery that I can only begin to accept them into my mind and heart by faith.  The Incarnation and the dual nature of Jesus Christ, Creator, Messiah, and Lord, yet son of Mary, brings me to my spiritual knees and causes my spirit to cry out to the Christ of Christmas, in both Kyrie eleison, (Lord, have mercy) and Gloria in excelsis Deo (glory to God in the highest)!

I pray for you this Christmas a strong sense of gratitude for the simple gifts and the unspeakable gifts given to us by the Lord.  I pray for you voice and opportunity to sing and celebrate the One who has given these great gifts, and what’s more, desires to have fellowship with us.  I pray you will sing and speak of Him in your homes among your families that you love so dearly, and that you will boldly declare His praise in your sanctuaries among fellow believers, and in the public square proclaiming His love to those who need to know His Gospel of peace!

Merry Christmas!

People of the Ascension, Sing!

December 15, 2009

One of the awesome responsibilities you have if you lead the worship singing in your church is the responsibility to direct worshipers’ attention to the very presence among them of the One they worship.  How different would worship be if people were more fully aware of the presence of Christ?  Advent is a time of anticipating the coming of Christ.  Oh that our churches would know He has come, we await His return, and He is here in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

He lives in us!  We are people of the RESURRECTION, of course, but we are also PEOPLE OF THE ASCENSION.  The Ascension of Jesus should remind us that He has taken His place at the right hand of the Father, and has sent us His Holy Spirit to live in us.   At the very end of the Gospel of Luke we have an accounting of the Ascension of Christ.

“When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them.  While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.  Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.  And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.” (Luke 24:50-53)  WOW!  In Acts 1:9 Luke goes on and tells us they saw him ascend up into a cloud.  This changes everything!!!!  Jesus promised His disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit, and then was “taken up” 

“Two men dressed in white robes stood beside them and asked, “Why do you stand here looking into the sky?  This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)

In Christ’s ascension the stage is set for the birth of the Church.  The coming of the Holy Spirit to give us power.  To reside in us – and He is in your people now!!!  He is with us – in us – filling us!  That means HE SINGS WITH US!

You realize that if He is with you then whenever you hear Christmas music, He hears it with you.  Better yet, when you sing the Christmas story, He sings with you and even through you!    

Hebrews 2:12 is a very powerful scripture verse to put our worship singing in proper perspective.  Consider Heb 2:10-12:

10In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. 12He says,
   “I will declare your name to my brothers;
      in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.”  13And again,
   “I will put my trust in him.”  And again he says,
   “Here am I, and the children God has given me.”

Ron Man reminds us, “The crucified, risen and glorified Savior has accomplished His saving work, but that does not mean that He has gone into a sort of ‘cosmic retirement.”  Christ sent the Holy Spirit, who is fully God (Father, Spirit, Son are One).  He is in us, active in our lives, and thus in our worship.


Oh that we could know that Christ lives in us through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. 

Most commentators conclude that the primary focus of this verse in Hebrews is that Christ recognizes us as “brothers,” but I say that right along with that is the activity of Jesus in our midst as praises are sung. (vs. 12)

Furthermore, Heb 8:2 reminds us that Jesus is our Worship Leader!!!

“The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.” (Heb 8: 1-2)

In Barbershop Quartet singing singers sometimes speak of the “Fifth Voice.”  This is in reference to an acoustical phenomenon that occurs when the harmony is so well blended that singers hear overtones that sound as yet another layer of voice over their singing.  What a powerful metaphor for us!  In our singing there actually is “another voice” – it is the Worship Leader, our High Priest, Jesus singing with us worshiping the Father.  The Holy Spirit is alive in us.

My friend and mentor, Dr. Reggie Kidd in his book, With One Voice: Discovering Christ’s Song in our Worship addresses the many voices, or stylistic expressions being voiced in worship today:

“Let me suggest that every group brings its

own voice, but no group brings the official

voice. One Voice sings above them all, and

this Voice sings in all their voices, excluding

none. His singular voice is distributed

among a plurality of people.”

This is why we should sing differently!!!! 

John Calvin says of Heb 2:12, that it reminds us that Jesus is the leader of our hymns.

Think about some of these phrases you are probably voicing in this season of the year:

“O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!”

Angels from the Realms of Glory (James Montgomery)

Shepherds, in the fields abiding,

            Watching o’er your flocks by night,

            God with man is now residing,

            Yonder shines the infant Light:

            Come and worship, come and worship,

            Worship Christ, the newborn King!

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (Charles Wesley)

            Christ, by highest heaven adored;

            Christ, the everlasting Lord!

            Late in time behold Him come,

            Offspring of the Virgin’s womb;

            Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;

            Hail the incarnate Deity,

            Pleased as man with men to dwell,

            Jesus, our Emmanuel.

            Hark! The herald angels sing

            Glory to the newborn King

O Little Town of Bethlehem (Philip Brooks)

How silently, how silently

            The wondrous gift is given

So God imprarts to human hearts

The blessings of his heaven.

No ear may hear his coming

But in this world of sin,

Where meek souls will receive him, still

The dear Christ enters in.

O holy child of Bethlehem

            Descend to us, we pray

Cast out our sin, and enter in

Be born in us today           

We hear the Christmas angels

The great glad tidings tell;

O come to us, abide with us

Our Lord, Immanuel

Merry Christmas, Brothers and Sisters!  Let Christ be born in you (and sing through you) today!

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