St. Luke’s account of the birth of our Lord is a favorite read during this Christmas season. It is an account filled with praise and glory to God. It contains Mary’s wonderful song “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” When John the Baptist was born his father, Zachariah, sang “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel…” The angels filled the heavens with praise singing “Glory to God in the highest…” When the baby Jesus was presented in the Temple the aged Simeon poured forth his thanksgiving and praise to God for allowing him to see the Christ Child. Praise should be a characteristic of God’s people. Yes, we are in a broken and sin filled world with many trials, but we are here with our God who has chosen to occupy this world with us, promising never to leave or forsake us. His strength, His life giving presence, is here in the midst of all our times and needs, and, in Christ Jesus, has promised to complete all of the good purpose for which we were created. In each of our days we have many reasons to give praise to our gracious God.
Lord, what do I say this morning as a greeting and encouragement to these people I care about. I don’t really have anything to say. It is only You who can truly encourage us. Only You have the Words of Life. Only You can speak in the quietness of our hearts to say what we need to hear. Speak to us, Lord Jesus. Let the calmness and peace of Your Spirit rest in us. Help us to know that, in You, we have forgiveness, wholeness, and peace. Bring forth from our hearts Your praise and worship all through this day, and our encouragement will simply be in knowing that we are walking through this day together. All glory, thanks and praise to You, Lord Jesus. Amen.
“I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever. Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty– and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works– and I will proclaim your great deeds. They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness. The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.” These are words from the first eight verses of Psalm 145. One of the blessings of the Psalms, and many parts pf Scripture, is that we take these words as our own. We repeat them as our own prayer. “I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever.” Our eyes are turned to Him, and our hope for each day rests in Him. “Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise.”
The word praise is used over 300 times in Scripture. God’s people are taught to ” Let the high praises of God be in their mouth,…”(Psalm 149:6) Sometimes it can sound like God is egotistical and needs our continual praise. It is not that God needs it at all, but in His great grace He knows that we need it. It is in praise that we draw closer to Him, and find strength and direction for life. Psalm 22:3 speaks of God being enthroned or inhabiting the praises of Israel. As we offer our praise to God in word and song we humble ourselves before Him, and rejoice in the presence of His love. Our eyes are raised from the trials that surround us to the face of Him who has come and is in the midst of all life. Praise is a love song to our Lord who is the gracious and glorious Bridegroom of us all.
Music is throughout the Psalms, and some gets quite noisy – sounding of trumpets, harps and lyres, tambourine and dancing, strings and flutes, the clash of cymbals, and resounding cymbals. (Ps.150) But it is all aimed at the outpouring of praise and thanksgiving to our gracious God. Or consider Psalm 71. “I will praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praise to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel. My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you – I, whom you have redeemed. …”(vss.22-24) “Well,” we might say, “that is really not my style of worship.” The point here is not one of style. It is a heart so filled with gratitude to our gracious Lord that it can’t be contained. We have just come through the Easter account, retelling the amazement of those first witnesses to the risen Christ. Their joy couldn’t be contained. It was so great that they spread the word to all the world in their generation. Jesus is still alive, and has done just as much for each of us. Should not our hearts overflow with joy?
Do you worship the Lord? I’m not asking if you go to church on Sundays. That is important, and we belong together in the fellowship of believers. But do you worship the Lord frequently each day? Look around in the beauty of the world He has given. Of course there are problems and a lot of nasty stuff. Stuff mankind has allowed to come in and sully this world. But beyond that in the beauty of the trees, the birds that come to the bird feeder outside the window, the kindness of one who goes out of their way to help, the next breath we take which is given by God’s grace, and above all the new life we’ve been given in Jesus Christ. There are reasons to rejoice, give thanks, and worship all around us. “Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation… let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.”(Psalm 95:1,6)
Many of the Psalms are prayers against enemies, or for deliverance from trouble, but there are many, also, that are pure and beautiful praise. “Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise Him. Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to him on the ten stringed lyre.” (Ps.33:1-2) The psalmist knew that it is in praise that our eyes are turned to the Lord, and that we are drawing near to Him in trust. It is in praise that we feel the strength of the Lord. The Lord seeks the worship of His people, not because He needs it, but because He knows that in worship our relationship with Him is deepened. This is why we gather weekly in our churches. Not to fulfill some duty we feel we have toward God, but to know the joy of drawing near to the Throne of Grace. “In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in You.” (vs.21-22)
We all have times when we feel cold and distant from God. Maybe these seem too frequent. But there certainly are other times when our prayers are answered, and we do see our Lord working in us and in those we care about. All is not silence. When we are in those times of seeing the Lord’s hand we can rejoice, give thanks, and sing. (Another great hymn: Rejoice ye pure in heart. Look it up.) When we are in between those times, we still call to mind all that God has done, knowing that He has not abandoned us. He is using our circumstances for His good purpose, and for our best good. We still rejoice, give thanks and sing. Look around today. The Lord is near. He is answering your prayers. Rejoice, give thanks, and sing.
What is worship? Well, of course, it is something you do when you go to church on Sundays. You sing, listen to scripture, hear a sermon, and receive communion. That is all part of worship. But worship is far more, and is by no means limited to Sundays. Worship is an attitude of the heart in humble submission to our gracious Lord. It is acknowledging and clinging in grateful love to the One who has made us. Worship is different from praise. Praise is the outward response in the words and actions of our daily life to the One we worship. Sunday is only one expression of worship. We live in worship every hour of every day as we bow in our hearts to the God of all creation. Look forward to your time of worship, fellowship and praise on Sunday, but live in the worship of our Lord always.
We had a great worship service yesterday. There were shouts of “He is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Hallelujah!” Much praise and great music to God’s glory. But today is Monday. For most the work week begins again. Back to the routine, facing all of the trials and challenges that are a part of it. That is just the point of all of yesterday’s shouting. Jesus is alive! He is alive on Monday as He was on Sunday. Our shouting doesn’t bring Him to life on one day of the year. It proclaims the truth of the incarnation. The living God is with us. In the events we celebrated during Holy Week and Easter we proclaimed the truth that the Living God has redeemed us from the power of sin giving us a new life and hope. Emmanuel, God with us, is not a truth that can be confined to one day a year, but is for all of our Mondays and the days to follow. That is what yesterday was all about. We give our Living God praise yesterday, today, and forever. Jesus is alive!