Helping People Glory in Christ at Christmas

This past Sunday I had the privilege of leading the singing at my home church. At Christmas time there’s sometimes a tension between choosing to sing songs that are “comfortably Christmasy” or songs that help people glory in the miracle of God becoming man. So here’s what we went with:

We started with Hark! the Herald Angels sing because it’s one of the most theologically rich Christmas carols we sing. After that, I shared that there are many things to love about Christmas – carols, food, exchanging gifts, gathering with family and friends. But nothing will bring us more joy or thrill our hearts more than meditating on the nature and purpose of the baby whose birth we celebrate at Christmas.

I then recited some of the words to the song we were about to sing – Glory be to God – an updated version of a Charles Wesley hymn. I wanted to make sure that we didn’t sing profound truths without realizing what we were singing…

God comes down before our eyes…

God invisible appears…

He has come who cannot change…

Being’s source begins to be…

We went from there straight into Mark Altrogge’s song, Emmanuel, Emmanuel. Another song filled with theological reflection on the Incarnation. This is verse 3:

You who with a word created

Sun and moon and seas and sand

Lay there sleeping in a manger

Cradled by Your mother’s hand

You who made the mighty forests

Would lie down upon a tree

Fastened there with nails for sinners

Would bleed and die to set us free

After that song, a woman from the congregation shared a prophetic impression that there were people there who lacked peace in the midst of a joyous season. She then read from Ps. 131. Knowing there were probably a lot of guests that morning, I explained what was going on and followed that with a spontaneous song. You can listen to my explanation and the song here.

After I prayed we sang What Child is This, another song that directs our attention to why Christ came:

Nails, spear shall pierce him through

The cross be borne for me, for you

We ended with Before the Throne of God Above, an old hymn set to music by Vikki Cook that we’ve been memorizing as a church. Before we sang it, I explained what we were doing, and how appropriate it was to remember that the baby Jesus we remember at Christmas is now the risen and ascended Savior who is interceding for those he redeemed.

Throughout the morning I tried to help us remember that CHRIST is the meaning of Christmas. I was grateful that we don’t have to sing songs that simply have a Christmas “sound” without the  substance. There simply is nothing more amazing than God becoming man to save us from the just penalty for our sins. Amazing grace that only grows more amazing with each passing year.

I pray that in the midst of a world filled with upheaval, economic woes, terrorism, hatred, immorality, and pride, you would experience the peace and joy of knowing Jesus as the compassionate, merciful, risen, and reigning Savior.

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10 Responses to Helping People Glory in Christ at Christmas

  1. Jan Miller December 23, 2008 at 8:45 PM #

    Hi, Bob,

    Just thought you might want to know that this text showed up on my reader where you had Psalm 131 link: ERROR: You have exceeded your quota of 5000 requests per day. Please contact the developer of this application if you have questions. (If you’re the developer and have questions about this error message, please contact Crossway.)
    This text is from the ESV Bible. Visit http://www.esv.org to learn about the ESV.

    Don’t know that this is the best place to post it, but I’m not sure how else to do it. Thanks for your encouraging, challenging, and God-exalting posts! Blessings,

    jan

  2. Joshua December 23, 2008 at 9:42 PM #

    Bob,
    Wow. I just read this post, watched the video and am again blessed at your ability to lead, pastor and challenge other worship leaders like myself to be more than just a singer with a guitar. I appreciate your closeness to the Lord which shines through your leadership.

  3. Christy Tennant December 24, 2008 at 7:21 AM #

    Bob, I have learned so much from your writing and teaching. In fact, I flew to England yesterday and brought only one book along – Worship Matters, which I picked up at the Desiring God National Conference in September. I’m through the first ten chapters and am soaking up your teaching like a sponge. It is so edifying. Thank you.

    While planning this past Sunday’s worship music, I felt a strong sense that we needed to guard against mere sentimentalism and be reminded together during this season of Advent that we are preparing for our Lord’s imminent second coming.

    We also wanted to point our gaze as a church to the Gospel, the true “meaning of Christmas,” and the fact that, though Jesus was born in a manger, that is not when His life began – I felt strongly that we needed to meditate together on the fact that He has existed for eternity past, and came in order to be the propitiation for our sins.

    To that end, we started with “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” then went into “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” then “I Adore,” which speaks of how all creation bows before the Creator. We then sang Stuart Townend’s “Immanuel,” Chris Tomlin/JD Walt’s “Uncreated One,” and then our bass player read John 3:16-21 before we went into “How Deep The Father’s Love For Us.”

    After lighting the Advent candle and hearing a meditation on our identity as the light of the world (Matt 5), and the encouragement to be very intentional about letting our light shine before others in order to bring glory to our Father in heaven and bring in God’s elect, during this season when people are a bit more open to talking about Jesus, we sang “Hark! The Herald.”

    After our pastor preached from John 1 and John 3, we closed with “In Christ Alone.” It was a beautiful time of worship, with the sermon and songs serving one another to help impart these fundamental truths, often overlooked in the midst of many distractions, misplaced priorities and sentimentalism this time of year.

    Thank you again for your ministry and service to the body of Christ. I value your example and advice.

    • Bob Kauflin December 27, 2008 at 8:53 AM #

      Christy, thanks for your kind and encouraging words. Sounds like a great line up of songs and spoken word in your meeting to direct people’s focus to the glory of Christ.

  4. Matt Mason December 24, 2008 at 1:23 PM #

    I’m sure that song was a wonderful ministry to folks. Curious, do you ever take a melody from a spontaneous song and come back to write different words over the top for a recorded song? The melody of the verse and accompanying chord voicings were really nice.

    I also enjoyed hearing how well your other instrumentalists served to texture your exhortation and spontaneous song.

    • Bob Kauflin December 27, 2008 at 8:51 AM #

      Matt,

      Occasionally I take a spontaneous song and make a congregational song out of it. But not often. I’ll listen to this one again. Roger Hooper is on synth behind me. He does an outstanding job accompanying improvised songs – adding texture without being distracting.

  5. Fred F. McKinnon December 27, 2008 at 10:31 PM #

    Bob,
    Great selections. I wrote a little “doxology” adaptation to the tune of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing years ago, and we try to sing it yearly … see if you can “hear it”:

    Praise God from all blessings flow
    Praise Him creatures here below
    Praise Him all ye heavenly hosts
    Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

    Praise Him for the Savior’s birth!
    Praise Him, He who came to earth!
    To redeem us from the fall
    Son of God, the Maker of all
    Hark! The herald angels sing
    Glory to the newborn King.

    For the Kingdom,
    Fred McKinnon
    http://www.fredmckinnon.com
    http://www.theworshipcommunity.com

    • Bob Kauflin December 28, 2008 at 9:41 PM #

      Fred, nice adaptation. Not sure how the first line makes sense. Do you sneak in “whom” somewhere? Would it work better to say “Praise God from whom blessings flow…”? Another thought…and I know you didn’t ask…in the second section, second line, might it work better to sing, “Praise the One who came to earth…” Finally, maybe instead of “Son of God, the Maker of all,” it might be smoother to use, “Son of God who made us all” or “Son of God and Lord of all.”

      Thanks for all you’re doing to serve worship leaders.

  6. Emily December 30, 2008 at 2:03 AM #

    Bob,
    thank you for sharing this. the past few weeks have been weeks of deep pain and searching, and i’ve found that though my heart is longing for peace, my arms are not grasping with every ounce of my strength to Christ, confident that He is upholding me.

    i am grateful for the reminder that the peace that i have been searching for can only be found in Christ… that the joy my heart desires is possible because of what my God has given to me in Jesus.

    Thank you, once again, for sharing. Thanks for how you serve so faithfully and point me (and so many others) to our wonderful Christ. I’m grateful.
    Emily

  7. Jake S. September 21, 2010 at 6:56 PM #

    Hi Bob,

    Just wanted to ask if you had any ideas for Christmas Themes. Our church tries to string together a group of 3-4 sermons during the advent season that express a theme. Last year, our theme was “Hope has Come” using 3-4 “Savior” songs, specific decorations, bulletins, and our senior pastor preached on Hope in the coming savior. It was very well received. This year however, I don’t have any inspiration as of yet. Does your church do this, and do you have any old ideas that we could use? Or do you have any resources I could use to research some other ideas?

    Thanks.
    Jake

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