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Dec 23

Expressions of Praise — a free devotion for Christmas week

Introduction

It happens every year. You can ignore it if you want to, but that won’t stop it from happening. It’s your birthday. Every year, one particular date on the calendar marks the day you were born.

So how do you acknowledge this anniversary of your birth? Some of you want to be surrounded by family and friends and celebrate with cake, decorations, hats, and noisemakers. Others want a quiet day to relax with just a few people. Still others may want to celebrate by not celebrating at all!

Whatever your approach to your birthday, it still comes year after year. I hope you acknowledge it in one way or another. The rest of us want to thank God for you and the gift you are to us!

Getting to the Heart

Much like birthday celebrations, genuine worship takes many forms—and always has. We read in the Old Testament that when the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Jerusalem, King David “danced before the LORD with all his might.” (2 Samuel 6:14). In Luke 1, we read Mary’s quiet song of praise to God for choosing her to be the mother of the Savior. From dancing with abandon to singing a simple hymn, God’s people praise him in different ways.

From Psalm 150, we can learn lots about praise and worship. Listen! (Read Psalm 150:1–6 from your Bible or below.)

Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his excellent greatness!

Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! 
Praise the Lord!

First the Psalmist tells us where to praise God: in his house and, indeed, everywhere. Next, we learn why we praise the Lord: for his power—his creative power and his redemptive power in Jesus. How should we praise God? With music and dancing! Who should praise the Lord? Everyone!

God’s people praise him with music and dancing. That’s where you come in. It’s what you do for us and with us. You use your musical gifts in worship, and you enhance worship among us. Not everyone in the pews can read music or sing on pitch. All of us are thankful for your dedication and willingness to serve us with the gifts God has given you.

Sometimes, though, our sinful selves turn exhortations to praise God into an occasion for selfishness and negativity. In some churches, that sounds like this:

  • “Why doesn’t the handbell choir have a more substantial role in worship? Everyone says we are the most talented group in the music ministry.”
  • “Those in leadership just don’t understand that the old ways of worship mean nothing to people my age. They should invest more time and money to build and equip our praise band.”
  • “Just because she has been in choir forever doesn’t mean she should get the solo every time. She’s practically tone deaf!”

Me. Me. Me. Instead of giving God the glory, we look for ways to honor ourselves, to get our own way. We want the recognition. We want the praise. But that’s not what we are called to do. Instead, we are called to praise the Lord. It’s God’s call to us, but we fail. All of us do. And more often than we’d like to admit.

But take a second look at verse 2. (Reread Psalm 150:2.) This verse encourages us to praise the Lord for his power and greatness. God’s greatest act of power, his most magnificent show of greatness, is seen in his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus became a true human being, born sinless in a sinful world. He lived the perfect life you and I could never live. He suffered and died the death that was rightly yours and mine. But then he rose again, victorious over sin and death. He opened the door to life for us—real life, eternal life, life now and forever! Now, we have an authentic relationship with our Creator. Now, we have a share in Jesus’ victory over sin and death. What power! What greatness! Praise the Lord!

So now, as the forgiven children of God, it is our privilege to live in the freedom that Christ won for us. Now, we get to use our gifts—especially the gift of music—to share God’s power and greatness with others. We can help others praise the Lord on Sunday morning and every other day of the week! Through the music we make with our voices, hands, and breath, we praise the Lord and lead others to do the same.

Taking It Home

(Distribute the Expressions of Praise gifts you brought for participants.) Next time you or someone around you celebrates a birthday, take a moment to reflect. Surprise parties, pony rides, and clowns may or may not be your idea of a good time. But use the occasion to remember that just as everyone’s birthday arrives without fail, so, too, comes the call to praise the Lord—how we celebrate his gifts is up to us.

Dancing in the street? Quietly singing a hymn? Playing handbells? Rocking the guitar? Caroling sweet harmonies? Whatever your approach, “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!” (Psalm 150:6)

 

Editor’s note: This devotion is slightly adapted from one that accompanies one of CTA’s Ornaments of Faith—four of them new for 2013. Check them out! They make meaningful gifts and they won’t break the bank!

Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

© 2013 CTA, Inc. Permission to make photocopies or reproduce by any other mechanical or electronic means is granted only to the original purchaser and is intended for use within a church or other Christian organization, but not for resale.

 

 

 

 

 

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