Last night, Nov. 30th, St. Paul's had their first Wednesday evening Advent service. The Wednesday evenings are following the theme "The Carols of Christmas." What we are doing is spending time in the songs, hymns and spiritual songs of the season. While it talks of the "Carols of Christmas," we found ourselves in the songs of Advent last night. "On Jordan's Bank the Baptist's Cry" and "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" were the main focus. We closed the service with "Savior of the Nations Come." We didn't actually spend any time learning about the last song. We also visited the song "O Christmas Tree" and learned the Christian emphasis that Martin Luther applied to the Christmas tree.
Our theme verse is Psalm 95:1-2 "O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise." (ESV) As I prepared for this series, I studied through the Scriptures on songs and singing and was amazed at how important it is through the pages of Scripture for the praise of the Lord to ascend in forms of songs, hymns and spiritual songs. Even just this morning, as I was reading in the Psalms, I ran across the verse, "Glad songs of salvation are in the tents of the righteous." (Ps. 118:15 ESV)
Singing is an important aspect of our lives of worship. We sing because of the joy that lies in our hearts over what God has done for us. Our songs of praise rise to heaven because the Lord has filled our hearts with His Word. That Word is not what we make it to be but it is the very Son of God Himself - the Word become flesh. Too often, we try to make worship our act which God accepts because we are so faithful. It isn't. It is where we meet God in His Word, where He fills our hearts and lives with the power of the message of both Law and Gospel and where we are lifted up in His hands. He comes to us and we respond in song and in prayer. He strengthens us and we rejoice at the wondrous gift He gives to us.
And so we sing! that is one way that we respond the to the wonders of what God has done for us. We lift up our voices in songs of praise. And in the words of the songs we sing, there is such depth of meaning. Just take a look at "On Jordan's Bank the Baptist's Cry" and you will see how it weaves together the wonders of the Old Testament prophecy and the fulfillment in Christ Jesus. You begin to understand the power of the words to touch the heart with strength and comfort, hearts that are in bondage to sin, death and the devil yet freed from that bondage by the very One that we long for, who comes to us in His Advent! Wonder of wonders - the hymnody of the Church touches our hearts and lives with the powerful message of life.
The Lutheran Church has been called "The Singing Church." It is for good reason that this is said. Singing is an important part of our response to what the Lord has done and continues to do for us in worship. O come, let us sing unto the Lord!