Worship at Christmas– Part Two

One of the things that has happened to worship in my lifetime is that it has gone from being more theocentric to being more anthropocentric, gone from being more liturgical and formal to being liturgy-less and casual in many many contexts. Indeed, it has mostly been those sorts of services that have seen any growth and development over the last twenty years.

Unfortunately, along with an admirable greater focus on praising God with exuberance with the aide of a whole series of praise songs by my friend Chris Tomlin and others, has also come some not so good things: 1) an emphasis on the performance of the few for the couch potatoes for Jesus in the pews, rather than congregational worship. This of course can happen in very formal services as well, but what has happened in Protestant worship is that the entertainment culture has taken over the mentality of Christians about worship. People now applaud human performances on the platform. But in fact worship is supposed to be about giving praise to God, being caught up in love and wonder and praise of God— it’s not about us and certainly not about human performances! 2) with the emphasis on being casual has also come a loss of the sense of the holy, of a sense of awe and wonder in the living presence of a holy God (read for example Isaiah’s reaction in Is. 6). There has also been a loss of a sense of sin and shame. If however one looks at the traditional elements in worship— singing hymns, praying, giving offerings, singing the doxology, all these activities are directed towards God, not towards us. The one element which is directed towards us is of course the reading of God’s Word and its proclamation or teaching. This is when God speaks to us. Worship is not supposed to be fellowship, though fellowship is a very good thing. Worship is not supposed to be a self-help message packaged with some entertainment and a performance of some musical super-stars. It is supposed to be congregational worship. If you read the Psalms this becomes evident. If you study the worship scenes in Revelation this is clear. And Christmas time is the perfect time to help people see this more clear, and worship and love him more dearly. Perhaps the King’s College choir boys can coax you along in the right direction… see below.