The time between December 25 and January 5 are the 12 days of Christmas, and they are to be a great celebration because King Jesus has come and he is the rightful Sovereign over all creation. We are to intentionally enter into the meaning of Christ’s incarnation. We affirm the identity of Jesus as both full human and fully divine. Beginning with Christ’s birth, we reflect on the meaning of Christ’s life and prepare for the Lenten journey toward the cross and the empty tomb.
Christmas means that we praise the Lord. Not just us, but we praise God with all creation. Everything outside our earth is to give God glory. Everything in the universe points to a God who is worthy to be praised. New York Pastor Tim Keller once said that when he was a child a Sunday school teacher changed his life with a simple illustration. The teacher said, "Let's assume the distance between the earth and the sun (92 million miles) was reduced to the thickness of this sheet of paper. If that is the case, then the distance between the earth and the nearest star would be a stack of papers 70 feet high. And the diameter of the galaxy would be a stack of papers 310 miles high." Then Keller's teacher added, "The galaxy is just a speck of dust in the universe, yet Jesus holds the universe together by the word of his power." Finally, the teacher asked her students, "Now, is this the kind of person you ask into your life to be your assistant?"
We serve a big God who is worthy to be praised, not only out there in the universe but here on earth. The entire earth is to echo the adoration of God. That means everything and everyone on earth – fish, animals, birds, and people. Research in the field of bioacoustics has revealed that every day we are surrounded by millions of ultrasonic songs. For example, the electron shell of the carbon atom produces the same harmonic scale as the Gregorian chant. Whale songs can travel thousands of miles underwater. Meadowlarks have a range of three hundred notes. Supersensitive sound instruments have discovered that even earthworms make faint staccato sounds! Arnold Summerfield, a German physicist and pianist, observed that a single hydrogen atom (which emits one hundred frequencies) is more musical than a grand piano, which only emits eighty-eight frequencies. Science writer Lewis Thomas summed it up it this way: "If we had better hearing, and could discern the [singing] of sea birds, the rhythmic [drumming] of schools of mollusks, or even the distant harmonics of [flies] hanging over meadows in the sun, the combined sound might lift us off our feet."
Praise the Lord! All creation is called to praise God as one great huge choir. Praise is to occur with both words and actions. With words, praise is an expression of gratitude to God for who he is and what he has done. With actions, praise is a posture of submission and an acknowledgement of dependence.
Therefore, testimony is important to the gathered church because through testimony we declare what God has done in our lives and how he is worthy to be praised and obeyed. Yet, praise is not just for the joyful; it is to happen no matter the circumstances because our happiness is not dependent upon positive situations but rather upon the person and work of Jesus. It may not be easy to find our voice of praise along with everyone else, but we are not alone. We can choose to join with all creation to praise the name of the Lord.
My wife, who recently had two spine surgeries, said this: “I am thankful for a chance to get out of the house. Of course my walker was with me. I am amazed how quickly folks move over, slow down, and give me space when I am out with that thing…. At church it feels like I'm parting the Red Sea! The reason I hate the walker is because it says to the whole world, ‘Hey, I'm broken!’ I realize we all have areas that we are broken, most of them we can hide or cover up. Why are we so ashamed to confess the truth? Who really has it all together? I know we love our privacy and shun pity. However, I have been shown so much grace, kindness, and compassion as I push this piece of aluminum around that I hope this experience continues to change me for the better. I hope in the future I will be sensitive to those who are broken on the inside as well as the outside. May the love of Christ give me eyes to see people as he does, precious and accepted, just as they are.”
That word of testimony is the reasonable and logical end for the church of praising the Lord – to connect what God has done and is doing with what he can do through us as we glorify his name. By simply being who we are created to be, we praise the Lord along with all creation. When we as people created in God’s image, reflect that image in how we talk and how we live, we participate with the universe in declaring that God is good. Praise is to be the comprehensive glue that binds every person, family, and ministry of the church together.
Whether you feel like it, or struggle to say it and live it, we are all to praise the Lord along with everything in the universe because we serve a God who keeps us close to his heart. Praise the Lord!