It is Time to Sing New Songs
For many, the Christmas season is characterised by nostalgia and tradition. Much of what the church feels compelled to deliver reinforces this cultural desire. The church can be relied upon for a faithful retelling of the Christmas story and for the hosting of Christmas carols.
Yet the Church also wrestles with the uncomfortable tension that what ought to be a sacred season is compromised as it is being secularised. In its search for a good dose of nostalgia and tradition our culture is generally bored with the church’s rendition of Christmas. We have no Christmas 2.0 to deliver.
In a crowd of strangers at a carol event last weekend, I wondered why so many people were singing. I’ve not seen such a high participation rate for years. More surprising still was the total attention given to the Christmas talk given by the local pastor. Anyone who’s ever delivered a message at a carols event knows that this is one of the toughest gigs. I wondered if people were more engaged because the message was delivered on a giant screen. I have to say, it was one of the better Christmas talks I’ve heard, but still, there was every opportunity for people to switch off and chat; but they didn’t. The space was silent … and it was holy.
“You missed a great carols the other night”, I said to my friend. “Yes”, she said. “We couldn’t be bothered and yet our Pastor told us it was going to be really good this year.”
That was the ‘A-ha’ moment. Expectation. New Expectation. Expectation that fuels hope. Hope that dreams and imagines that things can be different.
A mentor and I were dwelling in a conversation of Psalm 144; the remarkable process from despair to dreaming. The Psalmist declares a new song in which he images a different, better, bigger, brighter future. This is not a song of nostalgia and tradition. It is a song that flows from a deep conviction of God’s eternal and essential character. It is a song that dares to believe and hope in the love of God who loves to make (sing into being) new things.
It’s so easy to become stuck. Much harder to lift up the spiritual eyes of imagination in order to get a perspective that is of entirely different proportions to what is otherwise immediately in view. This is what the Psalmist does. In the face of secularising pressure he imagines a fruitful future inhabited by the fullness of the presence of the Loving Father. The Psalmist sings a brand new song of hope and expectation.
This Christmas, as we sing and hear or retell the story of Christ’s birth, I pray that we will have revelations of new songs. I pray that as followers of Jesus we will put aside any old songs that we play and sing (say) that keep us limited in our imaginations. It’s time to sing new songs of hope and expectation as we remind one another in our churches that Christ has come to bring the personal gift of his everlasting, life-giving presence. He makes all things new. People made new. Situations made new. Churches made new. Just imagine!
May your church be filled with new believers as you imagine and sing new songs of faith in Jesus’ Name, Jesus’ power and Jesus’ presence.