Worship Musician Magazine December 2023 | Page 34

As I write this , it ’ s early December . The Christmas season is upon us . Lots of special events and church services utilizing those once-per-year songs that proclaim the birth of Jesus the Christ !
One of the stalwarts of my Christmas repertoire is the old favorite “ O Come O Come Emmanuel ”. This wonderful song reminds us of what , to me , is the most important , central truth of Christmas . That is that , through Jesus , God came to be with us . It ’ s because of Christ that God ’ s presence is available to us .
Quoting the 7th chapter of Isaiah ’ s prophetic words , the book of Matthew ’ s account of the Christmas story in The Bible says :
“ Behold , the virgin shall be with child , and bear a Son , and they shall call His name Immanuel ,” which is translated , “ God with us .” Matthew 1:23 ( NIV )
Emmanuel ( or Immanuel depending on which Biblical language you ’ re translating from ) is one of Jesus ’ names . Emmanuel means “ God with us ”. As I jump deeper into the topic of “ SUNG WORSHIP & THE PRESENCE OF GOD ” with this PART 2 article , the truth that Jesus - Emmanuel - God is with us is super relevant .
Heads up : To make a point , I ’ m about to make some gross generalizations and oversimplifications . Dear reader , please be gracious enough to allow me to express myself broadly .
As I pointed out in PART 1 of ‘ SUNG WORSHIP & THE PRESENCE OF GOD ” it seems to me that there are two disparate segments within the one Christian Church with regard to the presence of God . Two opposing “ teams ” that need not and ought not be . The differences between the two teams are perhaps most clearly seen when it comes to how we use music in our gatherings .
One team , I ’ ll call the “ sing it till you feel it ” team . They tend to represent the more Pentecostal or Charismatic amongst us . They want to experience God . They seek times of intimacy with Him where they have a tangible sense of God moving in the here and now . The main reason for having music in their gatherings is that music better facilitates the congregation having an experience of God ’ s presence .
The other team , I ’ ll call the “ sing correct theology ” team . While some - maybe even many - of the people in this team may share some of the same Pentecostal or Charismatic experiences as members from the first team , their emphasis is on knowing God . The primary purpose for music and singing in the gathering is to deepen their knowledge of and relationship with God . They understand that God is omnipresent and that His Spirit has been given to those for whom Jesus is Lord . They highly value gathering together as a sacred time to corporately and intentionally focus on worshipping God and growing in their relationships with Him . But they would hold that God ’ s presence is not dependent on their songs nor their feelings and experiences .
The first team enjoys spontaneity - being ready and willing to adjust what ’ s happening musically “ as the Spirit leads ”. The songs are likely to have fewer , simpler words that are repeated more often . Periods of quieter reflection are connected to powerful , dramatic , anthemic refrains with drawn-out , dynamic builds in between . The people don ’ t want to be reading lyrics and having to think the whole time . They ’ ll happily sing the bridge of a song as many times as they are led to do so . They
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