It’s that time of year in the Bolen house when Christmas music has started to play and I get to hear all the little voices throughout the house singing along. The other night I was hanging out with my kids and Bing Crosby’s version of “The First Noel” came on and I about collapsed with excitement. As the ensemble began to gently play the opening notes of the song, Bing started to speak, not sing, but speak. It was a very different type of introduction to a song, yet as a worship pastor, very relatable in a strange way. Here’s what he said:
“Say friends wherever you are tonight, whether you’re in the snows of New England or up in the Northwest, or on the warm tropical beaches of the Florida coast, I really hope you’re getting into the spirit of this Christmas song. I don’t mean just sitting back in your easy chair listening to us having all the fun. I mean throwing back your head, opening up your hearts and singing as loud or as pretty as you know how. Gang singing is a lot more fun then you’ll ever know unless you give it a whirl sometime. So come on now, join me in the The First Noel. If you don’t know the words well, hum a little, tap your feet or gee whiz, do something! You ready?”
Um, yeah! Two things in what he said really stood out to me. First, the call he was giving people to sing was compelling and I imagined in my head my tone-deaf grandfather 50 years ago would have been pretty keen to join in. The second, I found it refreshing, (even if the recording is over 50 years old), that he would go through the work of casting a vision in such a way that anyone could participate, regardless of their ability. Now I don’t know all that Bing had in mind except to assume that his reasons for inviting people to sing was that he believed it was a good thing. It wasn’t a call to worship, although the song is about Jesus, it was in so many ways an invitation to do something that is natural.
God created us as expressive beings, much like himself, and so singing is something we desire to engage in. As we move on in years, we may develop strong aversions to it as a result of the fear of man, but find me a one-year-old that doesn’t start to dance, scoot or babble when they hear a song come on. That draws out the possible conclusion that we may have very well have been created with a desire to make melody in our heart to our Creator, who after all as the psalmists says, “put a new song in my mouth.”
Unlike Bing’s call though, the Bible invites us into joyful corporate response for a reason that is so much more than just “having fun.” Psalm 95 says, “O come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!” And if that wasn’t enough it gives us a reason why, the best reason why. “For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.” We’re being invited to worship the God who could have watched us be crushed by our very own sin but instead sent his Son to bear the weight of our sin and be crushed for our sake on the cross. Our salvation was never contingent upon us cleaning ourselves up first, but always about God’s committed love to his people, the sheep of his hand. After being redeemed, every single sin that we would ever commit, that debt was paid for by Jesus. So you see, the motivation to sing to God begins first by recognizing who God is, our Savior, and who we are, his beloved. We sing because we get to, not because we have to. We sing to God because he asks us to, and when we know and believe how much he loves us, anything he asks us to do is an honor and a joy.
Ask yourself this question, Will I surrender all areas of my life to Jesus where I fear the judgment of people, and will I treasure God’s instructions and invitations into the outward expression toward him in worship?
Worship pastors and musicians, ask yourself this question, Is my focus more on how people outwardly respond or about being faithful to proclaim God’s truth, point others to Jesus, and to worship him?
Bing Crosby may be asking us to sing along with him because it’s fun, but God is calling his kids to sing his praise because as a loving Father would know, it’s good for our souls and brings him much glory!