December 13, 2009: A Singing Church Makes For a Singing God

Let us pray: Dear Lord Jesus, how we long for Your coming! We look with longing eyes for Your coming in the manger, for Your coming at the end of the ages, and for Your coming through Word and Sacraments—bestowing on us Your grace. Today cause us to lift up our voices through prayer and praise in the anticipation of all those certainties. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM THE COMING CHRISTMAS KING!

TEXT: Zephaniah 3: 14-17

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

I’m reading Sarah Palin’s new book. It’s actually quite fascinating and insightful. As she recounts details from her childhood, one of them took me back in time and made me laugh. She tells of doing the dishes after a meal along with her two sisters. (I recall a similar experience in our household.) Well, sister 1 washed, sister 2 dried, and Sarah would sit there and sing to them! I like someone who isn’t afraid to sing.

I’ve noticed that people who aren’t afraid to sing tend to be happy, well-adjusted, and possess a certain joy of life. Since ancient times singing has been viewed as an important expression of the heart and even the culture. Did you know that before writing was invented, ancient poets sang their sagas? Put something to a tune, and it’s easier to memorize. Likewise, in ancient cultures, these bards were elevated to an even higher plane than the nobility. The Celtic, Norse, Greek and most other societies kept their ancient history alive through the singing of those stirring sagas.

I’m a bit frustrated that in modern America we don’t teach and stress the importance of song with our youth. The singing voice differs from the speaking voice. You can do more with it when it comes to making a point and stressing an emotion. That’s one reason why hymn singing should always be kept alive in the church. It’s a natural outgrowth of the depth, the pathos of Godly truth interacting in our lives.

Today is the joyous Sunday of Advent. Today’s lesson incorporates joyous song from God’s people as a response to His boundless grace. And so, as we look at this lesson, I want each of you to take home this truth:

A SINGING CHURCH MAKES A FOR A SINGING GOD

I

History teaches us that some ages are more chaotic than others. Well, the times of our text were ultra chaotic. The superpower of the time, Assyria was imploding. The social order was a mess. Poor little Israel was caught in the middle. You’d think lamentations, songs of sorrow and worry, would populate their top ten hit list. But no. Instead, God steps into this void of worry and doubt over their future and says this through His prophet Zephaniah: “Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm. On that day they will say to Jerusalem, ‘Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.’”

These words are addressed specifically to the believers in Israel, to God’s Holy Church. They are also addressed to you and me. For although 2600 years may separate us from the Israel of that time, the reason for rejoicing, for singing of God’s greatness, still reigns supreme. For this is a prophecy of ultimate deliverance from every ravage of sin and human evil. This is a prophecy of Christmas. This is a prophecy of the coming Savior. It is He Who takes away all God’s anger over our sins. It is He Who suffered and died to save us. It is He Who instills in us the steel-spined back-bone of faith. It is He Who energizes us so that our hands don’t hang in limp despair. It is He Who bestows on us the joy over life—eternal life, blessed life with Him.

The Hebrew word used here for singing also includes the concepts of joy and the loud announcing of that inner joy. Folks, that’s what we’re doing today. Every song you sing announces the joyous faith in your heart.

II

And now comes the clinching verse. Listen carefully to it. “He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

Imagine the great delight of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and later the wise men circled around the baby Jesus? Imagine how they held Him, loved Him, stroked Him, and sang lullabys to Him? Now imagine that same Jesus holding you, cuddling you when you’re sad and fearful. Imagine Him quieting you with His eternal love shown most clearly by Him taking on your pain via the cross and Him triumphing over it via His resurrection!

And throughout this continuous journey of life, “He will rejoice over you with singing!” The joy of God’s heart in saving you causes Him to burst forth in song! Yes, God sings!—Where do think the angels learned how?! God sings over you! Well, there you have it. It has come full circle in the heavenly realms. We sing over Him and He sings over us. What a picture of devoted love and joy! So, after today, don’t be afraid to sing His praises. For a singing church makes for a singing God! Amen