Does Christmas scare you?
That might seem like a funny question. Christmas isn’t known for being especially scary.
Candy canes don’t usually cause kids to scream.
“Joy to the World” isn’t usually the background music for a creepy moment.
“Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown” is not under the horror section on Netflix.
Christmas is joyful. Christmas is merry. Christmas is holly jolly.
Yet all the family togetherness and joy of giving – seems to amplify our fears:
Fears that you won’t be able to afford food for the coming week thanks to your last dimes being spent on Christmas gifts.
Fears that you won’t be able to find work after the seasonal work is over.
Fears that your kid – whom you barely get the chance to see – will hate your gift and want to spend even less time with you in 2017.
Fears that dad will bring up that one time you said that one thing to him which will cause mom to blow up and the whole Christmas dinner to explode with fury.
Fears that the gift you got for your spouse – won’t make it up to them and the distance between you will only grow.
Fears that this may be your mom’s last Christmas – if she even makes it that long.
Today we are going to look at a very scary scene from the very first Christmas. We want to (1) see how God calmed Mary’s fears and (2) how the same truths can calm your fears this Christmas season and always. Before we do that, join me in a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Fear of God’s Presence
v.27 – a virgin – young lady – soon to be married – nervous excitement about upcoming life:
Will the wedding all come together?
Will the flower girl remember to throw the flowers in the right direction?
Will there be any wedding crashers?
Will I make a good wife?
Will I like being with Joseph – all day, every day?
Will our family be a blessing?
Something happened to truly frighten her: “God sent the angel Gabriel to her...And he said, “Greetings!”
Is God angry with me? Why would an angel come to me?
Is he coming to get me back for not going to synagogue the last couple of weekends?
Does He know about the lusting that I had for Joseph’s brother last weekend?
Is He upset that I’m not inviting Aunt Matilda?
I’m a sinner. God is holy. I’ve read the Old Testament. I know how he hates sin – how he sent a flood to destroy the world, fire on Sodom and Gomorrah and an infestation of poisonous snakes on the unbelieving Israelites. I’m a sinner too! He can’t possible have good news for you.
Mary fell to the floor. Her face grew pale. Her heart beat fast. Sweat dropped from her forehead.
She was more than frightened; she was terrified!
Can you relate? An angel represents God. God is Almighty. God is All Good. The All-Good ruler of the universe cannot tolerate evil – even for a second!
Maybe you get this.
Maybe American culture gets this about God.
In fact, I think that’s one of the reasons that church going is one of the least favorite activities for Americans at Christmas time.
Give me presents. Give me holiday songs. Give me holiday specials. -- Just don’t give me church.
Because they’re gonna talk about God and sin and hell.
And that’s not very merry.
I want Christmas to be about sitting back, having eggnog, and watching “It’s a Wonderful Life”.
Because the truth is…
The truth is…that I get enough conviction on my own.
Voices that scream “you’ve done wrong.”
Phrases repeat: “You liar. You adulteress. You jerk. You sinner.”
I can’t go before God – To hear him say it…It’s too scary.
II. The Comfort of God’s Presence
But the angel didn’t let Mary to sit in that fear very long. Look at how he responds to her. He says, “Do not be afraid. You have found favor with God.” Literally that means “You have found a gift by God!" – A gift of his grace. The gift is this: “You will conceive and give birth to a son and you to call him Jesus.”
Mary breathed a sigh of relief. Phew! She wasn’t going to be zapped. God wasn’t angry with her. He wasn’t mad at her past sins. In fact, he was going to give her a gift – the gift of a Son. What a blessing! What a nice message. What a….
… Wait!?! A son? How can this be? I am a virgin! My mom talked to me about the birds and the bees. I know my biology. You created biology. You know as well as I know that I haven’t done anything that would warrant a child!
Look at the angel’s response to her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. The Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God.”
In other words – This will happen because God is with you.
This will work out because God is with you.
Don’t be afraid because God is with you.
This is so interesting. Because that’s what frightened her to begin with. She was nervous about what kind of a greeting this might be. (v.29) But now that she knew of his grace. Now that she knew of his love. Now the thing that once frightened her – God’s presence – was now the thing that would give her the most comfort.
God would be with her. Every step of the way.
And she must have repeated that to herself over and over as she journeyed to the first Christmas.
At this miraculous conception, God was with her.
In that scary moment when she told her parents, “God is with me.”
In that scarier moment when she told her fiancé Joseph, “God is with me.”
In the months that she began to show, “God is with me.”
In the dirty looks people gave her at the marketplace, “God is with me.”
In the moments she heard people whisper, “That sinner!” “God is with me.”
In the hustle and bustle of getting things ready to travel, unexpectedly to Bethlehem, “God is with me.”
In the long journey filled with bumps in the road and labor pains in her tummy, “God is with me.”
In the frantic search for an inn – with room after room being filled, “God is with me.”
In the barn, surrounded by pigs and horses without a doctor in sight, “God is with me.”
On the first Christmas night, holding her newborn Son in her hands, looking into his eyes and whispering quietly, “God – you are with me.”
III. What now?
The truth is that what comforted Mary’s fear throughout that nine-month journey to Christmas is also a comfort for you. Because the two things that the angel Gabriel said to comfort Mary are also true of you.
(1) The Savior has Come!
Have you heard of Gender Reveal videos? It’s the latest trend for new parents. They get the results of their child’s gender. The results are sealed in an envelope and given to a friend. Then, they set up some kind of epic reveal – where they find out whether the baby is a boy or a girl – and someone records the whole thing on an iPhone and immediately posts to Facebook LIVE, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter.
I saw one the other day for a friend of mine who is a body builder. In his video, he had a giant, big rig tire with some black bags of chalk taped to the top of it. In the video, he flips the tire over, the bags explode and blue dust floats in the area! IT’S A BOY!
As exciting as it is for Mary to find out that she would be having a baby boy, think about how much more exciting it was to find out that he would be the Savior of the world!
In fact, she even found out his name – Jesus. Do know what that name means? It means “He saves.”
Now there’s a lot in a name. Some people are named after their hair, “Ebony,” or “Autumn.” Some are named after their grandparents, “Bob, Jr.” or “Thurston Howell III”. My name, “Philip,” means “lover of horses.” I don’t even like horses that much. (I’m just named after some character on the old soap opera, “Guiding Light.”)
“Jesus” means “he saves.” And that had great meaning to Mary because “he saved” her.” He saved Mary from her sins. He saved Mary from her guilt. He saved Mary from hell.
And he saves you. He saves you from sin. He saves you from guilt. He saves you from hell.
But here’s the difference. For Mary, it was something that was going to happen. And on Christmas she said, “The Savior has been born!”
For us? That’s true -- The Savior is born! But we also have the benefit of looking back. The Savior has been born, but also the Savior has lived perfectly. The Savior has died innocently; and the Savior has risen triumphantly for the forgiveness of all of your sins.
It means that by faith in Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.
All that guilt. All that shame. All the sin that makes you feel scared to approach God – has been removed!
(2) God is Near
For Mary – that was so important. It’s the reason she was pregnant – the Holy Spirit came upon her and dwelt on her in a miraculous way. His presence upholding, uplifting, and fear shielding her throughout her 9 month journey.
The Holy Spirit is near right now.
The Bible tells us that he works through his Word.
Besides – it promises that he remains with all who believe in Jesus.
Is that you? Take comfort – God is near.
He’s near no matter what you’re going through.
Are you alone this Christmas? God is near.
Are you behind on rent? God is near.
Are you spending it in the hospital? God is near.
Are you far away from family? God is near.
Are you apart from your kids? God is near.
Are you nervous, frightened, and scared? Don’t be! The God who controls all things – who loved you above all things – and who gave all himself for all of you – is near!
It’s like going to give a gift. My parents used to make me hand gifts to people at church. I was pretty shy when I was younger. So it wasn’t easy. In fact, I remember once getting some guys attention – only to have him (towering over me) turn and ask me what I wanted.
I ran away and clung to my dad’s leg.
And he said. “Don’t be afraid. I’m right here. I’m near.”
And he was right. It wasn’t so scary. My dad who loved me was right by me.
It’s the same thing that’s true for you.
Your Heavenly Dad is near to protect you – his Divine muscles are bulging.
Your risen brother is close by to go with you – He went through death and back to make it happen.
The Holy Spirit dwells within you to comfort you wherever you go – He is always at work in his Word to say in the kindest way possible, “Chill. God’s got this.”
So…chill. Don’t be frightened. Find comfort in Christmas – not the toys, not the fruit cakes and not the decorations – but the Savior.
I’ll admit it. During the holiday season, I struggle with patience.
I remember very specifically – my grandma had sent a large gift in the mail and placed it under the tree. It was huge! It took up about 1/6th of the space under the plastic evergreen. And Grandma sent it early--about two weeks before Christmas. Every day it stared at me. It taunted me. It stuck it’s tongue out at me and said, “Nanana boo boo, you can’t open me yet.”
One day, I had my chance. Mom had to run to the store for a moment and I was going to be home alone for 15 minutes. I acted nonchalant, “See ya later,” and waited until I heard the car pull out of the driveway, and immediately ran over to the tree. I took my finger nail. I aimed for the back of the present. I figured if I just opened a finger nail’s worth of wrapping paper – no one would know I looked and I would know what it was.
Carefully. Surgically. Slowly. I slit and I saw: Brown. The brown of a big cardboard box. No words. No clue. Nothing.
I pulled a bit more. Still no clues. Still nothing.
I kept pulling until I could read a word or two: “Nutrition facts: Hydrogenated oil.” UGH! I was foiled by a present inside a box that wasn’t from the original present!
And I tried to put the wrapping paper back, but by now the mark was too big. Too huge. The best I could do was turn the present upside down, hope no one noticed it, and blame my dog if they did!
Patience…It’s hard. It’s really hard at Christmas. Waiting for presents. Waiting in line. Waiting in parking lots. Waiting for Christmas break. It’s hard to wait for Christmas, to the point that impatience, frustration, and anxiety become the main themes of the season.
Today we are going to continue our series called Old Fashioned Christmas. We will look at how people remained patient before the very first Christmas ever arrived. Something they waited for longer than a month – longer than a year – but thousands of years for! (Can you imagine waiting that long for a gift?)
Today’s goal is to: (1) Understand why Old Testament Israelites were willing to wait so patiently for so long for the first Christmas (2) grab some of their patience and use it as we await Christmas – and better yet -- the return of our Savior. Before we do that, join me in a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Old Testament Patience
Our lesson this morning comes from the Psalms. The book of Psalms is a collection of poetry and songs that marvelously declare the praises of God in rhythm and rhyme. Because of that some of the most well-known Bible passages come from the Psalms: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.” (Psalm 23) or “God is our Refuge and strength and every present help in trouble. (Psalm 46)
The particular Psalm we want to look at is numbered 130. It is an authorless Psalm. Not that no one wrote it, but that the author is unknown. It doesn’t tell us who wrote it.
It think that’s neat. Because it helps us to understand and attribute the feelings of the Psalm to common, everyday Israelites. Kinda like me – a common, everyday, Raleigh-an.
Look at the problem the author is having: 1 Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy…with you there is forgiveness.
Again -- the specifics of the author’s problem isn’t mentioned. But it’s bad enough to be described as “the depths.”
Think of the bottom of a well. Dark. Musty air. Hard to breath. Scary.
But the author isn’t referring to physical depths. He talked about forgiveness which is a very spiritual concept. The author was dealing with guilt. The author was dealing with the consequences of sin. The author was dealing with the loneliness of separation from God.
Have you ever been in spiritual depths?
Of course, not, Pastor! I’m fine. It’s Christmas. I’m feeling holly, jolly, decking the halls with Falalalas and having a Merry Christmas.
But if we’re honest, spiritual lows are more common around Christmas than you think:
• Finances are challenging – and hopefully I can get a Dollar Tree gift or two for our kids. They wouldn’t be challenging, if I hadn’t have made so many mistakes.
• I won’t be getting a Christmas card from that person on Facebook – I said what I shouldn’t have said. No amount of merry or eggnog can fix it.
• I’ll be alone this Christmas. My family? They don’t want to see me. I’ve done too much wrong to each of them.
• I can’t listen to that song on the radio! The merry and happy that I hear – just isn’t how I feel and I feel even worse when I realize that I don’t feel that way either.
• Hospital rooms aren’t very exciting. All I want for Christmas is a CANCER FREE diagnosis.
The reality behind Christmas is that we’re still sinners. We still have guilt. We still have spiritual lows because of that guilt. Maybe that’s by we love Christmas. Maybe we love the happy singing, happy gifts, and happy drinks because they take our minds off of the spiritual depths for just a second. We feel happy for just a second. We feel ok for just a second. We’ll hear someone say, “You are kind. You are so nice…” as opposed to the inner voice that says, “You’re a bad mom – a no good father – a good for nothing friend.”
Christmas cheer can erase that!...
…Until December 26th. Then, we realize it’s all still there.
Your financially poor decisions are still a part of your credit report.
That person on Facebook still won’t talk to you.
Your family that was angry with you is still angry with you.
And your sins against God are still written down.
In fact, look at what the Psalmist writes about God – If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, who could stand? (130:3) There’s a similar thought in a cute, kids’ Santa Claus song. "He’s making a list, checking it twice, gonna find out who's naughty or nice.” That means his list says your name. It says naughty or nice. It determines whether you get coal or a new, metallic Slinky.
God’s list is much different.
God’s list has your name – and every last sin that you ever did written underneath it in 12 point Times New Heaven font!
God’s list doesn’t miss anything.
8:23am Pulled into parking lot and swore at the car who took your spot.
8:25am Refused to hold door for fellow employee because “I just don’t like him that much.”
8:26am Looked down that woman’s shirt who stood on the elevator in front of me.
8:26am and 32 seconds Checked out her rear as she left the elevator.
8:27am Ignored the “hello” of that one guy at work, because he didn’t say hi to me yesterday.
8:31am Told a lie about the boss’ love life because it’s fun to bring him down a notch or two.
8:34am Logged onto Facebook because I don’t feel like working.
8:39am Typed an angry political comment into a blog and called someone a bunch of names, because they are those bunch of names.
8:41am Typed a vulgar reply to a person who typed a vulgar reply to my political comment.
8:43am Typed an even more vulgar reply to a person who typed an even more vulgar reply to my political comment.
8:47am Saw Bible passage – scrolled through it quickly. Tried not to think about God.
If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, who could stand?
None of could stand.
All of us would be convicted.
No amount of garland...
No amount of gingerbread cookies.
No number of Elf on the Shelf positions could save us.
4 But, with you, O Lord, is forgiveness.
Do you get it? This is why the Psalmist was waiting on God. This is why the Psalmist was waiting on his promise of the Savior. Because there was no one else and nothing else that could fix that problem.
No one else that could fix sin.
No one else that could remove guilt.
No one else that could say, “You’re forgiven” and have that last eternally!
Hence the author waited.
Hence the Old Testament people waited.
And for a long time!
The timeline of the Savior starts with a guy named Abraham. God shows up and tells Abraham that he will one day send a Savior through his family. Abraham waits. Abraham grows old. Before Abraham dies, he passes that on to his son Isaac. God tells Isaac the same thing. One day the Savior will come through his family. Isaac waits. Isaac grows old. Before Isaac dies, he passes it on his to his son Jacob. And it’s the same thing with Jacob to his son….and his son to his son…and so on and so on and so on and so on. For close to 8000 years.
That’s a long time.
That’s a lot of waiting.
That’s a lot of patience.
And during that time Israel could have stopped hoping. And many of them did. The Old Testament talks all about that. Some started worship statues. Some started worshipping artistic poles. Some stopped thinking about God and worried more about the bank.
In essence, some stopped waiting for God.
But some waited.
From generation, to generation, to generation, they waited.
Until one night in Bethlehem…
Until a great, great, great, many times over grandson named Joseph had a son.
Until a Savior was born. Christ, the Lord.” (Lk. 2)
II. New Testament, You, Patience
But it’s hard to wait like the Psalmist. It’s hard to wait for God.
Story of not waiting for God.
God is worth waiting for.
Why? Look at verse 7. With the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins. There’s three key reasons to wait for God contained within that very verse.
(1) His Unfailing Love
If you put up Christmas lights, you know all too well that they can fail…easily. Usually it’s after you’ve tested them out, checked out every light, turned each one to make sure they are inserted correctly, strung them up on the outside of the house, and plugged it in...for about five seconds of oohs and ahs before bzzt!!! The lights go out and you gotta start all over.
God’s love is not like that. God’s love doesn’t bzzt! and shut off. God’s love is constant. His promise of forgiveness is constant. His eternal promise of heaven is constant.
With the Lord is unfailing love. (v.7a) His unfailing love is worth waiting for.
(2) Full Redemption
That’s a bit different from the majority of holiday sales. Sometimes they are too good to be true. You’ll be walking in the mall and a big sign 90% off! catches your eye. Who doesn’t stop for that sale? That’s $10 for a $100 item.
Then, you get inside. And…
The sale items are the ones with the yellow dot.
The items with the yellow dot are on the back-clearance rack.
The items on the back-clearance rack are nothing else than a few pairs of extra small slacks and a bright pink necktie that clashes with just about every shirt you own.
God’s redemption is not like that. God’s redemption is not just for the sins that are small OR the sins that no one thinks that much about in the back corner. God’s redemption found in Jesus is for all sins. It’s for every bit of every one of your sins.
It’s a complete payment. With him is full redemption. (v.7b)
A payment worth waiting for.
(3) He Himself
And it comes from God himself.
That’s what my mom always told me about a certain someone at Christmas. He had elves that worked for him. At the mall, he wasn’t even there himself. That’s too tough to get one on one time with him! Besides – how would these helpers ever get the message about my Red Ryder BB Gun to the big red guy in the first place?
But God is the one who personally came for your salvation.
He didn’t send a helper.
He didn’t send an angel.
He came himself.
That’s what the angel means when he says, “This is your Savior, Christ the Lord.” He means this is your Savior – God himself!
It means, God’s perfect, incredible, never failing, full redemption giving hands, took care of your salvation.
That’s a guy worth waiting for. That’s a God worth waiting for.
That’s why the Psalmist was so excited. He wrote, 5 I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his Word I put my hope. 6 I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Have any of you ever worked at night? Back then, there weren’t clocks, so the only way you knew that your job was almost over was the amount of darkness in the sky.
1:30 am. Still dark.
3:00 am. Darker still.
But come 4:45 am. It’s a dark grey.
5:15 am you can see your hand in front of your face.
6am, you start to get excited. You start to walk back to the office. There’s a beat to your step, because soon you look and...the sun peeks over the horizon. The day is here.
Wait for God like that.
With joy…because one day in this dark, sad, sin filled world, you’ll wake up. You’ll look at the horizon. The Son will come.
It will be morning.
Out of the dark depths of sin, guilt and shame.
Into the light of forgiveness, joy and God’s love.
It’s worth waiting for God. Amen.
It was a grandiose concert hall.
Beautiful aesthetics. There were chandelier like lights hanging from the ceiling, a perfect shape for the best acoustics, and stained glass windows depicting beautiful Biblical stories with such artistry that you could stare for hours – losing yourself in them.
Up on the stage – an orchestra. Hundreds of professionals set to play for this worship service. Violins, cellos and a golden glint shining off of the brass section.
It was impressive.
And then they played. Fantastic melodies traversing beautiful harmonies. A smorgasbord of sounds for your ears. Melodious highs mimicking the shimmering of snowflakes and trammeling lows – beckoning to the quiet sleep of the manger scene.
I remember my friend look over at me. He smiled. He said, “Now, that’s worship. This is Christmas.”
I’ve thought about that since then. Was he right? Was that worship? And are other forms of worship – forms without chandeliers and hundred member orchestras…are they worship?
If so, I suppose we need to shore up thousands of dollars in the church budget to hire a professional orchestra.
But then again – maybe there’s something more to worship.
Maybe – it’s always been something more.
Today we are going to continue our series called Old Fashioned Christmas. We will look at how people worshipped in preparation for the Savior – long before the first Christmas. We’re going to look at God’s Word and do two things: (1) identify a common worship pitfall (2) learn a few key traits about Old Fashioned Worship that we can put into practice this Christmas. Before we do that, join me in a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. An Old Fashioned Worship Pitfall
We are looking at a worship scene from 2 Samuel 6. This takes place right after the death of King Saul. Remember Him? We talked about him about a month ago in our sermon God & Voting. He was the king that the people chose to be their king – right after God warned them about a human king. God had said – A human king will be sinful. A human king will make sinful choices. A human king will have sinful effects on your life.
Guess what? God was right.
Especially in the area of worship life. Under King Saul, the worship life of the Israelite people became dreadful. The tabernacle – an ancient, portable church (very beautiful) – had been forgotten about. It’s altar furniture had been lost throughout the countryside. Worship was the last things on people’s minds – and King Saul tended to turn to psychics rather than God for comfort.
And worst of all -- the Israelites had lost the Ark of the Covenant.
Ever heard of that before? It makes a cameo in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s the box that the bad guys open up at the end – which causes them all to die.
Of course, that’s fake. (Indiana Jones – not the ark.) The ark was very real and very sacred. It was a box made of beautiful cedar wood. It was 4 feet long by 2 feet wide by 2 feet high. It had golden angelic statues which sat atop it’s cover and jewels encrusted in its etchings.
As holy sounding as that was, it was even more holy sounding inside.
It contained a jar of manna – heavenly bread that God had rained down on the Israelites as they were in the desert.
There was also a staff from Aaron, Moses’ brother. It was a staff that was originally a dead stick of wood, but God had caused to blossom with plant life.
There were also two giant tablets with the Ten Commandments written on them – commandments etched by the very hand of God.
In short – the Ark of the Covenant had been the center of worship for Ancient Israel. It was the connecting point between the Almighty, Holy God of heaven above and his people. It was the dwelling place of the one who didn’t need a dwelling place.
And it was missing.
So when King Saul’s successor, King David, came to power – he decided to bring the Ark back to Jerusalem. He located it in a dusty backroom outside the main part of the city. He arranged for a cart to hold the ark. (Think the most divine, holy Macy’s Thanksgiving Day float you’ve ever seen). He gathered together 30,000 men to protect the Ark and also cause a big enough commotion to draw attention to every small village they passed by in this glorious parade of divine proportions.
Things started well enough. The Ark was set on the new cart. (v.3) They began walking. (v.4) The men began celebrating – with castanets, harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums, and cymbals. (v.5)
It was a sight to behold.
A glorious scene of pomp and circumstance.
Now that’s what I call worship.
…A bump. A jolt. A shift in the weight of the ark.
And it began to slide. Slowly at first – then picking up speed. Making it’s way to the edge of the cart – about to fall onto the ground and bust open this divine furniture.
Uzzah was walking alongside the ark.
Uzzah saw it start to slip.
Uzzah thought, “I can be a hero.”
Uzzah reached out his hand to stop it.
Uzzah caught it.
Uzzah stopped it from falling down.
Only…something else did.
v.7 The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died.
The procession was quiet.
The soldiers stopped marched.
The percussion stopped drumming.
The sistrummers stopped sistrumming.
And David stopped being joyful and started being frightened: “Just who is this God that we’re worshipping?”
Does it sound a bit harsh? Remember – we said the Indiana Jones things where the people die for touching the ark wasn’t real. But the writers didn’t come up with that on their own. They come up with that from this verse. Uzzah is struck down by God!
But it’s not so much for touching the ark.
It’s not so much because he tried to save it.
It isn’t because God had a beef with Uzzah anyway and this was his way to get at him.
v. 7 The Lord’s anger burned…because of Uzzah’s irreverent act.
Irreverent is a key word then. What does it mean?
It means to not take seriously.
It means to not think deeply about.
It means to treat as more ordinary than you ought.
Which is so strange! Because this was such a huge festival. It looks like a big deal. Thousands of men. Hundreds of instruments. A grandiose parade.
But that seems to have been all it was.
What was there to distinguish it from the victory parade of the army?
Or from the parade downtown when the Jerusalem Cubs finally won the World Series after 108 years?
The answer isn’t: CW pg. 15.
It isn’t: a better liturgy.
It isn’t: A long white robe.
It isn’t: organ music.
It isn’t: Chris Tomlin’s greatest hits.
It isn’t: an electric bass.
It isn’t: hands waving in the air like they just don’t care.
It’s the heart.
Jesus said this, “Out of the heart comes…sin.” (Matthew. 15:19)
Out of the heart comes irreverence for God.
Out of the heart comes Uzzah’s sin
Out of the heart includes David’s sin.
It wasn’t necessarily caused by any external forces.
(Pause as the preacher gets down on a knee. Bows his head and appears to be praying)
That looked really reverent, right?
It wasn’t! (I was thinking about whether Papa John’s or Domino's makes a better pizza!)
Irreverence isn’t something you put on.
It’s something you put out.
That’s huge. It means we can’t just boil it down to – You need a more traditional worship style. Because you might do what I’ve done plenty of times in a service like that – zone out and think about what “Thee” and “Thou” even mean.
It can’t just boil down to – You need more excitement in your worship style…Because you might do what I’ve done plenty of times in services like that – zone out and think about what kind of hair gel the pastor has in his hair.
The biggest pitfall with worship back then and the biggest pitfall with worship right now – is our own, sinful, distracted, irreverent heart.
II. True Worship
That was the problem in this 2 Kings procession. And as David stared sullenly at the limp body of Uzzah, he took a break. The parade dispersed. The people went home. The ark went to a nearby home for three months.
And David thought out the situation.
He thought out his own struggles.
He thought about how He hadn’t went to the Bible to learn of how God would have the ark transported.
He learned that the ark was never transported by cart, but by poles – held by four priests.
He learned that the ark was a symbol of God’s holiness and a connection to his power – one to be approached with reverence.
He learned that the Ark pointed to God’s mercy – it was covered with a seal – a visual portrayal of God’s mercy – sealing away God’s holiness and righteous anger against “not holiness”.
He reflected that this mercy seat reflected the truth that God – in mercy – would cover his own sins.
His sins of irreverence.
His sins of transporting the ark irreverently.
And David tried again.
This time there is no mention of thousands of soldiers.
There is no mention of a beautiful, new cart.
There is no mention of an ancient orchestra.
There are priests.
There are sacrifices.
There is David – in a linen ephod – ancient underwear – dancing before the Lord with all his might.
And there in this less grandiose scene.
There in this seemingly irreverent scene.
There is reverence.
And what caused it is this. The house that the Ark was being stored at for those 3 months was being blessed by God. God and his mercy was poured out on some guy named Obed-Edom!
David saw God’s mercy.
David remembered God’s mercy to him.
David remembered God’s promise of mercy – that one day – “a Savior will be born – He is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2)
Brothers and sisters – this is the key.
It isn’t more tradition.
It isn’t less tradition.
It’s more God.
True worship comes from the heart focused on God.
Because that heart sees God’s incredible might – that He created mountains and controls hurricanes.
Because that heart sees God’s incredible knowledge – that he created our DNA, antibodies, and white blood cells.
Because that heart sees God’s incredible holiness, that he hates even the slightest of sins.
Because that heart sees God’s incredible love – that he sent his only Son to live perfectly, die innocently, and rise triumphantly for the forgiveness of all our sins.
Because that heart sees God’s mercy – that he says to you and to me. “I forgive you. I forgive you for your irreverence.”
It’s kind like NFL Films. Have you ever seen their team year in reviews? I’m a Packers fan and every time I am feeling down about the way that they play – like this year (5 - 6 isn’t too grand), I look up the film on Super Bowl 45. I watch Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews and company win. I watch them score touchdowns. I watch the confetti fall from the sky.
And I’m pumped.
It’s the same for you. If you want to get pumped up for God again – you’ve got to review his victory. See him crushing the devil. See him crushing your sin. See him winning eternal life…for you.
III. What now?
(1) Focus on God
I mean really focus. Scripture says this, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength.” That’s what David did as he danced that Ark into Jerusalem. He danced “With all his might.” (v.15)
That’s really important in our age of no focus. We have this thing. It’s called a cell phone. It’d be better named a cellular distractions device.
Has it ever happened to you that you sit down to read God’s Word on your phone and you start reading John 3:16 and you reflect, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish, but…” Oh look! A new funny cat video!
At Chick-fil-A they give away free sandwiches if you can put your cell phone away for an entire meal and talk to your family. In his church, God gives away a distraction free, peaceful, reflection on his love if you put your cell phone away for an entire visit with your Dad.
(2) In Variety
I think it’s interesting – this is something that Lutherans – coming from a rigid, proper, German background – don’t do very naturally – David does: He dances for worship!
It doesn’t say what kind of dance that he does.
It doesn’t say if it’s a polka.
It doesn’t say if he waltzes.
It doesn’t say if he whips and nae-naes.
He simply dances from the heart.
1 Corinthians 10:31 says this, "Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do—do it all for the glory of God."
It’s the same with worship. Because (and this might be surprising to you), did you know people are different? They like different things. They like different Christmas cookies, different Christmas traditions, and different Christmas eggnogs.
They even like different styles of Christmas worship.
Some like traditional, organ style.
Some like contemporary, worship band style.
Some like R & B, Gospel style.
Here’s the deal – all these forms are valid. The validity comes from the focus. That focus comes from the heart. Are we focused on God? Good. Then we’re worshipping.
That’s glorious. Because our God shows us that there are so many different ways to worship him.
It’s like watching the preschoolers color a picture. I could demand that they all use the color grey always – always—and always. And throw away any coloring page that had any other color on it.
But I don’t. You probably wouldn’t either. As a result, we see some beautiful creativity. Unhampered creativity.
That’s what Jesus wants from you. A heart worshipping him. A heart worshipping him in a variety of forms. A heart worshipping him in your own, incredible, you way.
This is important. Because we are a church. When we gather together, we worship together. God says we need to worship together for accountability, for encouragement, for prayers, and for fellowship.
But it means we will be worshipping with people who don’t all like the same things.
Be gracious. Because that’s ok.
Remember God’s grace – he lovingly, kindly, patiently waited for us to return to him after we have sinned! That’s amazing. Practice God’s grace --- lovingly, kindly, patiently endure a worship style that you don’t love (but isn’t even a sin), because of His grace.
It’s necessary in our worship. We have kind of a blended worship. We have some traditional, some contemporary. Some services are more one or the other. Soon…the elders and the leadership are working on creating two services – one that highlights traditional styles and one that highlights contemporary styles.
Fight the sinful urge to be angry! Be gracious.
That means if you don’t love organ, you take a breath – remember your God – and belt out that hymn to God’s praise.
That means that if you don’t love guitar, you take a breath – remember your God – and sing the refrain to God’s praise.
Besides – God says to Love your neighbor as yourself. This means a heart focused on God – is going to be thinking of his neighbor, not just himself.
It’s going to be gracious.
(4) Ignore Haters
David had to do that. 16 As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.
Afterwards, when David came back sweaty and short of breath, she got in his face.
How pathetic! How foolish! What an absolute disgrace you are for the way that you worshipped today.
Ouch! That would hurt my feelings.
Maybe you’ve had something like that said about the way you worship.
Maybe you’ve said something like that about the way someone else worships.
But look at David’s thoughtful response. “It was before the Lord….that I did this. I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes…for the Lord.”
David ignored the haters. David focused on God. David worshipped with all his heart.
You ignore the haters. You focus on God. You worship with all your heart.
Like Jimmy. You ever hear of his story? Jimmy had down syndrome. But Jimmy wanted to be a part of his school’s Christmas worship program. He tried really hard, but he couldn’t get the words quite right. The night of program – he struggled. He fidgeted. He fumbled on words. He was (as some people put it) – a distraction.
But while other kids were hanging out afterwards, eating their Christmas candy from the obligatory Christmas candy bag – they couldn’t stop talking about all the toys they were going to get. About how great it would be to get out of church. About how great it would be to stop singing Christmas songs.
But then, they stopped…because it was hard to hear each other.
Jimmy was passing them by, ignoring their looking, refusing to hear their snickers, focusing on his God and singing as loudly as his voice could carry:
“Happy Birthday Jesus! I love you! Happy Birthday.”
Now that’s worship.