Luke 19 & Worship Groups

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As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.  When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:  “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”  Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.

Luke 19:36-40

I was doing a study on this passage last night when I noticed something interesting.

Within this account, there were 3 people groups mentioned. Did you see that? And each group did something different in response to Jesus riding the donkey down the road to Jerusalem.

  • People – they spread their cloaks on the ground  for Jesus
  • Disciples – they joyfully praised God
  • Pharisees – they scolded Jesus and the disciples

What a variety! As I thought more about it, I realized that the behaviors of each pointed to a bigger mindset that they held then. In fact, we can still see echoes of them today:

People

They acknowledge that Jesus is important, maybe even accept Him as their Lord. But their worship is polite and from a distance. Why? Fear, perhaps, or an unwillingness to get out of their comfort zone. Either way, the result is a formal, not very close relationship to God that doesn’t have a lot of  impact in daily life.

Disciples

They have taken the plunge, so to speak. Not only do they acknowledge Jesus as Lord, but they spend time learning more about Him and growing closer to Him. Their worship is bold, vocal, and based on knowing who Jesus is and what He has done. And they want to share the good news with the world.

Pharisees

They see Jesus as at the least, bothersome, and at the most, threatening. Believers in God, they also believe in keeping the status quo. Their worship life is static, following long-treasured routines and patterns. This leaves them a bit judgemental of newer ideas, and over time dries up their enthusiasm.

From this, two questions formed in my mind. First, “Which group would I have fallen into back in Jesus’ time? And then, of course, “Which group do I belong to here and now?

Honestly, I fall between People and Disciple. At times I get really excited about sharing Jesus and worshipping out loud. But in other situations I hold back, for any number of reasons. For me, the key to staying in the Disciple category is to keep up my daily disciplines – reading the Word, lifting up prayers and praises, and seeking fellowship with my brothers and sisters.

How about you? Which category do you spend most of your time in?

O Holy Night

nativity_2One of the things I enjoy most about the Christmas season is the songs. Hearing “Santa Baby” over a store loudspeaker starting right after Halloween is a bit much, I’ll admit. But for me, singing carols and songs is a big part of celebrating the holidays.

I decided to do some research into the background of some of my favorite Christmas songs, and it’s been fun to learn more about a couple of them. In the case of one, “O Holy Night”, how the tune came into being is only the start of a very interesting history.

The lyrics were written by Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure, the resident poet of a small town in France. He had been asked by the parish priest to create something for the Christmas Eve mass. So, he started by reading through the Nativity Story in the book of Luke for inspiration and the words came to him quickly.

Cantique de Noel, as it’s called in French, was embraced by the Church at first, until it was discovered that Cappeau was a socialist. The leadership officially banned the song from services, but the people loved it, and continued to sing it anyway.

The song got introduced to a much wider audience when John Dwight brought the song over to the United States. During the Civil War he worked for slaves’ rights, and so the lyrics “Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother…” caught his ear. The song actually turned into a rallying cry for the North.

Back in France the song became an olive branch of sorts. On a Christmas Eve during the Franco-Prussian War, a French soldier entered the battlefield unarmed and began to sing the song. After he had finished, a German soldier joined him and sang a hymn from his own country. Fighting between sides actually stopped for the next 24 hours to observe Christmas.

When a song touches that many people, it’s because of more than just a pretty tune or nice lyrics. I think the key lies with where Cappeau started his writing process. He didn’t look at his surroundings or even his own thoughts first – he went right to God’s Word. In scripture he saw the beauty and deeper meaning of Christ’s birth. His words reflect the amazing truth of God’s love for men – and that’s why they’ve resonated so much with people ever since.

I learned more than I expected from this one search. Maybe I’ll expand this into a mini Bible study for next year’s Advent season.

What’s your favorite holiday carol or song?