O come O come Emmanuel.
This song begs a simple question. What do you mean when you sing these words? For some, they are asking God to hurry the end times. To allow Jesus to return to earth as prophesied. Others believe that our God is supernatural and that He can intervene today. They believe that prayer works and when you ask God to do something, He is able and actually WILL do things. A third group will sing the words and not give them much thought. To them its a pretty song, or perhaps they think they are singing on behalf of someone that lived during the days of Jesus.
When I sing these words, my soul leaps. It’s as though I was lying dormant, choosing one boring, meaningless task after the next. And then I chose this one… to call on my Savior. And the response within me is, “YES!. Finally! This is exciting. You have called on the power of the living God. Oh, how I can’t wait to see what is going to happen next. Do you realize He can do ANYTHING!”
I have to confess that there are times where I have “worshiped” and never thought to ask Jesus to be a part of it. I just did what i wanted my way. Or I just followed others in their plans. These words are a request. We are asking the Lord to be a part of what we are doing. We can worship a God who is far off in heaven. Or, we can invite Him to join us and worship a present God in the moment.
This may make some people uncomfortable. They worship a God that they believed healed sick and rose from the dead, but don’t believe He can do the same today. They find Him bound by scriptures and willfully helpless to answer our call. They pray prayers asking God to heal the sick but don’t actually believe He has the power to do so. They believe they were baptized by the Holy Spirit, but don’t believe that He lives within them. And while I don’t want to tell anyone that they are wrong in how they worship…. I can’t help but ask the questions… mostly, why?
Why sing to a God that won’t answer? Why pray to a God who doesn’t listen? Why worship a God that lies dormant? Why quote scripture that promises answers to prayer when faith and belief in that promise are lacking?
When my friend said, “come here”. It wasn’t a philosophical quandary. It was a request. When we ask Jesus to come visit with us… why doesn’t it mean exactly what we sing? Can’t it?
Our eternal goal is to be with God. If you believe in the Bible, you know we are partly connected to Him already. Made in His image (gen 1:27). Filled with the Holy Spirit (acts 2:38). And, sanctified to be with Him. Asking Him to join us in worship… I would claim that is where worship starts. The birthday party begins with the lights off and all of the guests hidden. The actual celebration happens when the guest of honor walks through the door and we all yell “Surprise!”. What an odd party to have if the person wasn’t even there yet. Why should worship be different? And do note that it is a celebration. Come, o Come, Lord. We want to honor you. We want to worship you. We have so much to be glad for. Honor us with your presence so we can say thank you.
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee
I love this part because its straight forward and yet its not often we consider the flow of worship. From our soul directly to God. This speaks to me as I have a history of including middle men in the process that were never intended to be there. My prayers are tailored to those present. My singing is hushed for fear those around might hear how God forgot to bless me with any semblance of vocal talent. My contribution is folded and concealed.
Its not about the habits, some may actually have merit. Its about the awareness. Its about the presence of our hearts and minds. Are we thinking about the pitch, the tempo, the crying baby, the order of worship… Soul to God cuts out all of this and gets right down to business. This verse reminds us that we need spiritual binders. This is what horses wear so that things that happen around them, in their peripheral vision, don’t distract them from their responsibilities. It physically blocks line of sight so they stay focused on what is directly in front of them.
God Should be directly in front of us. And we should be singing TO Him. Not about Him, we have already welcomed Him, invited Him to our worship. If we sincerely meant that, wouldn’t it be horrible to invite God to a time and place where we are concerned about what others think? Where we hold back our emotions and give God a half hearted, location awareness offering. Don’t read into this disorderly worship. God can be praised by the masses in orderly worship. It’s our hearts that give us away when our minds are in other places during this time.
Soul to God. I’m a visual person, so to me it looks like this: Soul —> God. We don’t have to ignore our fellow Christians during worship. We don’t have to exclude them. Worship was designed, I believe, to build up both God and Church. We don’t worship because we want to be built up, but it happens during the process when we worship to build up God. Our praise for Him tends to have a healing effect. (but this is a whole other issue). The power of this line of text is simple. Your worship is your offering to God. How much do you want to give? Do you remember what happened to Ananias and Sapphira? They kept a portion for themselves. Just as they were expected to give all they had financially, we are expected to give all that we have in worship. Some of us have become very good at tithing 10% effort, or 10% volume, or 10% listening.
Engaged directly with God you can give a true offering of self.
Fall on your knees. (O Holy Night)
Have you ever tried to fall on purpose? Most of us spend a great deal of effort to stay… up. Falling, in most cases, would be painful, embarrassing, and possibly costly. If I were to kneel right now, I would first look for a pillow. At my age, kneeling gets painful after a short time. I would also slowly lower myself to the ground, grabbing surrounding structures for support. You would definitely hear a grunt or two as I made my way down. Why? because the last thing I want to do is fall. And of course, I would need help to get back up.
Kneeling, is an action. Its a choice. And its also a process. Even the young and healthy will knee methodically. Falling is a response. The body no longer has control any more. If it did, the default reaction is to try and remain up. The mind checks out and the soul takes over. The overwhelming emotion in the correct placement between God and man has a cause/effect relationship. It is not logical. It is not fair. The sacrifices made are not fathomable. But when we place ourselves as we belong at the feet of Jesus and the story of His life and sacrifice hits deep within our soul our body reacts accordingly. We fall. Its overwhelming. Its unbelievable. Its insurmountable. And when we finally align our hearts with God’s good and perfect will we know our true place.
We are the saved. We are the free. We are loved. And we can’t physically stand when the reality of such power harnessing so much love hits us. To fall on your knees is to say, “I give up… everything!”. There is one thing I need, and it is a desperate need. I need Jesus in my life. Everything else is useless.
Falling to your knees is crying’s bigger brother. Most of us don’t choose when we cry. There are a few good actors that can flip that switch, but for the rest of us, its an emotion that comes when prompted by our surroundings. A sad movie, a heartfelt song, a devastating situation. Tears come without our permission based on how we perceive the situation at hand. The phrase, “uncontrollable laughter”, or “uncontrollable crying” has merit. We don’t control those things. They are responses, not thought out actions. Falling to your knees is a response. In the frame work of worship, its the bodies way of saying, the heart, mind, and soul are where they belong right now.
Disclaimer: If you don’t fall to your knees… don’t read anything into that. But imagine the spiritual and emotional state of someone who does. Stand before the real throne of God, and not an empty one. Imagine your reaction to Him. Accept His sacrifice. Accept His love.
Invite God, praise Him directly and genuinely, and then respond to His presence in your life. This is worship to me.