A Stunning Anthem

Our first Sunday in Advent at church was a blessing of fine music. We are the happy recipients of an incredible pianist/organist whose unsurpassed keyboard talents set the tone for high and holy worship with the first strike of the keys. I nearly wept after her prelude, which wove familiar hymns such as “Let All Mortal Flesh be Silent” with “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” in intricate chords and dramatic bass notes. I felt that in that singular moment, Christmas had blossomed in my heart.

Music can do that to you.

We were designed for worship and praise. As God knit us together in the womb, he had a plan for his people to be able to come and adore him in harmonies that have only been heard by the angels. I suppose that is why Christmas carols and Christmas songs are so important to this season. They set the stage for the advent of Christ in our hearts and draw us to that angel choir that hovered above his manger at his birth, singing their glorious “alleluias.” God invites us to sing along.

In the fifteenth chapter of Romans, Paul is reflecting on why Jesus came and how we should respond to him. Not surprisingly, he says that we should strive for a maturity of personal harmony with one another that will make us into a choir … “not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem.” What a beautiful image!

Romans 15 (The Message)

3-6 That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out. “I took on the troubles of the troubled,” is the way Scripture puts it. Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it’s written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next.

May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. Then we’ll be a choir—not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus!

If we are to be a choir of worshippers who live in harmony, we have a few things to do. First, we must stay true to God’s purposes for his creation, which is to live in peace together. That may mean laying down old grudges, prejudices, and bigotry. Next, we need to invite outsiders in and welcome the insiders to return. As the “choir,” we can be integral in reaching out to welcome one another in love and acceptance for all.

7-13 So reach out and welcome one another to God’s glory. Jesus did it; now you do it! Jesus, staying true to God’s purposes, reached out in a special way to the Jewish insiders so that the old ancestral promises would come true for them. As a result, the non-Jewish outsiders have been able to experience mercy and to show appreciation to God. Just think of all the Scriptures that will come true in what we do! For instance:

Then I’ll join outsiders in a hymn-sing;
I’ll sing to your name!

And this one:

Outsiders and insiders, rejoice together!

And again:

People of all nations, celebrate God!
All colors and races, give hearty praise!

Ask yourself if you are adding to the harmony of God’s worship or detracting from it. Have you welcomed the stranger into your heart and your home? Are you able to include every aspect of God’s diverse and beautiful world in your worship? Can you invite your neighbor to church this season?

And Isaiah’s word:

There’s the root of our ancestor Jesse,
    breaking through the earth and growing tree tall,
Tall enough for everyone everywhere to see and take hope!

Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!

I pray that each one of us will do all that we can to share the joy, the peace, and the live-giving energy of the Holy Spirit to an outsider who desperately needs it. Look around … they are in our midst. May we bring the brimming-over of hope to the world this season.

May the God of Green Hope Bring You Joy by Kathy Schumacher

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