(This is a repost from last year. Since I wrote this the worship pastor has retired at my parent's church. And I don't think they did the same type program. A sign of the times. But this message resonated so widely last year I thought I would repost.)
Every Christmas for the past 30 years my parent’s church does this music/drama/show thing with multiple performances, a large cast and special effects. You know the type. The first act is general Christmas songs including some old pop standards. The second act is the time when they bring out some community groups that dance and some silly take offs on Christmas standards. The third act is the telling of the Christmas story in drama and music.
In that last section there is a standard order to the story. I have watched numerous cousins, old high school friends, and community leaders play their parts as inn keepers, shepherds, kings and the like. Every year some lucky baby, usually less than 60 days old, is selected to play baby Jesus. One of my high school buddies daughters was cast one year.
We live on the other side of Atlanta now and don’t get there every year, but we made it again this year. It is a nostalgic treat for me.
There is the familiar climax to the show though that always chokes me up and brings a tear to my eyes.
Like many of these types of shows the climax is when the stage is cleared to reveal the teenaged Mary and Joseph with the little baby playing Jesus at the center and elevated part of the stage. (If the baby plays the part right it is usually quietly sleeping in the midst of the loud music). A bright star hangs above and a circle spot is clearly on center stage.
The music is “O Come All Ye Faithful” in full voice, with the choir moving to the wings and out of the spot light.
Enter the little kids dressed as shepherds in authentic looking costumes where the spot light shifts to show the children and some adults who have grown beards for the occasion walking down the aisle toward the stage carrying shepherds staffs.
As the first adult hits the steps up the stage he pauses and looks back. And at that moment is when the first wave of emotion hits me. In the spotlight he turns and with a big motion of his arm, turns and signals to others - “Come On”.
This is the first position of worship. The invitation to others to join the celebration of The Lord. Like this drama it is often wordless and done with the action of our bodies where we signal others and point to the Lord.
As the song continues the herd of shepherds continues to approach the stage. Each little shepherd boy or girls bows before the manger and then moves off to one side.
Then comes the second position of worship. The spotlight returns to center stage where one of the adult shepherds asks Joseph silently to hold the baby.
Joseph hands the baby to the shepherd where he cradles it, kisses on the forehead, and then lifts the baby high over his head with joy for about 20 seconds.
In that moment there is the joy of “Lifting Jesus Up” in celebration. I always think we should cheer at this moment but no one ever joins me.
The baby is returned to Mary and laid back in the manger.
The music gets louder now and the spotlight moves over to one aisle where the first of the regally dressed kings has entered on a platform carried by two other men with a swarm of young people carrying the gifts of gold. The spotlight slowly follows them down the aisle observing the king dismount and with his retinue come up the risers to present the gold to Mary and Joseph. He then exits to one side.
A second King does likewise with his retinue where he presents another gift and moves to the other side.
Now we come to the high point of the scene where the most elaborate King, with a long golden train of a cape slowly comes down the aisle with trailing attendants. The King approaches the manger. As he does, the attendants spread the cape over part of the stage to shine brightly in the spotlight.
As that happens, he and the other actors “fall on their faces before the Lord.”
“O Come Let Us Adore Him, Christ the Lord” goes the last line of that song.
And of course that is the last act of worship that we will all experience one day when we see Him face to face. We will fall on our faces, prostrate before the Lord, just as all the actors are on the stage in that last scene.
I occasionally still get questions in churches about contemporary worship, formal worship, and traditional worship and often the question is: Should we always be standing when we sing? Or should we let people dance? Or How expressive should our worship time be?
I really have no opinion much to those questions, because I usually recall these three positions above.
Lift Jesus Up.
Fall on our Face before the Lord.
For all of us at Leadership Network, let me wish you a Merry Christmas and pray that we all may worship the Lord this year by inviting others to “Come On”, to constantly “Lift Jesus Up” in all that we do, and to “fall on our face” in humility for what God has done for us.