The Christmas season is marked more than any other by a rich tradition of music, especially songs of praise. Perhaps unwittingly, thousands of people sing praise to Jesus every December as they sing along to "Silent Night," "Hark the Herald," "O Holy Night," or so many others.
Many of these songs are old songs, written even hundreds of years ago to praise the birth of our Lord. They are special to us precisely because of that familiarity. Turning on the radio and humming along to a familiar melody, one you've sang since childhood, is beautifully comforting.
Yet there is a danger in the comfort of these old songs -- it can numb us to the truth of who that song of praise is all about. Worn by time, the freshness, sharpness, and realness of our Messiah's birth can lose its power.
In Psalm 33, the author writes,
"Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts."
The phrase "new song" is used many times in scripture. At least three of those uses are in the Psalms (40:3, 98:1).
Scholars believe that a "new song" is not just a song of praise -- it's praise in response to a new experience of God's grace. In other words, the newsongs of praise we can sing are endless, because there are endless experiences of God's grace, love, and goodness.
When is the last time you sang a new song of praise to God? Has the worship of your heart become lulled and familiar, dulled of its passion?
In Psalm 40:3, David describes the experience of being rescued by God from a low place.
"I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God."
David praised God before this experience. In fact, David's life was one of deep worship -- he wrote many of the psalms. Yet this particular experience of God's grace caused him to sing a new song. In fact, each psalm David wrote was a new song of praise -- a new way to express his thanks, awe, love, wonder, and trust in God each time God came through for Him.
We always have new songs of praise because there is always more of God to discover. As we experience who He is for us in new ways, our worship reflects the fullness of who He is.
If we don't have fresh praise on our lips, I would challenge you to ask yourself:
1. Have I stopped seeing the new blessings I receive every day?
Sometimes like those old Christmas tunes, we simply become so familiar with God's goodness that the reality of our blessings loses its sharpness.
Especially at Christmas, our world is always reminding us of what we don't have. Yet every day we experience afresh blessings unknown to the majority of the world: provision of food, health, home, work, family, etc. Beyond that, we can experience the most important gift of salvation.
Are the songs of our heart sweet songs of gratitude in response to God's grace? Or do are hearts, in all honesty, sing out the clanging chords of dissatisfaction, discontentment, offense, or jealousy?
2. Am I experiencing God in new ways?
We will fail to sing new songs of praise if we fail to experience God anew at all. The worship of our hearts is in direct proportion to how much we see and recognize the goodness of Who God Is. When was the last time you had a fresh encounter with God in prayer or His Word? When was the last time you learned something new about Him in a sermon, or in community? Are we diligently seeking Him?
When we think about Heaven, we often picture a place of paradise. But the important truth is that Heaven won't feel like paradise to us if we don't love to praise God.
In Revelation, John gets to take a glimpse at what Heaven is like, at God Himself in Heaven. What was going on?Endless worship! God's people and angels were constantly casting themselves down before God, worshipping Him with the same praise. It says that "day and night they never cease to say, 'Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!'” (Rev 4:8).
Imagine that--worshipping God day and night, forever! And some of complain about an extra song at church!
Yet later, as John watches, something even more amazing happens. Jesus, in the form of a Lamb, steps up to God's throne open a scroll, a symbol for His worthiness through the cross.
It says that immediately in response, "They sang a new song." And this time, it wasn't just the Elders leading the chorus.
"I heard around the throne...the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands and thousands...And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them..."
The truth is that the Heavenly Kingdom is not at its heart a place where we will be praised or rewarded for what we did on this earth. It's a place where His people who have worshipped Him on earth can praise Him with new songs to sing forevermore.
1. Take five minutes to write down ways you have experienced the grace of God in new ways this day, this week, and in this season. Spend some time praising God for each one of these blessings.
2. Read through Psalm 33 and think about Who God Is. What do you love about Him? What is still mysterious about Him to you? Write these down or pray about them and tell God directly!
3. What are some things in your heart and life that make it hard for you to worship God? Try to be as specific and honest as you can. Engage in a time of confession with God, and ask Him to change your heart's cry to one of praise!
4. If you are a musician, I challenge you to literally try to write or play a new song of praise! If you are a writer, I challenge you to write out a poem or prose of praise! If you are an artist, I challenge you to paint, draw, or create a new picture of worship to God!
"With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God. I will give glory to your name forever." -Psalm 86:12
"I will praise the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live." -Psalm 146:2
"I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving." - Psalm 69:30