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Advent: Day 23
“Angels from the Realms of Glory”
(Matthew 2, Luke 2)

Dear Family

This carol was written by James Montgomery (1771 – 1854). He was the son of Moravian missionaries who died in the West Indies when he was still at school. It celebrates essential parts of what happened and will happen as a result of Christmas. Taking one line from each of the four verses, which address the key characters around the birth, gives some examples:

- “Angels … now proclaim messiah’s birth;”
- “Shepherds … God with us is now residing;”
- “Sages … seek the great desire of nations;”
- “Saints … Christ will once again appear”

However, it is the simple exhortation of the refrain that I want to consider right now:

Come and worship, come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King.

“Come and worship.” What does this mean? Too often we talk about worship as though it is the act of singing to or about God. It is the way we often talk when we gather either in a service or even in smaller groups or special events. When the leader says, “Let’s worship the Lord together,” we all know we’re about to sing. If we say, “the worship was fantastic,” we mean the musicians led well or the songs were well chosen (or I liked them), or that everyone sang with gusto.

At the same time, we also know that this refrain in the context of the birth of Messiah is not really a call to the wise men or the shepherds to sing songs to Jesus. We know that it means coming with awe, wonder, reverence, humility (and so on) to acknowledge and celebrate what God has done, is doing, and will do. To come and worship at the manger (even figuratively as we do today), is to align ourselves with the significance of the event and to respond to it appropriately.

But what if, for one or other reason, we don’t ‘feel’ like it? Well, that’s the interesting thing. Worship is definitely not a feeling – or more accurately, it is not defined by our feelings. When things are tough, the last thing we may ‘feel’ like is worship. At its very root, however, worship is about acknowledgment (with a sense hopefully of gratitude and awe). When I feel like God could not possibly love me, I worship him because he does anyway. When I’m frustrated that things aren’t working out, I worship him because he’s in control. When I’m hurt and lonely, I worship him because he understands, and he is with me. So, worship is really our response to who God is, what he is doing, who he is doing it for (me!).

God does not ‘need’ our worship. He is sufficient within himself. He does not have a fragile ego that needs our affirmation for him to feel ok about himself. We need worship. It realigns our thinking. It reaffirms for us that God is always on our side. It forms our minds because it re-trains us to perceive life correctly. The celebration is authentic because it is true, not because of how I feel. So …

Come and worship, come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King.

In His grace
Fr. Geoff

Image: "Christmas Dreams" by Elena Markova