Come all you who thirst! This is a song by Bethany Dillon based on Isaiah 55. Beautiful and encouraging.
This is just astounding.
There must be so many other instances, which we have not yet discovered, where music has the unique power to unlock and overcome problems in our physical bodies, minds and emotions. Thank You for the music!
What can worship leaders, pastors and creative leaders do to help Christians experience the ‘true meaning’ of Christmas? http://worshipsessions.com.au/site/teaching
Christmas can be a stressful time of year, and Christians are not immune to the pressures and demands of this season. Many Christians find it difficult to significantly engage with Christmas on a spiritual level. Have you ever heard a Christian say “it just doesn’t feel like Christmas?”
The Christian experience of Christmas should be much richer, more distinct and more meaningful than the Christmas experience promoted across our culture. But for this to happen, Christmas must become more than just a birthday party for Jesus and a time for family reunions.
For Christians to gain a deeper and richer appreciation for the Christmas season as a Christian event (rather than just a cultural one) we must take a step back and look at Christmas in the broader context of the historical Christian calendar.
For centuries believers have followed the Christian Year as part of their spiritual formation and discipleship. According to this ancient tradition, Christmas was celebrated as a twelve-day feast, not just a one-day event. This celebration was the culmination of four weeks of spiritual preparation and anticipation known as Advent.
The well-known Internet Monk blogger Michael Spencer illustrates the difference between Advent and Christmas. He says, “Christmas is joyous, but the joy comes after weeks of waiting, watching, lamenting and calling upon God. Advent is that season of waiting; of looking for the signs and promises of the Saviour in the Scriptures and in the world.”1
I believe that rediscovering the spiritual rhythm and preparation of Advent will help Christians experience the true meaning of Christmas.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas – when our culture is shouting at us to “spend!” “buy!” and “consume!” – the season of Advent teaches us to slow down and reflect on God’s story and our place in it, it teaches us patience, and cultivates within us a child-like sense of anticipation and longing. Advent does this by helping us to remember the historical silence of the Scriptures between the Old and New Testaments and the expectation of a soon-coming Messiah. Advent also helps us to anticipate Jesus’ future return and the eventual completion of His work in redeeming and renewing all of Creation.
Advent spirituality is about recognising that we are living in the “now, but not yet…” between the inauguration and fulfilment, between promise and completion. During Advent, the words of John the Baptist ring in our ears “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him,”2 as we eagerly await the Messiah’s return. For Christians, Advent is a time for spiritual preparation, reflection and repentance, which directly opposes our culture’s penchant for busy-ness, over-spending and over-indulgence in the lead up to Christmas.
Christmas is more than just a celebration of Christ’s arrival. In the light of Advent, Christmas becomes the fulfilment of the expectation that builds throughout the Advent season. At Christmas, we remember that God broke through into our earthly dimension. Through His birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection, Jesus Christ worked to restore the earth and all creation from within, according to God’s good plan and purpose. Our response as His followers is to join with Him, today and every day, in His ongoing work of restoring the world unto Himself, until the day that He returns.3
In this way, Christmas calls us to a tangible response as followers of Jesus: to live out ‘incarnational spirituality’4 – an expression of Christian faith that embodies the life of Christ into the world in which we live. The prayer of the Christmas season is “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”5 It is a reminder that “the work of restoring creation has begun,”6 and that we are called to join in that work, empowered and enabled by the Holy Spirit.
By understanding and integrating these historically important Christian ideas into worship gatherings leading up to Christmas, worship leaders and pastors can help those they lead to discover a deeper and more significant Christmas spirituality. That is, where faith overflows into tangible and intentional expressions of incarnational Christianity – a faith that is in the world but not of it.
Worship leaders and songwriters can help their communities experience Advent by choosing and writing songs, prayers and using language that focuses on the expectation of Christ’s coming; and saving the celebration of his arrival until Christmas Day.
Worship leaders can research, read and learn more about the seasons of Advent and Christmas in order to help their congregations wrap their Christmas experience around God’s story, not the story of commerce, culture and consumption.7
As worship leaders and creative influencers, we have the opportunity to shape the ways in which our worshipping communities experience Christmas, and ultimately influence the kind of Christianity the live out between Sundays. As we learn and immerse ourselves in the rich meaning of the “Christian Year” and prayerfully contextualise the themes and ideas of these seasons into our worship gatherings, I believe that Christmas can once again become a primarily Christian event in our churches – one that encourages us in our faith and empowers us in our witness as we remember, experience and live out the Truth of Christmas.
1. Spencer, Michael; http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/imonk-classic-michael-spencer-helps-us-prepare-for-advent (Accessed on 1 December 2011)
2. Matthew 3:3b (See also John 1:23 and Isaiah 40:3) (NIV)
3. For a balanced and insightful look at the role of Christians as restorers, see “The Next Christians” (DoubleDay Publishing, 2010) by Gabe Lyons.
4. Webber, Robert “Ancient-Future Time”, Baker Books (Grand Rapids, MI), 2004, page 61-71.
5. Matthew 6:10 (NIV)
6. Webber, page 61
7. Robert Webber’s book “Ancient-Future Time” would be a great introduction to understanding Advent, Christmas and the entire Christian calendar.
THIS ARTICLE CAME FROM http://worshipsessions.com.au/site/teaching
WordPress.com users published more than 595 million posts in 2016. That’s slightly more than I managed to publish, but I do love the way much of my older content continues to be useful and encouraging to people all over the globe. Here are my top 5 most viewed posts this year. If you have only just followed me, you might like to check out why they are still popular.
5. How to Encourage your music team even when you’re not the leader
How great would it be if every single player and singer and sound technician took up the opportunity to positively influence the way their team functions. Consider the following list, 10 ways team players can be more encouraging members of their music team. . .
4. All of Creation Sing with me now, the veil is torn
Without being zapped or burnt to a crisp we sinful humans can now see the “glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). Mercy Me’s song All of Creation gets quite a mention as well.
3. The Conundrum of Keys, Capos and Congregational Singing
This post contains four rules of thumb that I find work well when selecting singable and playable keys for church singing.
2. The Cross Has Made You Flawless
This post generated quite a lot of discussion – around the song Flawless. See what you think. In Christ we stand before our heavenly Father as perfect, flawless people. We are wrapped up in Christ’s righteousness.
1. Never Alone
This most viewed post shares a congregational song, Never Alone. It has a simple melody (great for church singing) and the lyrics bring such comfort. Christ is with us! We are not alone . . . no matter how alone we may feel.
“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
(NLT Matthew 28:20)
Thanks for reading in 2016! Merry Christmas!
Some more fantastic festive music for you from the Piano Guys:
You can find the album here on iTunes
This looks like a really great workshop from a humble guy who became a worship/song leader. It would be great to watch together with your music team. I haven’t watched it all yet, but what I have seen so far is really helpful.
Players of melody instruments (flute, saxophone, violin etc.) are often left to their own devices to work out what to play in the church band. Listening to what other good players do can help, but sometimes it still remains a mystery. Today I’m sharing the seven principles I work with (in my head) when I’m playing in that role (though I’m most often on keys or vocals). I hope you will find them helpful.
Melody instruments need to see their place in the band rather like the cherries on the top of a cheesecake. The cheesecake still holds together without them (the bass, rhythm and harmonies provide the main body of the music), yet melody instruments can add a great deal of sweetness and beauty, in small doses – especially if they refrain from playing the melody. Here are my top 7 pointers for being an effective single-line instrument in a church band:
1. Know why you are in the band. You are there to serve, as part of an ensemble, to add to the sound in an effective way. It is not the time for you to seek the limelight and show off your solo skills (even though that’s what you have probably been trained to do). Any note or riff you play should enhance the song and the impact of the lyrics. Don’t play just for the sake of it.
2. Less is more. Melody instruments don’t need to play all the time (please don’t!). It is better to add something small and worthwhile, a fill (when singers aren’t singing), or a harmony line for a line or two, than to play too much. Some melody can be useful in the introduction to remind people how a song goes, or when teaching a new song, but other than that your task is to add some light and shade, to help with dynamic build up to chorus, and help set the tone of certain sections of the song. If you find yourself playing start to finish, you are playing too much. If you find that you are standing about doing nothing for much of the time you have probably found a good balance.
3. Play by ear. Most of the effective things you could add to a piece will not be written on the sheet music. You will need to pencil them in during practice, or else learn to improvise. If you know the key (sharps and flats) and know the shape of the melody there is much you can do! Listen to professional recordings of worship music and learn from what the instruments are doing. Copy the types of things you hear that work to add colour and meaning to a song.
4. Fills. Trading phrases is a good thing to learn how to do during the rests of the vocal melody. If the melody goes up you can take a few steps down. If the melody goes down, fill with notes going up. Opposite movement can be quite effective. Think of your fills as a musical response or comment to the words that have been sung. Play along to recorded music to practice this skill.
5. Harmonies. On recorded music you will hear good and limited use of harmonies played by melody instruments. Again, copy good ideas you hear. Write them out if needed. If there is lots of movement in the melody line it is best to harmonise with sustained notes. Choose a note from the chord that is being played at that point. Harmonies work well a 3rd below the melody and up the octave (but it’s a rule that can be broken). Build your confidence by playing along with recorded music. And even if you can play beautiful harmonies for the whole song, don’t. It is best to drop out for whole verse at a time, so that when you do contribute it is effective. Less is more.
6. Improvising. Many people find it helpful to use the Pentatonic (5 note) scale to help with improvising fills. In the key of C major the notes in this scale would be C D E G and A (notes 1,2,3,5,6, of the scale). Play along with recorded songs (of ones you use at church) and try it out.
7. Know the song really well. With all these things I’ve described above you will be better able to effectively add to the arrangement of a song if you know the melody and structure well. It takes time and practice and making mistakes to figure out how to play as a melody instrument in a church band, yet it is a skill worth learning….for the glory of God as His people praise Him together.
Just a beautiful arrangement!