Sure, Christmas and the end of the year is a great time to catch up with friends and family from around the globe, but have you ever felt a wee bit unsettled upon receiving a letter mentioning nothing but the greatest accomplishments, glories and good fortune? You know, a letter that goes something like this….
“What an AWESOME year! Wilbur was promoted to Manager with a huge raise, but then accepted an offer to be Vice President at Acme Inc. with a HUMONGOUS signing bonus, and a company car! (Starts right after we get back from our one month European vacation.) Sally won the Miss America contest and will receive a full college scholarship, and next month she leaves on her book signing tour, and her latest recording will be released then too!”But you're not going to write. How do you tell them a loved one died, your job ended, and your part-time job is a shaky too? And since you and your kids are just completely normal, there have been some health issues and plenty of challenges and disappointments to go along with some much-appreciated blessings and what seems like only a few victories and high points. No, the in-your-face over-the-top tales of great successes and victories don’t resonate so well with you right now.
“Our quadruplets are the youngest players and the only multiples ever to be brought onto the national soccer team in preparation for the Olympics, but first they have to return from the International Space Station (which they were recommended for when the four of them were interns at the White House). We certainly appreciate your remembering Betty during this difficult time, as she needs to make the hard decision between accepting the Ambassadorship appointment and taking a leading role in the next Steven Spielberg movie. Will let you know what she decides. Well, Happy New year! Write to us soon!”
It is a little bit like leading worship. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to become exclusively sunny musical cheerleaders singing V-I-C-T-O-R-Y and shouting over-the-top exhortations of triumph to a congregation of very normal people—suffering servants in need of reminders of fresh mercy and grace, a healing balm, a comforting touch, and heartfelt understanding to go along with the songs of thanks and praise.
Perhaps some have experienced the heartbreaking loss of loved ones this past year? What about life-threatening illnesses or accidents? During the current economic downturn, have some lost their homes, or had careers, or school studies come to a screeching halt? Do your plans for upcoming worship services include sensitive and reflective songs and readings, Biblical laments, and humble prayers of petition to help balance out the doxologies, anthems and songs of victory?
Yes, we give thanks and praise always, and our victory is Jesus, and he is our joy! But it is a victory that comes to us from the future (as our King of Kings does), and we now live between the times as his Church—as his suffering servants. Though the victory and triumph are indeed freely given to the adopted children of the Father, so is the necessary comfort and presence of Jesus who suffers with us even now, as well as the Spirit that groans with us during our trials and suffering (Rom. 8:15-17). So too should we be there for one another, comforting one another with songs, prayers or silence, in whatever way the Spirit leads us to share and serve.
Though victory, blessings and eternal riches are indeed ours (Rom. 11:33), there will times when it may be insensitive and unwise to ask people to stand and shout in victory. Jesus will sit with them. There may be times when a wounded soul quietly comes in late and sits in the back rows, unable even to bring himself or herself to sing. Perhaps someone is too hurting to even show up for a while. Jesus has not forgotten them. So we continue praying for his wisdom and discernment as we prepare to serve and worship in the New Year.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.