Dr. Tim’s Worship Tip of the Month – December 2016

Worship Tip of the Month | Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

We join with the angels/we join with the shepherds/we sing to the mountains – Gloria

I know that your average congregation gets glutted with Christmas songs and ‘cheer’ even before Thanksgiving so it makes it difficult to get them to sing it ‘one more time’ at church. And then add in traditions, myths, legends, nostalgia, over-kill, consumerism, bad experiences (and the list goes on and on). These can all get in the way of a truly wonderful and spiritual experience (even though we’re Christians and this should be one of our most exciting moments – God incarnate now comes to earth!. So what does a weary worship pastor do?

Well, whether you ‘believe’ in Christmas or not, whether you prefer to celebrate it or not, whether you enjoy it or not, why not use this time to point to the only thing that really makes sense of it all? Jesus. He did come to earth. He was born sometime. He was a humble King in swaddling clothes, somewhere (probably not in the dead of winter). He was foretold by prophets and announced by angels. Our job is to make sure every song reveals Him and every word comes alive in their hearts. Help them see and hear (and sing) the great Christmas music with new eyes and ears (and mouths). Here are some ideas:

  1. Study the carols and their composers – Find out one significant thing about each carol you sing. Share it you’re your team. Then share it with the congregation before you sing it. For instance, Isaac Watts didn’t write ‘Joy to the World’ as a Christmas carol and probably didn’t sing it at Christmas. He wrote it as a new setting for Psalm 98. Look up and read Psalm 98 out loud before you sing ‘Joy to the World’ next time. In fact, play the music behind it while you read it to the congregation.
  2. Rehearse the words with the congregation – because we are so inundated at the malls and everywhere we go with Christmas songs, we have a tendency to become dull to the words and the meanings of the songs.  The Psalms say we are to ‘Sing with understanding’. We need to make the words come alive and provoke the contemplation and curiosity of the congregation.
    1. Have the congregation speak the words first. I encourage the people to speak the words with emotion and physically (use your hands).
    2. Highlight a key word or phrase that is significant and often overlooked. “’till He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth’! Wow!
    3. Mix and match – try lyrics to a carol with another well-known tune in the same meter (i.e. Joy to the World to the tune of Amazing Grace)
    4. Feature a prominent word in the PowerPoint display – i.e. ‘Joy’ in red, different and bigger font.
    5. Sing the forgotten verses – so many carols have multiple verses that are rarely sung and surprise people when they start singing them. Shock them!
  3. Treat each carol uniquely – Avoid doing it the same old way each year. Try some variety [caution: don’t get too far away from the original or you might lose people that way too] Help the people hear these songs in a new way. Consider some of these possibilities:
    1. Use a same-note drone throughout the song – ie bagpipes
    2. Change tempo: speed up or slow down the song (I love Joy to the World in half-time)
    3. A capella is always a great thing to throw in if you can pull the four parts (practice with your singers first)
    4. With a capella add a single instrument – recorder; snare drum; trumpet; cello (my favorite) – have them play a counter melody against you.
    5. Engage the kids! Bring them up and sing a fun song with them. Or have a kids’ choir sing one. One little six year old voice can change everything.
    6. Engage the seniors! Definitely the forgotten force in your congregation. They can still sing and they will probably put more emotion in these songs than your college-age singers. Give them a shot. You know you make them sound and look great.
    7. Place your choir around the sanctuary and leave them there till the last song. Then have them walk up slowly singing the final incredible song (your choice).

Whatever you do, make sure you worship Jesus this Christmas season. Not the songs, not the mood, not the myth, not the nostalgia, just Jesus – King of kings!

Be creative, and have a Merry Christmas!

Dr. Tim Smith

©2010 SongSmith Ministries

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