It is often said that Luther restored congregational singing. This is true, but he did more than that—Luther restored preaching to the congregation—a most appropriate activity for lay priests. “If, now, the congregation is to proclaim the divine truth, it must have a sermon worth preaching. This is the reason for the substantial…doctrinal content in many of the Reformation hymns.” (O.C.Rupprecht)
—P.J. Janson, “A Reason to Sing,” Reformation and Revival Vo. 4, nr. 4 (Fall 1995), 19
Years ago near Christmas I was listening to ATC when a woman commentator shared the challenge of being Jewish in America at Christmas. I wish I could remember her name. What she said was cordial and insightful. As she wrapped it up she conceded wistfully that Christmas had quite simply inspired the greatest music in the history of the world. That admission contained a sigh and a signal.
Even Richard Dawkins (who succeeded Bertrand Russell and Madalyn Murray O’Hair as the world’s most famous atheist) has admitted to being a “cultural Christian.” The foundation for so startling a confession.? He found the singing of English Christmas carols to be irresistible. There is a truth and power in music whose source is not yet fully comprehended. Music is the registry of an unarticulated native reality. The power of music offered in praise suggests that though God’s truth can be denied, the beauty which radiates from that truth cannot go unadmired. Music which praises God’s majesty reflects God’s majesty. The music of Christmas, like the message of Christmas, resonates with something deeper than the mere recognition of excellence.
—Ronnie Collier Stevens, blogpost 12/13/2008
The Holy Spirit cannot be divided from the Father and Son in worship. If you remain outside the Spirit, you cannot worship, and if you are in Him you cannot separate Him from God. Light cannot be separated from what it makes visible, and it is impossible for you to recognize Christ, the Image of the invisible God, unless the Spirit enlightens you. Once you see the Image, you cannot ignore the light; you see the Light and Image simultaneously. It is fitting that when we see Christ, the Brightness of God’s glory, it is always through the illumination of the Spirit.
—Dennis Ngien, Gifted Response: The Triune God as the Causative Agency of our Responsive Worship, 30
Although worship is our response to love, it is actually better thought of as the Spirit’s gift to us of a response to God or, in Matt Redman’s words, ‘a gifted response’. We can only respond to God in praise because the Holy Spirit causes love for God to arise in our hearts (Rom. 5:5), enabling us to cry ‘Abba, Father!’ (Gal. 4:6). Without the Spirit we could not even sincerely say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ (I Cor. 12:3). And, as we have seen, even that is not the full story, because the response the Spirit enables us to make to the Father is actually simply a sharing in Christ’s own response to the Father. The Spirit, in other words, is the one who baptizes us into Christ (I Cor. 12:13) and enables us to share with Christ in His worship of the Father.
—Robin Parry, Worshiping Trinity, 97
If we ask the New Testament authors, “What is the nature of the Spirit’s work?” we receive a plethora of information. It is the Holy Spirit, for example, who is the one who makes God’s love real for us—”God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 5:5). In a sense, it is He who stands at the threshold of the Christian life, for only He can enable us to embrace Christ as Savior and Lord—”no one can say, “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). Then, it is the Spirit who gives us the boldness to come into the presence of the awesome and almighty Maker of heaven and earth and call him “Dear Father”—”God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Gal. 4:6). It is the Spirit who enables believers, from various racial, social and religious backgrounds, to find true unity in Christ and together worship God (Eph. 2:18). In fact, without the Spirit, worship and the glorification of Jesus Christ cannot take place (Phil. 3:3). And it is the Spirit who is the true Guarantor of orthodoxy (2 Tim. 1:14).
An excellent summary statement of the range of the Spirit’s work is Galatians 5:25, which speaks so plainly about the Spirit as the Source from which we are to live our lives: “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” The Spirit thus undergirds and empowers the entirety of our lives as Christians.
—Michael A. G. Haykin, The God Who Draws Near: An Introduction To Biblical Spirituality, xix-xx
Think of it this way. It is as if the Spirit stands behind us, throwing light over our shoulder, on Jesus, who stands facing us. The Spirit’s message is never, “Look at Me; listen to Me; come to Me; get to know Me,” but always, “Look at Him, and see His glory; listen to Him, and hear His word; go to Him, and have life; get to know Him, and taste His gift of joy and peace.” The Spirit, we might say, is the matchmaker, the celestial marriage broker, whose role it is to bring us and Christ together and ensure that we stay together.
—J. I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit, 66
Completely prodigal in His love for us, the Son spent all he had. He faced complete humiliation and the dereliction of being cut off even from the sense of his Father’s presence on the cross. Then, in the ascension, He returned home, ragged from his sojourn with us. The Father embraced Him with joyful relief and acceptance, enfolding the Son’s humanity into the robes of his presence.
—Gerritt Dawson, Jesus Ascended: The Meaning of Christ’s Continuing Incarnation, 62