In the economy of the gospel, everything is turned upside down—including and perhaps especially our worship. Theologically our worship is not what we do. It’s what God does from the past in the present toward an explosive future. In the Word God in Christ addresses us. At the table God in Christ is the host. In our worship God comes to us as God promises. God takes what appear to be our actions, turns them upside down, and acts.
We must beware of the naïve idea that our music can ‘please’ God as it would please a cultivated human hearer. That is like thinking, under the old Law, that He really needed the blood of bulls and goats. To which an answer came, mine are the cattle upon a thousand hills,’ and ‘if I am hungry, I will not tell thee.’ If God (in that sense) wanted music, He would not tell us. For all our offerings, whether of music or martyrdom, are like the intrinsically worthless present of a child, which a father values indeed, but values only for the intention.
—C.S. Lewis, “On Church Music” in Christian Reflections, 98-99
Worship is not merely time with a deistic god who winds us up and then sends us out on our own; we don’t enter worship for “top up” refueling to then leave as self-sufficient, autonomous actors. “In the conception of Christian praxis,” Ward notes, “there is no room for such a modern notion of self-sufficiency.” Instead, the biblical vision is one of co-abiding presence and participation (“I in you and you in me”).
—James K. A. Smith, Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works, 153
Almighty Father, we pray Thee graciously to lead us through the uncertainties of this new year of our earthly pilgrimage. Protect us from the dangers of the way; prepare us for the duties, the trials, the joys, and sorrows that await us; and grant that each change the year brings with it may bring us nearer to thyself, and to the eternal joy and rest that await the faithful in Thy blessed and glorious presence; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
—Church of Scotland, 1952
The very possibility of the incarnation of the Son of God itself rests on our possession of the image of God. It is because man fundamentally reflects the personal character of God that God Himself can take on flesh and blood. We can make sense of incarnation only in the light of what we know already about the constitution of man as the highest of all the creatures of God, whom God has made for fellowship with Himself. The high dignity which this confers upon human existence is radically underscored by the union of divine and human natures in Jesus Christ. God commits Himself to us forever by clothing His own Son with human nature.
—Nigel M. de S. Cameron, Complete in Christ, 27
Light looked down and beheld Darkness.
“Thither will I go,” said Light.
Peace looked down and beheld War.
“Thither will I go,” said Peace.
Love looked down and beheld Hatred.
“Thither will I go,” said Love.
So came Light and shone.
So came Peace and gave rest.
So came Love and brought Life.
—Lawrence Housman (1865-1959)
The kings have come and gone; the shepherds, too;
Now who is this still standing at the door?
An old and careworn woman, tired and poor,
So old she makes the stones themselves seem new.
She carries something in her trembling hands,
And, bending low, her eyes alit with joy,
She lays it down beside the sleeping Boy.
And then—a wonder happens! As she stands,
The wrinkles disappear, her stance grows tall,
Her head stands high; face radiant as the dawn,
She looks at Mary, smiles—and then she’s gone.
A glance at what she’s left tells Mary all—
The ancient, withered apple makes it plain:
Through Second Adam, Eve is born again.