As you plan all the details of Christmas at church and at home, we encourage you to take some time this week to reflect on the reasons why we worship and adore Christ. God bless you as you not only physically prepare, but also spiritually prepare!
Here is a great devotional, written by Dwayne Moore, that helps us fix our eyes on God and respond to Him in worship.
Praise should be our most pure and natural response to God’s plan of redemption.
Think about the best gift you’ve ever gotten for Christmas. What did you do when you received it? Did you let out a scream of excitement as you tore open the wrapping paper? Did you jump up and down some? Or, were you so moved that you started to cry? How did you respond at that moment? One thing’s for sure: You did something. If you were filled with joy and excitement on the inside, then it showed itself in some form on the outside.
Jesus is the greatest gift this world has ever received. And when Mary, Jesus’ mother, and Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, heard the news of Jesus’ birth, they responded with praise to God. Their powerful praise moments are both recorded in Luke chapter 1…
- Mary and Zechariah both started their praise with upward, direct statements of adoration to their King Mary recognized the importance of personal praise. She knew that the joy inside her should come out, and she gladly let that praise spill from her. Zechariah lifted his head and heart toward God from the very first words of his prayer. He consciously and deliberately spoke praise to the Lord. (Read Luke 1:46-47, then Luke 1:67-68a.)
- Also, notice in both these prayers a clear intention to praise God because of what He had done–and was going to do–for them. Mary was amazed that the Mighty One had regarded her lowly place. (Read Luke 1:48-49.) Zechariah said his praise offering was because Jesus had come to redeem His people. (Read Luke 1:68b-69.)
- Now notice their emphasis on others in their praise songs. Mary said God’s mercy extends to those who fear Him. (Read Luke 1:50.) Zechariah rejoiced that the Lord’s mercy would shine on those living in darkness. He was speaking of people who weren’t even in his family or of his ancestry. (Read Luke 1:78-79.)
Let’s not miss the three important elements that motivated their praise: First, the focus of their praise was on God Himself. They didn’t praise Him first of all because of what He was doing for them, but because of Who He was. Like Mary and Zechariah, our greatest motivation to praise should be the Lord. Unlike our circumstances and other people, He never changes. He is always awesome and always worthy of our worship.
A second motivator to their praise was this: They saw the personal impact of the Lord’s provisions–how His love reached all the way down to them. While praise is primarily about the Lord, it’s also very much about us. That’s because the plan of redemption is the story of God’s great love for great sinners. When we praise Him, it’s appropriate to refer to our benefits from God. David said in Psalm 103:2, “Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” No doubt, God loves to hear of the many ways He’s blessed us. So, He must love it when we recognize those blessings–and take time to thank Him for them and celebrate them.
Third, Mary and Zechariah were both filled with praise when they thought of the scores of people who would be saved because of the Messiah. You see, the purest praise comes from hearts that are not only concerned for themselves, but also for others. That’s the essence of God’s character.
If you and are to praise our Lord properly, we must see that His redemption plan stretches to the farthest corners of the earth–to the undesirables, and to people we don’t even know or understand. God’s mercy and love is for all those who walk in darkness. When we truly love God as we should, we’ll be good with that. In fact we’ll be motivated to praise Him because of such unconditional and persuasive love.
Reflection and Discussion:
- Of the three motivations to praise that we learned about–the Lord Himself, His benefits to us, and His benefits to others–which may be the easiest for people to get “fired up” about? Which may be the hardest? Why do you think that is?
- Do you prefer to think of Jesus as the baby in the manger or the man on the cross? Why?
Father, Lord, we sit here amazed in Your presence right now. Thank you for revealing to us these simple yet profound elements of motivation to praise. As we celebrate Your birth with our friends and family this year, help us love You and praise You with all we are.
Praise the LORD, O my soul. May I never forget the good things you do for me. And help me passionately praise You for coming and dying–not only for me–but for all the world.
This devotional was written by Dwayne Moore, as part of the Praise Portions weekly worship team devotionals, which are available for sale today!