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A HALLELUJAH CHORUS AFTER CHRISTMAS

December 31, 2017

A HALLELUJAH CHORUS AFTER CHRISTMAS

December 31, 2017 (First Sunday after Christmas/Watch Eve)

New Millennium Church

Little Rock, Arkansas 

 

God of glory, 
you have given us a new name and robed us in salvation. 
May we like Anna find our home in your presence, 
and like Simeon recognize Jesus as the Christ, 
so that, in joy and thanksgiving at becoming your children, 
we may join with all creation to sing your praise. Amen.


Psalm 148


1 Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
   praise him in the heights! 
2 Praise him, all his angels;
   praise him, all his host! 


3 Praise him, sun and moon;
   praise him, all you shining stars! 
4 Praise him, you highest heavens,
   and you waters above the heavens! 


5 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
   for he commanded and they were created. 
6 He established them for ever and ever;
   he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.* 


7 Praise the Lord from the earth,
   you sea monsters and all deeps, 
8 fire and hail, snow and frost,
   stormy wind fulfilling his command! 


9 Mountains and all hills,
   fruit trees and all cedars! 
10 Wild animals and all cattle,
   creeping things and flying birds! 


11 Kings of the earth and all peoples,
   princes and all rulers of the earth! 
12 Young men and women alike,
   old and young together! 


13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
   for his name alone is exalted;
   his glory is above earth and heaven. 
14 He has raised up a horn for his people,
   praise for all his faithful,
   for the people of Israel who are close to him.
Praise the Lord!

Galatians 4:4-7

4But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. 6And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our* hearts, crying, ‘Abba!* Father!’ 7So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.*

Imagine that you are a singer in a choir.  If it will help, close your eyes and imagine that you are not sitting in this sanctuary.  Imagine that you are not somewhere else reading these words or viewing this message on You Tube.  Instead, imagine that you are a singer in a choir.  Would you sing soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, or bass?  What would you sing?

 

A chorus is a vocal performance rendered by a choral group – a choir if you will.  In the same way that a symphony is an instrumental performance rendered by a collection of musicians – an orchestra, a chorus is a vocal performance rendered by a collection of singers – by a choir.  

 

Choirs and orchestras have several common features.  First, they exist and are assembled to make music, meaning melodious sounds in time and space.  Second, choirs and orchestras are organized and directed.  Third, choirs and orchestras are organized and directed with the intention that the music they may will be heard and have meaning for and to an audience other than the singers (choirs) and musicians (orchestras).  

 

Think of Psalm 148 as a chorus.  The selection the choir will present is titled Hallelujah!  That means “Praise the LORD!” Remember, a chorus is a vocal performance rendered by a choir, a collection of singers.  The different sections of voices in the Psalm 148 choir are identified for us in the psalm.  

 

Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights!  Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!  

Here are the sopranos, the voices that sing the notes at the highest end of the sound register.  The angels and all the other beings that make up the heavenly host are in the soprano section.    

 

But don’t stop counting the sopranos!  Continue counting sopranos according to what we read in verses 3 and 4 of Psalm 148.  Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars!  Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!  Include the sun and moon of planet Earth and our galaxy among the sopranos.  Don’t stop counting.  Include the stars we cannot number among the sopranos.  Don’t stop counting.  Include the galaxies and their stars we have yet to see among the sopranos.  

 

Verses 5 and 6 declare why the sopranos sing.  Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created.  He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.  This celestial gathering of sopranos has been singing the Hallelujah chorus longer.  It is the largest section in the choir, the loudest, and the most brilliant in its tonal quality.  Think about a soprano section that can hit notes higher than the whistle register we’ve heard Minnie Riperton and Patti LaBelle reach!

 

With such a large soprano section, where does one find enough voices to make up the rest of the choir?  The bass and baritone sections required to counter such a large soprano section are identified in verses 7 and 8.  Praise the LORD from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!  

 

The alto section is identified in verses 9 and 10.  Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!  Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds.  Mount Everest and all other high ground places are in the alto section.  Redwoods in California, cedars in Lebanon, pine trees and other conifers, fruit trees of all shapes, sizes and flavors are in the alto section.  The entire animal kingdom is in the alto section.

 

Tenors are presented in verses 11 and 12.  Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!  Young men and women alike, old and young together!  People from every place and people group are in the tenor section.  People from all stations of life are in the tenor section.  People ranging in age from infants to the most aged are in the tenor section.  

 

The Psalmist imagined the entire universe as a choir.  At verse 13, the Psalmist declared what the choir sings and why.  Let them [the whole choir] praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.  

 

Singers do not exist to be silent.  Singers and choirs exist to sing!  According to the Psalmist, every being, creature, life form, matter, and element in the universe exists to make a melodious song by being part of a choir that cannot be silenced and which renders a song of praise to God, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.  

 

According to the Psalmist, the universe is God’s choir!  People are in the choir (I envision us in the tenor section), but we are not the only voices, let alone the whole choir!  We are not the biggest part of the choir!  We are not the reason for the choir!  The choir exists – and our tenor section with it – to praise God!  We are singers in the biggest Hallelujah chorus one can imagine.  

 

The Psalmist doesn’t imagine another function for us, or for anything else in the choir for that matter – other than rendering praise to God.  We exist to praise God.  We are intended to praise God.  We have no other or higher purpose than to praise God.  

 

Yet, before any group of musicians and vocalists make music, someone must direct them.  Someone must “tune them up.”  Someone must conduct their performance.  Every orchestra and choir requires a conductor, someone to keep voices and instruments in tune, on beat, and ensure that the singing and music are presented in the best way.  

 

So Psalm 148 concludes by acknowledging that the greatest choir in the universe has a conductor.  Notice, however, that the conductor is not from the soprano, alto, baritone, or bass sections.  The conductor is not an angel, another being in the host of heaven, or one of the celestial bodies in the vast domain we call space.  The conductor is not from elements and plants, and animals found in Nature.  

 

Based on what we read at Ps. 148:14, the conductor comes from the horn  section.  I think of horns as from the tenor section.  He [meaning the LORD] has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him.  

 

I learned while preparing for this sermon that the oboe, a woodwind instrument (horn), is used to tune every symphony orchestra.  The bright penetrating sound of the oboe is easier to hear and its pitch is more stable than that of string instruments.  In Psalm 148:14, think of an oboe-like voice serving to not only tune, but also conduct the rest of the Universal Choir.

 

We get a clearer perspective on the identity of that  conductor from St. Paul in the passage we ponder from Galatians 4.  At Galatians:4-5, we read:  But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.  

 

Paul’s mention of “the law” is his way of saying that humans somehow lost touch with our purpose.  According to Paul, humans lost a sense – we lost our minds – about our kinship in God’s creation.  The result of our moral insanity was that humans became moral outlaws to God, one another, and the creation.  

 

Humans became morally insane to the point that we forgot we are intended to be part of a universal choir.  We started thinking the rest of the universe exists for our entertainment, our exploitation, and our indulgence.  We got out of tune, out of time, and even thought ourselves outside the choir so much that we thought the whole choir exists for us, not for God!  

 

Paul declared that in Jesus Christ, the “Son, born of a woman,” God provided humanity with a redeemer who liberated (redeemed) us.  Jesus Christ redeemed us from the moral insanity whereby we think we exist independent from God, one another, and the other sections in the universal choir.  

 

Through Christ, we have been brought back into the choir.  Through Christ, we are in our right section.  Through the Spirit of Christ, we understand that we are children of God intended for the tenor section, not gods to be worshiped and praised by the rest of the choir.  And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba!  Father!” So that we might receive adoption as children.  

 

Then at Galatians 4:7, Paul makes a subtle, yet profound, grammatical shift.    At verse 4, Paul speaks of God’s Son, a singular person.  Verses 5 and 6 refer to people and uses plural nouns and pronouns to describe the effect of the Son’s redeeming ministry (“to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children”; “you are children”, “God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts.”)  But Verse 7 reads:  So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child, then also, an heir, through God. 

 

Beloved, we are part of God’s Hallelujah Choir!  We are in the tenor section.  Jesus Christ is the conductor.  Jesus is the “horn” mentioned at Psalm 148:14 that God “has raised up for his people, praise for all his faithful…”  We are in the Hallelujah Choir.  Jesus, one of our members, not only is head of the tenor section. Jesus, one of our members, is the conductor of the Choir!  

 

In Jesus Christ, God has given the universe a Conductor.  In Jesus Christ, God redeemed humanity from the dungeon of moral insanity, In Jesus Christ, God provided a leader to bring the tenor section back into the Choir.  In Jesus Christ, God restored us to be voices of praise in the Universal Choir!  Because of Jesus Christ and the Spirit of God, we now join the rest of the Choir in a perpetual and everlasting “after Christmas” Hallelujah Chorus.  Praise the LORD!  Hallelujah!  

 

When we see ourselves and the rest of creation in this perspective, the words of Revelation 5:13 and 14 take on new meaning, and we see ourselves and the meaning of Christmas in a new light.  Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing [don’t miss that word singing – this is a Choir and they are presenting a Hallelujah Chorus!], “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!And the four living creatures said, “Amen!”  And the elders fell down and worshiped.”

 

We are part of God’s Universal Choir!  We have a Hallelujah Chorus to sing because of what did by sending Jesus Christ.  Our “after Christmas” calling is to live as part of the greatest gathering of singers that will ever be known.  Our mission is to live as part of a great song to God’s glory.  Our conductor is Jesus Christ.  Praise the LORD!

 

God of glory, 
you have given us a new name and robed us in salvation. 
May each of us

 – and all of us - 

find our home in your presence, 
and recognize Jesus as the Christ, 
so that, in joy and thanksgiving at becoming your children, 
we join with all creation to live, as an unending Choir,

to your praise.  Amen.