Hugh Wetmore is a songwriter and student of worship trends. He invites you to join the worship conversation by commenting on his monthly column.
The colonial South Africa had them … Union Day, Queen’s Birthday, VE Day …
The old South Africa had them … Republic Day, Kruger Day, Day of the Covenant …
The new South Africa has them … Freedom Day, Human Rights Day, Day of Reconciliation …
These are public holidays that celebrate monumental moments in our evolving history. No labour on these days. Formative themes. Rallies and celebrations. Joyful feasting.
God’s festive celebrations
God planned His own festive celebrations — for the enjoyment of His chosen people Israel, and to ensure that each year, together, they remembered the monumental moments of His actions in their history.
For God’s people, rest from work … united rallies and celebrations … joyful feasting marked these different days.
The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread … the Feast of Tabernacles — or Booths … the Day of Atonement (a more sober feast) … the Feast of Trumpets … and later Purim commemorated the deliverance of the Jews in the time of Esther.
The Christian Church has also followed the joyful habit of festivals.
Universally celebrated festivals of “the Christian year” mark the birth of Jesus (Christmas); the death of Jesus (Good Friday); the resurrection of Jesus (Easter); and the coming of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost).
Jesus-followers too should rest from work … come together for glad services, united rallies and celebrations … and mark these different days with joyful feasting.
To this list of four major festivals have been added, in various Church traditions, many other festival days.
The Anglican Church recognises 135. In this way, the apostles and many subsequent church martyrs and leaders through history are remembered. The worshipers learn to appreciate their Christian heritage. Each is linked to selected scriptures and meaningful relevant prayers.
Songs complete the festivities
And no festival is complete without song. Over the centuries, songs have been composed that suit every occasion.
The indexes in the music editions of most song/hymn books enable you to make suitable choices for Christmas — and other festivals. Bring out of your storeroom new treasures as well as old — Matthew 13:52.
Resist the recent tendency of making every Sunday service the same.
Leverage “the Christian year” to worship the Lord in creative new ways. Take advantage of these opportunities to teach God’s people more about Jesus, His Word, and His Church.
Make the most of Christmas by consciously planning a different kind of service that will infuse the joy of the Lord into the hearts of His people.
Lift the congregation above the usual Christmas routine, explore deeper and wider meanings and blessings of “Emmanuel — God with us”.
Use music and song to make this happen!
This is one of God’s festive celebrations.
May you and your church enjoy, really enjoy, a God-inspired Christmas festival!