Matt. 2:11 – “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him.”
Luke 2:20 – “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”
Surrounding the birth of Christ was a symphony of worship. The characteristic response to encountering the Christ child was worship. The same is true today.
When you heart hear the word “worship” what comes to mind? Standing in church on Sunday morning with your arms raised? Perhaps. To say we “enter into a time of worship” when the band strikes up the first song, suggests when we sit down our worship ceases. There is no doubt that sung worship has a key role in a life of faith. It is a biblical response seen throughout Scripture. Worship in song can certainly touch our deepest feelings. But that is not the litmus test for worship. To say that worship happens in church is a dangerous tendency to compartmentalize aspects of our faith.
For it is even possible that while we are in a “place” of worship we might not be “all there.” While mouthing the words to a song our minds could be focused on the unfinished task at work or our hearts could be anxious over that unresolved conflict at home. Jesus lamented this reality, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Matt. 15:8). How many times have I been guilty of this?
James Dwyer wrote, “The act of raising hands in church on Sunday does not, on its own, translate to a life of worship. A life of worship involves seeing and searching for God in the day-to-day, responding to Him when we don’t feel like it and putting our entire life into the posture of bowing before Him—in our daily decisions, habits and occupations. Merely saying the words isn’t enough; the truths we speak of and read in Scripture must be lived out.”
In reality, true worship should pervade all of our life. It happens when we daily place ourselves before God in an act of surrender to receive from him what only he can give; when we stay attentive to his movement and activity and live in faithful responsiveness to it; when we live gratefully for all we have received, when we touch others with compassion and grace…all this, and more.
I came across this simple prayer and it expresses so well a heart of worship, taking the ordinary moments of our lives and offering them back to God in gratitude and surrender:
“What joy this brings me, Lord. Thank you for guiding me into the kitchen for some time of silence with you. The room fills with wonderful smells and I share tastes and samples with my family as they make extra trips through the kitchen on days like this. Thank you for each and every one of these special people in my family. They are like the ingredients of my own life, adding spice and heat and wonderful flavor and melding together into a unique dish designed to glorify you.
You know, God, cooking is quite a bit like my life. It’s messy, I get careless and sometimes things don’t turn out as I had planned. But in the mess of my life, that’s where I can turn to you. Help me when I have to deal with being so imperfect. Bless me with humility when I grapple with my own poverty. Let me feel how deeply you love me, even when all I have to offer is scorched and humble.
Be with me Lord, in this kitchen today. Help me to take the time in this intimate silence with you, to pray for each person who will eat this food. Allow me to remember all of those around the world who have so little food, and bless those who share what little they have.”
James Dwyer concludes, “Worship that honors God is not necessarily marked by the most expressive Sunday morning singing. Rather, a life of worship is one that speaks of God, that listens to God, that sees God in the world and that responds to God.”