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A Sermon Preached by Rev. Gregory Hall at 
Clarence Presbyterian Church on December 10, 2017.


 THE EMOTIONS OF THE SEASON: AWE AND ADORATION

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had seen,
as it had been told them.

        Today we continue our Advent/Christmas series on the emotions of the season.  Last week we explored our sense of longing that can only be satisfied by the love of God.  Today we focus on the experiences that we have that give us a sense of awe that leads to adoration.

        This morning we are fortunate to listen to Vivaldi’s great work the Gloria.  This is one of the favorite pieces of music performed during the Christmas Season.   The text reflects the words spoken by the Angels in the Gospel of Luke to the Shepherds.  The words that are sung today focus on prayers of adoration.  The portion of the work we have just heard includes the words-We praise thee.  We bless thee.  We worship thee.  We glorify thee. 

When we focus on these simple words it can seem a bit ludicrous.  Adoration, praise and worship are abstract words that appear disconnected to real life.  These words pose a real challenge for a preacher speaking before a church that has lots of engineers and their families. It just does not sound practical.   All of us might question why does God need to be told how great he is; doesn’t God already know who he is?  Why is it important for human beings to adore God?  

I believe that the Scriptures gives us three important functions for adoration in the lives of human beings.  

First of all adoration reminds us of who we are as human beings.

The prophet Isaiah had gone into the Temple in Jerusalem to worship God on a special feast day.  While there he has a profound experience of God’s presence.  The awesomeness of God causes Isaiah to say, “Woe is me!  For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips.”  Isaiah’s experience teaches him that he is not the center of all things, but rather God is.
   
        Adoration reminds us that you and I are not God.  This sounds rather obvious, yet this is a message that runs counter to what our culture tells us is true.   Robert Bellah wrote a book in 1985 entitled Habits of the Heart in which he described the American experience: The book included these words:

        Individualism lies at the very core of American culture. There is a biblical individualism and a civic individualism as well as a utilitarian and an expressive individualism.  Whatever the differences among the traditions and the consequent differences in their understanding of individualism, there are some things they all share, things that are basic to American identity.  We believe in the dignity, indeed the sacredness, of the individual.  Anything that would violate our right to think for ourselves, judge for ourselves, make our own decisions, live our lives as we see fit, is not only morally wrong, it is sacrilegious.  

        Since this book was written the emphasis on personal autonomy has only increased.  We believe we should be free to think, do and be without answering to any higher power.  In effect we think of ourselves as personal gods.   We are the source of meaning and direction for our lives.

        When we come to adore Christ, when we come to worship, we are reminded that this is heresy.  God is god and we are his people.  We are not the source of all meaning.  We are not the creators of the universe.  This is God’s world, we are his creation, and we need his presence, love and care.

        Adoration reminds us of who we are and on whom we depend.

        Secondly, adoration can change how we view our lives.  

One of the great opera singers of the recent generation was Jon Vickers who died two years ago.  Vickers was a Canadian Tenor who sang staring roles in all the great Opera Houses of the world.  He made his living to support his wife and five children by performing before packed houses at Covent Garden, Bayreuth and the Met.

While singing was the way he provided for his family, it was not the reason Vickers performed.  Back in Saskatchewan, Vicker’s father had taught him to do everything for the glory of God-and therefore to do it well.  That lesson stayed with him in the opera house.  Although he hated publicity and avoided it whenever possible, Vickers nonetheless publicly described himself as a “committed Christian.”  For him, singing was a way of glorifying God by serving others.  Upon his retirement he said:

        My whole life has been one reflecting the necessity of serving.  That is the greatest source of happiness, the greatest sense of fulfillment.  And it is of course the essence of the Christian faith… Nature has equipped me with a certain talent, and it is my responsibility to use it for something that is uplifting, that will enhance and embellish the lives of people who also have been given something in that they can receive it.

The idea that his singing was something entrusted to him by God for “uplifting others” was the foundation of his musical life.

Each one of us has been given by nature and circumstance a combination of gifts and tasks.  We too have the opportunity to glorify God in our every day lives.   We may not all have some great artistic talent like Vickers, but we all have some special gifts or duties that we can perform with love and care.  We can be mothers and fathers and husbands and wives and care givers to the glory of God.

We can perform our work whether cleaning houses, working in factories, providing public safety or whatever vocation you are called to as an act of adoration. 

When we seek to adore Christ everyday of our lives we see our daily activities in a new light.  We understand everything we do can be done to the glory of God.

Thirdly, adoration of Christ gives us a foretaste of heaven.

  The great promise we have from Christ is that his life, death and resurrection have insured our hope of eternal life.  Yet the Bible does not give us many details of what heaven will be like.  So many of the words used by the writers of New Testament seem to be incomplete or strange.  

        The reason for this is that heaven is not merely a continuation of life, as we know it on earth.   Time is a created reality.  In heaven time has ceased to exist.  Thus it becomes very difficult for human beings, rooted in time and space, to describe that which is timeless.  In heaven there is no satisfaction, no culmination, no boredom, no repetition, no expectation or recollection, no delay or waiting, no sense of time passing, nothing impending or imminent or changing- just one timeless instant of total ecstasy.    

        It is interesting to me that most of the images of heaven in the Scriptures are of two kinds.  One is of a great feast.   There are several times heaven is described as a great banquet.  We are told, “They shall come from east and west and north and south to sit at table in the kingdom of God.” The picture is of a great party that never ends.  

A second set of images are what I would call the choir image of heaven.  In these passages heaven is pictured as a group of people gathered around the throne of God singing praises such as Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might to be our God forever and ever! Amen.

In the Book of Revelation the choir even has robes.  They are standing around giving praise to God.  What this metaphor teaches us is that adoration brings us into the presence of God.  In heaven we will be with God for all eternity.  We shall know his love directly and see him face to face.  In this life the closest we get to heaven is when we are praising God.

In the Orthodox tradition the service of worship is understood in part as entering into heaven.  When one joins with others in singing praises to God- one participates for a moment in the life of heaven.

I believe that the Gloria teaches us a fundamental Christian truth.

        Adoration orients our lives.
        Praise reminds us who we are.
        Worship infuses our lives with meaning.
        Glory gives us a taste of heaven.

        O come, let us adore Him, O come. Let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, Christ, the Lord.