“While shepherds washed their socks by night…” is one of the many renditions the hymns and carols have been treated to over the years. Kids still find them funny, and I’m sure have added to the collection. And I guess we all have our favourite songs when it comes to singing in church – those we sing with gusto, those we’d prefer to pass by, and the odd one with cringe-factor.
Remember that song based on Psalm 100, “I will enter his gates with thanksgiving in my heart…his courts with praise…”? I understand that as referring to the outer court of the Tabernacle, an enclosed area outside of the tent we have been looking at in Exodus 25 onwards. Exodus 26:36-37 gave Moses the instructions for the making of a curtain that would perform as a doorway between the outer court, and into the first section of the tent. Only the priests would enter through here, having cleansed themselves in the ‘laver’ in the outer court. The rest of the people would only have access to the outer area.
Yet Hebrews 10:19 makes it clear, that we can now, “have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body…” Do we begin to fathom what privilege we have to access, not just the outer court, but through where previously only priests could go, and into a place God has prepared to meet with us – right into his throne room?
But how do we get there, in our heart of hearts? Firstly I think, we come with thanksgiving in our hearts, into the outer courts. Then, by repentance, and remembering the shed blood of Jesus, that cleanses us, we can begin to transition towards the special place of ministering to the Lord. For me, that can happen when my songs of joy turn to adoration and wholehearted worship. Finally, when my heart is in tune with his, he bids me come into the most holy place, when words fail, and I stand before him in awe and wonder.
Songs we sing in church can help us on our way there, some more than others; but let’s get beyond the songs. It’s more about how we choose to sing them, to enter in, to press into God’s presence. Don’t blame the songs. Just determine to press into God.