Listen

Listen: to give attention with the ear; to make an effort to hear something. To pay attention; heed; obey. (dictionary.com)

Two weeks ago I was looking at Thanksgiving clearance items in Stuff-Mart when I noticed that Christmas carols were playing overhead. I was struck by the fact that Thanksgiving was still a week away and the pressure was on-get this stuff out of here because the next season is just around the corner!

Is there a more pressure-filled season than Christmas? As a Christian I feel a new kind of pressure, the pressure not to fall to the pressure. After all, do I not know the real reason for the season? Do I not have different perspective on the whole month of December, from Advent to the glorious day when we celebrate the birth of the way of salvation for mankind? Do you?

Let’s just stop right there. Listen. Does any of that sound like the voice of the Shepherd? Today is the day to listen to something else.

I play guitar, and do some worship leading. This isn’t a particularly natural gifting; I have to work hard at guitar to learn to play a new song. This really works to my advantage playing worship, the repetition required to learn to play causes me to really have the lyrics, the phrasing and the instrument consume my thoughts. I have to attentively listen to all of it a bunch of times before I play it, as well as playing a bunch of times to get it down. If I don’t listen, really listen, I can’t get it.

A few years ago I had to lead worship at a drug rehab around Christmas. Most of the guys in the program were not believers. My husband taught the study, and would go around to all the rooms and talk with the guys, inviting them to the study and just trying to build relationships with them. Most didn’t come.

The room where the Bible study was held opened to a courtyard where most of the guys hung out, as well as their rooms. So, if you work at it, it’s pretty hard to escape the sound of worship. Often, guys who rudely rejected the offer to attend the study would hear the sound of a woman belting out singing and a guitar, and come just to:
1) Find out why a woman was there and
2) try to play my guitar after service.

It was awesome to see God draw these hard and broken men, to talk to them about everyone from Jimmy Page to Jimmy Vaughn and trade licks on my guitar. Some of them ended up saved and playing worship in churches today.

But at Christmas, I was challenged. Carols are not the easiest things to sing, and not written for guitar. A good guitarist can adapt, that’s not me. So I worked, and worked and prayed and worked on about five carols. “Silent Night”, of course. “Away In a Manger”. Somehow, all my Christmas songs sound like rocking blues songs, but the guys dug it. But it was “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” that blew my mind. I grew up in a time when you could sing carols in public school, these were songs I heard all my life. But as I labored to get the chord changes right, to sound more like Charlotte Church than Bonnie Raitt, I heard it.

Hail the heaven born Prince of Peace! Hail the Son of
Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings, risen with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.
Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the new born King!

Did you listen? Did you hear it? The gospel, right there in a song they are playing at Stuff-Mart right now. How many times had I heard that song in my life, and how had I missed it? The truth that sets men free from sin and death, the only thing really worth listening to, to only thing that saves. The worship of carols ministered to me deeply.

On the mount of transfiguration God said” "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." He’s always speaking, always inviting us to listen, to pay attention, to take heed, because He loves you and has something sweet to say to you, just you. Let Him whisper in your ear right now and you will hear Him say, among other things,

“No pressure.”

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