The Christmas season is beautiful, right? The snow, the lights, the celebrations, the anticipation! The cookies, the cookies, and yes, the coooookkkiiiieeeessss.
But, it's not fun for everybody - yes, even everybody at your church. Christmastime is chock-full of emotion, in every direction. Whatever we're feeling, we're feeling it big. We feel the loss of loved ones more deeply and experience financial tensions more acutely. The forthcoming year-end contributes to a sense of defeat as our hopes for the year are unrealized. The cold and the dark keep us hidden in our houses all the time. Yes, it's not all cake and mistletoe.
And that's why we worship leaders need to remind others, and ourselves, that joy is more relevant to our worshiping hearts now than at any other part of the year.
A quick point of information: joy is not "happy". It's not a sensation, a fleeting emotion. It's a grounded trust and pleasure in God amidst whatever circumstances we may be in.
When worship leaders lead with joy in their hearts, congregations are invited to worship God with this very same joy. The energy is contagious. It's not coercive or deceitful - it's displaying a posture of praise to a God who is present, showing real people that real joy is still possible where they are.
Now, it's rare that somebody could be argued to joy through just words, even if those words are in the Bible. But that's why leaders need to study the Word, reflect on it, live on it, and lead by it on Sunday mornings. David, James, and yes, Jesus, see our time of grief, encourage us through it, and call us to joy. We really can't expect to feed these one-liners to the congregation and expect them to jump right into dancing on the pews. But, we can let this joy flow from our hearts in what we sing and how we sing it. Then maybe, just maybe, they will catch the joy, too.