Mind, Body, and Soul
When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
What’s the last thing you celebrated? A wedding? Graduation? High score on Dig Dug? Think of the last time you really celebrated, danced in the aisles, whooped and hollered. Now let me ask you: were you distracted during the celebration dance? Were you checking your phone while you shouted with glee? Was your mind elsewhere?
Of course not.
When was the last time you went to a wedding where the service wasn’t emotional and the bride and groom Skyped in?
Because when you have something to really celebrate, you show up. All the way. Mind, soul, and body.
Now, consider this: what’s the greatest cause for celebration? The most Earth-shaking, eternity-changing grounds for jubilation? You may have guessed: the story of God coming to earth to rescue humankind is history’s greatest reason to party.
Throughout the Bible, people celebrated the work of God with their whole selves. The Israelites observed feasts and sacrifices that engaged their mind in remembrance, engaged their emotions in story, and engaged their bodies in ritual.
This is why Christian worship must be embodied. It’s tempting, especially in our American, educated, post-Enlightenment culture, to keep our worship in our heads. To think that a church service is about learning. But worship that is strictly cerebral is worship that is neutered. God’s people are meant to rave, to weep, to lift their hands and hearts as well as their attention.
That’s why candlelight services are appropriate on Christmas. A physical representation of our worship — an tear-evoking expression of beauty — is appropriate for celebrants.
The worship of Christmas is meant to be an emotional, physical, heart-felt response to the greatest news ever. Because when you have something to celebrate, you show up.