Celebrating Back-to-School, Birthdays and Worship

Pastor Daron CrossLife Blog

Back-to-school is so different in a COVID world. Online students didn’t dash out the door to catch the bus, didn’t laugh and play with school friends they haven’t seen since March, and didn’t come bounding into the house after school hungry for a snack. Things aren’t the same. 

But back-to-school was still worth celebrating! I saw families posting the annual back-to-school picture for the kids by the front door (or in front of a screen). 

Birthdays are so different in a COVID world. Parties that gather friends bumping into each other on a trampoline or digging dirty fingers into a bowlful of Cheetos aren’t happening. Things aren’t the same.

But birthdays are still worth celebrating! How many drive-by birthday parties have you seen?

Worship is also different in a COVID world. In-person worship directs you to a different seating arrangement, and no hugs or handshakes or children’s message or ministry. Online worshipers sit in their pajamas in front of a screen instead of with their church family. Things aren’t the same.

But worship is still worth celebrating in a COVID world! In Nehemiah 12 the believers in Jerusalem gather for a grand worship celebration. Things weren’t the same. The new temple wasn’t nearly as majestic. There were only a few Levites and the remnant of exile survivors was small.

But God was still worth celebrating! They “celebrate joyfully … with songs of thanksgiving” (Nehemiah 12:27).

The most important things hadn’t changed. And they still haven’t changed for us today. God’s grace is still powerful. God’s glory is still perfect. God’s gifts are given to people in order to serve him and others. And God is still good—all the time!

What is one way that you have learned to better appreciate or enjoy worship during a COVID world?

PRAYER: Thank you, God, for the blessing of worship at my church. It is different, and some things have changed, but not the most important things. Your grace and glory are still powerful. You are still good—all the time! Teach me to appreciate new joys in worship, and to share them with others. Amen.

FURTHER MEDITATION: I see 6 reasons to rejoice in worship during COVID as I read about the festival worship celebration in Nehemiah 12. Here they are:

  1. We can “celebrate joyfully [with] songs of thanksgiving and with music” (Nehemiah 12:27). Let’s sing in our living rooms or in church because our God rejoices in us. Let’s thank God for giving us musicians who week-by-week produce excellent music (and if you can play piano or guitar, or you can sing or help with sound, CrossLife is looking to expand and we need your help). 
  2. Like the priests and Levites who purified themselves and the people, we worship online or in-person as the people of God purified in baptism, cleansed “by the washing with water through the word … without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:26,27). We approach God in worship and confess our sins online or in-person because “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
  3. We worship like the people of God in Jerusalem who “offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced” (Nehemiah 12:43). Families worship together at CrossLife. Children are engaged in worship and not sent away (until after the worship service). Families attending in-person or settling into online worship sacrifice working in the yard, sports activities, or sleeping in to praise God in worship.
  4. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away” (Nehemiah 12:43). Our worship isn’t bottled up but is intended to be enjoyed by guests who join us online or in-person; they notice our God-given joy and want that for themselves.
  5. Each Sunday online and especially in-person CrossLife worship is blessed by so many volunteers who, like the priests, Levites, choirs and musicians have “performed the service of their God” (Nehemiah 12:45). That’s why we call it a worship “service.” You volunteer in the service of your God, who first serves you with his grace and forgiveness and all good things. 
  6. The worshippers in Jerusalem celebrate by gathering “contributions, firstfruits and tithes [as] portions required by the Law for the priests and the Levites” (Nehemiah 12:44). Giving at CrossLife is first and foremost worship. Thank you for your continued commitment during COVID to support CrossLife financially. Part of that helps us purchase and provide equipment and staff to produce weekly worship. Future giving will help us expand our online ministry and reach many more people.