Magnificat: esteem greatly; praise, extol
(Source: William Whitaker’s Words)
How often do you use extravagant language? I know I don’t hear a lot of it, except in commercials or spam emails. The words we tend to use in daily life seem to be of a smaller scale, don’t they? “And I was, like, really? And she was all like, yeah. And I was like, whoa. And she was like, yeah.”
Thus endeth the deep conversation. And yes, I’ve found myself saying “like” in that context. I’ve also taken to using the word “dude,” which no self-respecting 52 year old should be caught uttering.
But, as I totally lack self-respect, I guess it’s fair game for me.
Just kidding. At least, in this present life, I mean.
Texting seems to be leaking into our conversation and condensing everything into the correct length for a Twitter feed or a Facebook status and making it seem to be the norm. We pare back, we consolidate, we boil down, we cut to the chase, get to the bottom line, cut out the middle man, and damn the torpedoes – full speed ahead! We git ‘er DONE, dude!
Extravagant language becomes suspicious – trying to truly praise someone is saved for an awards presentation or is considered flattering or buttering them up.
“Buttering them up.” Sounds like the prep for Christmas dinner. Or Christmas baking. Or Christmas breakfast.
Can you tell I’m a little hungry?
When Mary comes to visit Elizabeth, there’s a passage we call the Magnificat, or the Song of Mary (Luke 1:46-55). And you won’t find any economy of language there, no pulling back, no wondering what Elizabeth will think, no attempt to preserve dignity. When Mary lets loose with praise, she brings it!
Sorry… Mary brought it. I dump it.
The sad thing is when our language conservation extends to the One who truly deserves all the extravagance we can muster. He is worthy of all of the depth and breadth the limits of language can push against, and He deserves every bit of honor and praise we can wring out of mere words. Yet, as with much of our daily conversation, we dial it back. If we ever do let fly with the kind of praise our soul would bring forth, people look at us as if either we just stepped out of the Way Back Machine from the distant past, or as if our elevator no longer reaches the top floor.
(“And the things that he said made the people assume there wasn’t too much left in the upper room.” – my favorite line from Jesus Freak, DC Talk)
We were watching a DVD with our worship team at church, featuring an interview with Bob Kauflin, when, as he was talking about worship, he said this about our God:
“He is exquisite.”
Bob said this short phrase with such love, such passion, that it stopped me in my tracks. When have I ever used that kind of language to describe my Lord? When have I ever heard that kind of language outside of a diamond commercial, thus producing feelings of guilt that I’ve never actually given my beloved the gift that she really desires, the one that shows I really do care, the one that every kiss begins with?
Why doesn’t that kind of language come immediately to my lips when speaking of my Father? What happened to me that dialed my expression back to zip, so that to try and communicate the depth of my love for Him in deep, deep language seems clumsy, archaic, or just plain dumb? I mean, if I were to stand up in church Sunday morning, and start shouting “Holy, holy holy is the Lord God Almighty! The whole earth is full of His glory!”, well, just imagine the kind of response that would bring.
As you might imagine, I have mixed emotions about it. (And for the record, my dear First Cov family, no amount of double- or triple-dog daring is going to persuade me to give it a go.) But in Isaiah’s vision, we’re told of the beings that spend night and day crying that to each other in the presence of God. In Revelation, we’re told that the living creatures cry something similar and, when they do, the 24 elders drop to the ground and worship, laying their crowns at His feet.
And we’re not talking an old English language thing here… Read some of those passages in The Message or the NLT, and you get the same sense of no-holds-barred, full-tilt, all-in, total-access, no-punches-pulled, full-contact praiseapalooza.
Go here with me for a bit, kids…
Imagine your gang from Sunday morning busting out in the sky over a bunch of guys in flannel bathrobes holding sticks and hanging out with sheep. And the mighty host of your own congregation bursts out in:
“Glo, o-o-o-o-o, o-o-o-o-o, o-o-o-o-o, ri-a, in excelsis Deo!”
Did the shepherds fall down at that mighty wall of sound? Or did they stand there, checking their watches? Um… sundials.
Is our praise extravagant? Do we launch into it with all our hearts, with our whole beings, and with all the resources and language we can muster? Do we let fly with everything, holding nothing back for the sake of what the people next to us might think or (more correctly) what we think or imagine the people next to us might think?
(Cal’s honest response: I am guilty of sometimes not putting my whole heart and being into worship. At other times, I make the folks at First Cov grin from ear to ear, as the artist formerly known as the Fat Man dances with his bass, grooving with all groovedness.)
He IS exquisite. He IS worthy. And when He came to this world in human form, the praise that burst forth from the angels put the shepherds on their faces. But it didn’t stop there. They went, they saw the child, they worshiped. And I’m quite sure their worship wasn’t limited to “Whoa, dude.” The Magi, when they arrived, worshiped the child. Again, I don’t think we’re talking about some basic King James phrases here – I think that when they saw God incarnate, deep and heartfelt worship was the only response they could make.
And nothing has changed between now and then. Except, of course, our level of distraction has gone way up, while our level of comfort with expression has gone way down. Our concern of status and what people will think has hit critical mass, while our level of abandon to love and praise is in the basement. We’ve drawn back, closed up, shut down, toughened up, and somewhere along the way lost our sense of wonder when we consider our Father God.
Do you, like me, need to get that wonder back? This is a great season to find it. Look at all the children around you, wide-eyed and eager. See the lights, hear the music, remember the story. Wonder surrounds us during the Christmas season so what a great time to start seeing the rest of the year with the eyes of a child!
Advent is about preparation – preparing for the arrival of the King. For me, it’s also about preparing to walk with Him every day of this new year and beyond. And I think part of that preparation has to be about praise – learning to worship Him with my whole being. Just as people will bust out in Christmas songs with total abandon, praise should flow out of me just as readily, anytime, any season. No holding back, no worries about what others will think, no other thought than offering myself to my Father.
In short, I ought to be ready at all times to knock a bunch of shepherds off their feet. With praise. Just so we’re clear.
Magnificat: esteem greatly; praise, extol
“Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and worship Him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
‘You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for You created all things,
and by Your will they were created
and have their being.'”
Revelation 4:8-11 (NIV)