I have become particularly fond of Christmas carols performed by Celtic Woman, this season. And as New Year’s Day approaches, I know I am going to miss them.
It isn’t simply the lively music that captures my attention, but the sense of joy that often emanates as the notes, melodies, and rhythms are released. This is music that engages you to toe-tap and clap with a joyous heart. Like the most profoundly-worded and engaging carol, it extends an invitation to move from mere intellectual praise and acknowledgement into touching fingers and holding hands with our glorious God — Emmanuel, God with us — as an act of genuine worship.
Listening to the vigorous composition Join the Dance immediately sent my mind flying to two different “dance” references I have pondered at length. The first is a book by theologian C. Baxter Kruger entitled The Great Dance and the other is a thought-provoking melody of a few decades ago, entitled Lord of the Dance.
Of the very purposes of God and, subsequently, our core design in this life, Kruger has written, “When we start with the Trinity, the purpose of God in creation begins to emerge. The very nature of God’s existence as Father, Son and Spirit is fellowship and shared life. Every thought of this God–every idea and dream and act–is birthed out of this fellowship and bears its stamp. The idea of creation does not arise in a vacuum of divine boredom or loneliness or sadness. The idea of creation flows out of the glorious life shared by the Father, Son and Spirit. If this God is going to create something, then it is quite ‘natural,’ so to speak, to do so for the purpose of sharing life. And that is exactly the point. The Father, Son and Spirit created the human race so that what they have together could be shared with us, so that their great dance of life could be extended to us and played out in our lives. It is no accident that when the apostle Paul was grappling with the eternal purpose of God for humanity, he chose the word ‘adoption’ to describe it. (Ephesians 1:3-5) The basic idea of adoption is to include. It means that one who is foreign, outside the family circle, is drawn in grace and love, within the family circle. And the purpose of that act of adoption is so that the outsider can share in the family’s life. The whole mind-boggling act of creation is driven by the desire to share the great dance with us.” *
Shared life, with the very One who designed both the life to share, and included us, with whom He desires to share it. This is dynamic!
The invitation that begins Lord of the Dance states, “Dance, dance, wherever you may be; I am the Lord of the dance said he; and I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be, and I’ll lead you all in the dance said he.” The story continues, “I danced in the morning when the world begun, I danced to the moon and the stars and the sun; I danced off from heaven and I danced on the earth, in Bethlehem I had my birth.”
Do we very often consider the possibility that the poetic phrase “dance of life” uncovers a deeply profound significance that points to a prophetic and unbreakable bond between the dawn of creation, our divinely created identity, and our present role/responsibility as His agents of representation in this world? We are not just ambassadors of His Kingdom….we are also dancers of gory!
“For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves….” (2 Cor. 4:6-7)
Don’t focus on the treasure-in-earthen-vessels part just yet. Did you see it? Verse 6 is sufficiently long that the 36 words run together and our minds tend to dull or blur the incredible impact of this truth. Let’s break it down into separate components, starting with the end of the verse. Think about this phrase: “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
I have spent years thinking this simply meant that Jesus radiated God’s glory. And of course He does — but that isn’t the point in this passage. What has happened to the importance of “the knowledge”? So under reexamination, I next concluded that God’s intent was that we had been given the knowledge that Jesus was radiating God’s glory…but that missed the point, too.
This isn’t about “knowledge.” Let’s back up a few more words: the knowledge that the glory of God is in the face of Christ is described as Light, capital-L. Divine, inspired, referring specifically to divine endowment or nature. Capital-L Light — revelation from God. So now we can connect that it is divine revelation to possess this knowledge that the glory of God was in the face of Christ.
Back up even a little more, to the very beginning of verse 6. When did God say, Light shall shine out of darkness?
Well, it isn’t documented that He did, using those exact words. Jump to Genesis 1: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless (a waste and emptiness) and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving (hovering) over the surface of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light”; and there was light.” (Gen. 1:1-3, italicized footnotes added) So Scripture records that God said, Let there be light.
The response? Well, of course — indeed, there was light.
Do you see it? Can you hear the music and tap your toe? God speaks into our hearts the same phrase that He spoke in creating the heavens and the earth. And I daresay, for the same purpose…to dispel the darkness. That darkness that gave us the perception that our heavenly Father was far-off and unapproachable, alienated from us by our shortcomings, displeased with His finest creation — we who are made in His Image. (Gen. 1:26)
Take a look at a shortened version of 2 Cor. 4:6: “For God, who said…is the One who has shone in our hearts…” (NASB).
Did you catch that? He, Himself, has shone Himself in our hearts. It’s a personal connection…even an intimate one. New King James, New International Version, Holman Christian Standard Bible, and other versions all verify the intent of these words.
The Message translation states, “It started when God said, ‘Light up the darkness!’ and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.” (Italics added: “saw and understood” = “knowledge”) The Passion Translation chooses these words: “‘Let brilliant light shine out of darkness,’ is the one who has cascaded his light into us — the brilliant dawning light of the glorious knowledge of God as we gaze into the face of Jesus Christ.”
Jesus said to Philip, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘show us the Father’?” (John 14:9) The Book of Hebrews proclaims, “And He (Jesus) is the radiance of His (God’s) glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Heb. 1:3, italics & parens added)
In like manner, just as the angels proclaimed, “I bring you good news of great joy” (Luke 2:10) so we have reason to share this news of great joy: He is shining Himself into your heart, and since the foundation of the world, you have been invited to enjoy His dance. Kick up your feet in joyful praise!
*C. Baxter Kruger, The Great Dance, copyright 2000 Perichoresis, Inc.