Make a Joyful Noise!

United Church of the Valley Choir and Instrumental Ensemble
December 5, 2010
Being Church
Sunday, after writing about Advent, Rich and I drove to Murrieta to worship at my father’s church, United Church of the Valley. Dad had invited us to attend his congregation’s Christmas Cantata, described in the worship bulletin as “A service of Advent and Christmas carols and song with scriptures and poetry from Kneeling in Bethlehem by Ann Weems.” Dad sings in the choir at UCV; he’s on the far right in the photo.
UCV is a young church. In the bulletin it was reported that 72 people had attended the previous week’s service. They meet in a middle school auditorium. About 20,000 people worship each weekend at our home church, so I was expecting the service to feel different from our customary Sunday worship. 
In every important way, it didn’t. Sure, superficial differences were everywhere, from the borrowed meeting space outfitted with folding chairs to the fellowship refreshments arranged on a table at the back of the room. But the key element of a worship service was exactly the same: believers and seekers coming together to glorify our God. We prayed, we sang, we listened.
The cantata, Prepare: A Cradle Waits, focused my worship on the amazing gift God sent us when His Son came to earth. [edited 12/8/10 to add:] The music was glorious, the readings carefully selected and beautifully delivered.
When two young boys struggled to light the candles at the beginning of the service, a woman dressed in a choir robe helped them. A church member assisted the pastor in serving communion. Members of the congregation read selections chosen for Advent.
After the service we gathered in the rear of the room for fellowship. I noticed a table display offering bottled water for donations in support of the church’s mission to Chacraseca, Nicaragua. The church’s small size does not deter it from engaging in important work in His name.
As we drove home, I realized that worshiping with this young, reaching congregation had reminded me that church isn’t just a place we go. It’s what we are.

22 God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made Him head over all things for the benefit of the church. 23 And the church is His body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with Himself.
Ephesians 1:22-23 (NLT)