Sometimes I think singing isn’t as much a part of our culture as it used to be. The evidence is everywhere. About a month ago, I attended a high school football game. They piped in a recording of the national anthem. A few seasoned souls sang without fear, but most stood in stoic silence. I notice those same blank stares at church at times. As the band sings, many only observe the praise of others. Many people don’t seem to be singing.
I don’t know why we have abandoned singing in public, but maybe some of it has to do with technological advancements. In Andy Crouch’s new book, The Life We’re Looking For, he says every new device makes a promise: by using it, you will no longer have to do _______. For example, Spotify and iTunes promise you no longer have to make your own music. You can play music anytime, anywhere, with no effort. But that promise comes with a trade-off. If we only consume music as passive observers, one day we will not be able to create or produce music ourselves.
Maybe that is one reason we no longer seem to sing as a culture. Previous generations needed to learn instruments and train their voices if they were going to experience the euphoria of a harmonious melody. If we aren’t interested, we no longer have to go on the long and clumsy journey of plunking out scales on a piano or straining our voices to lock in middle C. And because we haven’t learned those skills, we don’t have the tools to unite with others in songs of praise.
This is not just an indictment of our culture but a personal confession. I too quickly gave up on piano lessons in my early years. And I never put in the time to learn the skill of singing in harmony. Music fills our home, but usually someone else is playing it. Thankfully, my teenage children make some of the sounds. But mainly, we project digital music made by someone else through our portable speakers.
This is a shame. Not just because we miss out on participating in music right now but also because all creation is preparing for a final concert, and God invites us to join in. We see this in the book of Revelation, where people from all nations will gather to praise God in the life to come. The psalms hint at a similar destiny. This ancient prayer/songbook tells Israel’s story as one from pain to praise. You could summarize many of the initial psalms with two words: Help! and Why? But as you keep reading, God’s people come to a place of peace and thanksgiving. The last few psalms describe all creation joining together to “sing a new song to the Lord.” The rivers clap their hands. The sun, moon, and stars praise God. And all people playing trumpets, harps, lyres, cymbals, and strings make a joyful noise to the Lord.
In other words, all creation is moving toward a final concert of praise for all God has done. But the question is, are we ready to participate? Are we preparing our hearts and minds for that day when all God has made will sing to him? By the looks of things, it doesn’t always seem so.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Instead, we can join all the saints and angels in heaven in their glorious songs as we participate in worship here on earth. That might begin by singing in our cars to some gospel tunes. It might mean starting dance parties in our living rooms as we follow the sound of Christian songs. It might mean uniting our voices with the congregation as we praise God at church.
Whatever it looks like, I believe it is worth our time to sing and make music. Our good God gave us voices and even instruments so that we could join his people in the delight of worship. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, all creation is groaning, waiting to be liberated from its bondage to join all God’s people in a new song of God’s victory. Now is the time to practice for that last and great day. Now is the time to enjoy a foretaste of the glorious concert that is to come.