One of the highlights of last year was dancing at my niece’s wedding. Under a big tent by the sea, guests of all ages–kids and parents and grandparents and even great-grandparents–joined in. As the DJ played song after song, we shimmied, boogied, shuffled, hopped, and twirled to the music.
Dancing is the perfect way to celebrate a joyful occasion like a wedding because when we’re filled with joy we can’t sit still. It starts to bubble up inside and then gushes out, like a child so excited they start running around the house. No wonder the Hebrew word for joy ‘gil’ can be literally translated as spinning around in joy. There’s an exuberance to deep joy that can’t be contained.
That’s what happened with King David as he brought the ark of the Lord back to Jerusalem. He was so overcome with joy that he was leaping and dancing before the Lord.
Later Saul’s daughter criticized him because he had acted undignified in front of everyone. But David told her he wasn’t dancing to the crowd, he was dancing before the Lord. “I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undefined than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.” [2 Samuel 6:21-22] He wasn’t worried if he didn’t look respectable. It was more important to him to express the joy he felt inside to the Lord.
By nature and upbringing, I’m more like Saul’s daughter than David. My cultural heritage is a mixture of German and New England. My early church background included Lutheran, Congregational and Presbyterian churches where worship falls on the reverent and restrained side.
To dance or even move my feet during worship was completely foreign to me. [There’s a reason Presbyterians are sometimes referred to, tongue in cheek, as “God’s frozen chosen”.] Then I attended services where people were more exuberant as they praised God. I saw worship could include raising arms in the air, clapping, dancing in the aisles, and shouting.
In fact, the Psalms encourage us to dance when we praise God:
Praise Him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise Him with the harp and lyre,
praise Him with timbrel and dancing,
praise Him with the strings and pipe,
praise Him with the clash of cymbals,
praise Him with resounding cymbals.
We’ve just finished the Christmas season, the grand celebration of the Word becoming flesh and living among us. It’s an annual reminder that the life of faith is not just lived on a spiritual level. We’re physical beings too. Our spirits are housed in our bodies, and our arms and legs can be instruments of praise.
It’s also a season of great joy.
We read, “I bring you good news of great joy.”
We sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come.”
A savior is born! Now we can walk in the light! Gloria in excelsis deo!
I think of the song about the little drummer boy who played his drum for the infant Jesus. Perhaps my gift can be to dance before the Lord. Yes, I may look undignified. I may feel silly and embarrassed. But if I can forget about being respectable, I can give the honor and praise that is due Him by using my entire being; my hands, my feet, my voice, my arms, my legs. What better way to celebrate the Word becoming flesh?
You turned my wailing into dancing;
You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing Your praises and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will praise You forever.
How do you express your joy?
What songs would you suggest for praising God with dance?