I was inspired to dream of what a #VeryAsian church service might look like after seeing people use the hashtag to proudly celebrate their Asian heritage in the face of anti-Asian racism. Many Asian Christians, past and present, gave up cultural traditions after they converted to Christianity, but what if we could worship God with all parts of ourselves, including our cultural heritage? Lunar New Year seems like a great opportunity to do just this, and below are 5 accessible resources and ideas for celebrating the holiday in worship.
1. 엎드려 절하세 / Come and Worship – The Ethnos Project
This bilingual Korean/English contemporary worship song invites us to come and bow before God in worship. Korean American songwriter Christine Montelongo explains in this video that the New Year tradition of bowing towards elders as a sign of respect inspired the song’s lyrics.
2. 平安 / Peace – Stream of Praise
This Mandarin worship song (English and Cantonese lyrics available) has a simple pentatonic melody and incorporates traditional Chinese instruments beautifully. Chinese New Year blessings often speak of peace, a theme woven throughout the song’s lyrics. Music sheets and backing tracks are available for purchase here.*
*This blog post is not sponsored.
3. Communion With New Year Foods
Consider setting the communion table with Lunar New Year foods and drinks. For example you can use tteok (Korean rice cake) as pictured below** and say, “Jesus took the tteok, gave thanks and said this is my body, given for you…”
**Picture screenshot from Fuller Seminary’s chapel service
4. Remembering and Honoring Ancestors
Asian Christians may have been taught that the Lunar New Year tradition of venerating ancestors is sinful and idolatrous, but the act of remembering those who came before us can be formative for our faith, just as the book of Hebrews mentions the great cloud of witnesses. Kenji Kuramitsu’s prayer below^ can be used to reintroduce this tradition as a standalone prayer of thanksgiving, as part of intercessory prayers or as part of communion liturgy.
^Reprinted with permission from A Booklet of Uncommon Prayer
5. 但願上主全能神 / May the Lord, Mighty God – Pao-chen Li
- This article describes how St. Therese Chinese Catholic Church in Chicago celebrates Lunar New Year in worship, incorporating the lion dance, incense burning, and other traditions. The theology behind their practices is also explained.
- “祝呀祝福你, ” a Cantonese children’s New Year song of blessing is sung with fun hand motions in this video (starts at 1:33).
- Members of Glad Tidings Assembly of God in Malaysia wrote a song called “God Will Bless You This New Year” using the tune of “恭喜恭喜 (Gōngxǐ Gōngxǐ),” a popular Chinese New Year folk song. I wrote my own benediction lyrics to the tune here 🙂
Thank you for reading! Please share this blog post with your pastors and worship leader friends. I’d love to hear about your own ideas or your experience celebrating Lunar New Year in worship this year or in past years. Leave a comment or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Subscribe to this blog (form below) for more Asian American worship resources. Blessings for a wonderful #VeryAsian Lunar New Year!