It is hard to really hear things this time of year. The day after Thanksgiving I stood in line at Best Buy for over almost 45 minutes waiting to be checked out and one thing kept entering my mind – wow, is it so noisy. My kids know that I am a weird dad. I actually hum or sing to the muzac in stores. But that day at Best Buy, the muzac and the stereos in the audio department were deafened by the chatter of hundreds of voices. In stores and malls in our area, that chatter made it difficult at times to hear when someone would say something to you. It became difficult to communicate.
Some of you may know that I have a teaching degree with majors in Speech, theatre and English. One of the required courses in these majors is “Communication.” One of the first things we learn is the Communication model. The model shows a box representing the sender with arrows leading to the right where another box is labeled “the message.” From here, arrows continue to a box labeled “Receiver.” Our model shows that communication is the sender sending a message to a receiver. But what is interesting about the model is that there is another box which goes completely around the diagram. This box is labeled: “noise.” In communication, “noise” is anything which disrupts the message from getting to the sender. It could be external things like the chatter at a Best Buy or the darkness of a room which disrupts you from being able to read written communication. There can also be internal noises which block communication like a head ache or other issues on your mind which distract you. Noise is all around us and it even disrupts you from listening intently to my sermon.
The noise of our
world has caused us to miss the wonder of Christmas. In our sermon text today, we hear about how
the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us” -- the word meaning Jesus. You see in the Old Testament, the Children of
Israel practically worshiped the Pentatude or the first five books of the
Bible. They considered the Word of God
to be “living.” They made sure that they
held the word of God as sacred and even the replication of the scripture was
done meticulously. One tribe of
This became especially
apparent when in 1946 a boy herding goats around the
Unfortunately, with all the “other” words of the world vying for our attention especially at this time of year, we often don’t hear the “the Word.” With all the multi-media and internet capabilities, you would think communication would become better. But instead, we miss the wonder of the manger amidst the hustle and bustle of our techno gadget lives. We actually have to work harder now to communicate with others -- especially at this time of year when our lives take on added stress and anxiety. We become short with each other and selfishly only consider our own needs. We want to be giving but we find the pressures of our jobs, the year-end quotas, property taxes, budgets become the noise that blocks out the Word. We find the dysfunctions of our families, the expectations of our relationships, and the curiosity of our sinfulness deafening us to the call of God in Jesus. For many, this season was a time of rejection not joy. It was a time of pestilence not peace. It was a time of losing not loving. For many the holidays became filled with noise. I have to admit that that happened to me this year. My birthday is on Christmas and the noise of my own personal life made chaos out of the Word of the manger for me.
That would be the response too many people. I too felt that people weren’t really listening to me. But in reality, I have felt very alone this year because I wasn’t listening. I wasn’t listening to the needs of others. I especially wasn’t listening to the Word of the manger. I was too busy listening to myself -- dwelling on my own issues.
My self-indulgence upon my own issues and lack of time for others became noise which deafened me to the Word and wonder of the manger; the noise deafened me to the joy the angels sang about. I didn’t listen to the God’s story first.
It is this “noise” that John is talking about in today’s’ scripture reading. “He was in the world and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.” You see, “noise” caused the people of Jesus’ time and for many of us today - to not hear Him. We miss the love, joy and peace offered in the manger because we have chosen to listen to the clutter of our life.
For many of us, Christmas has been a chore and we are happy it is over. We are happy to get away from it. We look forward to the “silence.” The problem is that even the silence of our world is polluted. For many, no noise is still noise. Simon and Garfunkel sang a song many years ago where they talked about the “silence” or emptiness that has filled many of our lives. Listen to their words for a moment:
For many, the sounds of silence are the emptiness of there lives. They follow the words or the gods of the world and miss the Word or the living God of the manger. But praise God that the manger also speaks of Grace. For God loves us where we are at, and accepts us unconditionally – baggage and all. Think about it, who were the first people told of the birth of Jesus? It was shepherds. Shepherds, who were despised by the community and the religious leaders. Shepherds, whose jobs were dirty and outdoors. Shepherds who were away for days tending their flocks and in turn often missed their required religious cleansings, sacred baths and rituals. While they also took care of the “temple sheep,” the religious leaders shunned the shepherds and declared them “unclean” and often banished them from the community. Yet, God broke through the silence of the lives and gave them the words of “great joy” first. And they listened. And they came to the Word.
Into their world of loneliness and despair the Word became flesh and dwelt among them. Jesus came to live among us. Not simply as scripture, but as a living, breathing human who witnessed suffering and death, who embraced the rejected, the lost and the unclaimed – and said “I want you. You are mine.” He healed the sick; He helped the poor; and He forgave sin. This living Word came amidst the clutter of the world so that man would finally listen. God just wanted us to listen.
Are you listening to the “noise” of the world -- or the Word of God? Are you focused on the world’s image of success, happiness and personal pleasure – or on the image of Jesus’ plan for you? Are you sitting in the deafening “silence” of your own despair and hopelessness – or are you sitting in the peace and joy and love offered in the blessed silence and awe of that Holy Night. These questions need answering. And they require a response from us.
Isn’t it sad that today, we respond to the manger so “matter-of-factly?” But why? God became flesh and dwelt among us. He came with grace and truth. He has taken the burdens and noise of our life and given us peace. Shouldn’t our response be one of exaltation, of yelling and cheering, of a loud “Amen” or “Hallelujah” We need to be like the angels who broke the silence and doldrums of the shepherd’s lives and pronounced boldly the birth of a savior. We need to be louder than the noise that is cluttering our lives.
He is calling you right now, are you listening?
(Play the “Do You Hear What I Hear” CD)