given on Sunday, November 30, 2014
Radio stations are playing Christmas songs, the familiar tunes create a background at all the stores, and the sounds of Christmas clearly remind us that we are getting ready for a very special celebration, a birthday party for Jesus.
The sounds of Christmas are everywhere:
- the bells ringing at the red kettles of the Salvation Army,
- ornaments jingle and jangle as they are carefully placed on the Christmas trees,
- pots and pans bang around in the kitchen as cookies and candies are made in the kitchen, and
- boxes and wrapping paper have a quieter sound, but it is a noise that adds to the sounds of Christmas.
How could anyone ignore Christmas with all the sounds surrounding us? Yet, for many, the harmonic sounds of Christmas are anything but delightful. For those who do not understand the significance of Jesus’s birth, the sounds become cacophonic.
Cacophony is “a harsh, discordant mixture of sounds” as explained by the American Oxford Dictionary website. Compare that to the definition of harmony which is “the combination of simultaneously sounded musical notes to produce chords and chord progressions having a pleasing effect.”
For those of us sitting in church on any typical Sunday morning, the sounds of Christmas tend to be harmonic. Hearing the familiar Christmas carols provide us a sense of goodness, an inner little giggle as we hear a favorite or watch as our kids or grandkids or even great-grandkids. The sounds set our mood, adds to our worship, and kids begin squealing with anticipation.
The harmonic sounds of Christmas are not so pleasing for some, and that is a concern for each of us. If the sounds of Christmas have become cacophonic for Christians, how harsh can those sounds seem to the unchurched, the non-Christians. In today’s secular world, the sounds of Christmas may stir up unanswered questions or unpleasant memories or dismal business situations.
The prophets of the Old Testament knew that a change was needed in order to stop the downward spiral that was separating the Israelites and God. The warnings were going unheard:
23 “What sorrow awaits the leaders of my people—the shepherds of my sheep—for they have destroyed and scattered the very ones they were expected to care for,” says the Lord.
2 Therefore, this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to these shepherds: “Instead of caring for my flock and leading them to safety, you have deserted them and driven them to destruction. Now I will pour out judgment on you for the evil you have done to them. 3 But I will gather together the remnant of my flock from the countries where I have driven them. I will bring them back to their own sheepfold, and they will be fruitful and increase in number. 4 Then I will appoint responsible shepherds who will care for them, and they will never be afraid again. Not a single one will be lost or missing. I, the Lord, have spoken!
The hymn, “Send Your Word,” shares the faithful’s cry to God. The secular noise surrounding the faithful in the Old Testament were so loud, so distracting the prophets warning was not heard. Today we can sing the hymn as a prayer for our world:
Send your Word, O Lord, like the rain, falling down upon the earth.
Send your Word. We seek your endless grace,
with souls that hunger and thirst, sorrow and agonize.
We would all be lost in dark without your guiding light.
Are we, as Christians, part of the harmony of Christmas or are we part of the cacophony?
The sounds of Christmas surround us in so many different places. We hear them in our homes, in our cars, in the stores, and even in the various programs from schools to nursing facilities. Advent is a season of preparation; but for Christians, the season provides an opportunity to share the Word with others.
A surprise that popped up in my inbox was a UMC post about “Giving Tuesday.” Obviously we have gotten so overwhelmed with giving gifts to family and friends, we focus on all the special shopping events that begin over the Thanksgiving weekend. But that constant pressure to spend more and more can create a discordant, unpleasant emotion about Christmas.
“Giving Tuesday” answers that secular challenge by reminding us to look at the world through God’s eyes, not retailers’ eyes and to give to the various charities or specific needs that often struggle to manage all the demands placed upon them such as the Salvation Army, United Way, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and the list can continue.
Looking at the world through God’s eyes means we are also able to listen like God would listen. The sounds of Christmas should point out the harmony of Christians around the world. Unfortunately, the harmony is marred by so many trouble spots. The goal of unconditional love right here in our own state much less around the globe seems so unattainable, but it is the season of hope.
Can Christians bind together to quiet the cacophony of the riots, the suicide bombings, the warfare, and even the globule arguments among political leaders and even within families? Looking and listening to the world as God would do should quiet the discord and lead to harmony. Are we doing all that we can to make sure there is harmony in our homes, in our communities, in our countries, and in our world?
The second verse helps us keep the harmony in our world:
Send your Word, O Lord, like the wind, blowing down upon the earth.
Send your Word. We see your wondrous power,
pureness that rejects all sins, though they persist and cling.
Bring us to complete victory; set us all free indeed.
Using these words as our prayer for peace and harmony in the world, we are sending God an urgent plea during these first days of Advent.
Prayer is one gift we can give daily. We talk to God, we sing to God, and we thank God through our words. As we continue through the next few weeks, let us focus on our prayer life as a gift to others:
- Consider praying for your least favorite people.
- Pray for peace in the Mideast.
- Use your words to encourage rather than discourage others.
- Ask God for guidance in the toughest of times.
- Talk to God about healing of self and of others.
- Pray that all people value others as they value themselves.
Advent begins with an ending. The harvest is completed and we mark the seasons’ passing with a tradition of a meal. The meal brings people together and the prayers continue.
- Thank God for providing for our needs.
- Thank God for gifts he has given us to use on his behalf.
- Thank God for his unconditional love.
Unconditional love. God gives it and asks us to give it. When the world seems to be so noisy and we cannot hear the music, we know we can listen for God and trust that he is always with us despite the noise. The sounds of Christmas can be the very healing we need. We use the Salvation Army’s bells as reminders of the needs so many have. We hear the jingle bells as reminders of the childlike faith we all need to use.
The sounds of Christmas signal the unconditional love of God. The last verse explains how God’s love works:
Send your Word, O Lord, like the dew, coming gently upon the hills.
Send your Word. We seek your endless love.
For life that suffers in strife with adversities and hurts,
send your healing power of love; we long for your new world.
With the gift of Jesus Christ, the prophets’ words of warning were transformed into a New Law of unconditional love.
The sounds of Christmas filling our ears reminds us that God did send his Word—also called Jesus Christ, the Messiah, or the Savior. He loved us so much that he did not destroy us: He sent his Son so that those who believe in him can have eternal life.
Harmony is found in the sounds of Christmas for those who accept God’s gift of his Word, Jesus Christ. The sounds of Christmas may create cacophony for those who have not accepted God’s gift of unconditional love. The only way to turn cacophony into harmony is to spread the Word.
We need to check our own list of whether we are naughty or nice. Have we done whatever we could do for all we can in all the ways we can? If the sounds of Christmas are harmonic, congratulations, you have heard the Word and know God’s unconditional love. You can help others to find the harmony, too.
Dear Loving God,
We hear your Word in all the Christmas carols,
In the sound of jingle bells,
And even in the rattle of paper and ribbon.
As we feel a sense of harmony during Advent,
Guide us as we share your Word.
Help us reach those who only hear cacophony
So we can share the harmony of God’s Word.
With each gift we give,
With each gift we open,
Let the sounds of Christmas
Fill our world with harmony.