December 29, 2019

John 17:25-33

How many of you are going to stay up and usher in the New Year Tuesday night?

It seems like the older I get, the more of these I sleep through.

New Year’s Eve is a young person’s thing, I suppose. When you are young, you haven’t experienced many New Year’s Eve celebrations, so you want to stay up and see what all the fuss is about. 

After you get older, wisdom sets in, and you remember someone wise once told you that not a lot of good happens past midnight so you stay home and watch all the young people celebrate on television.

You promise yourself you’ll stay up and watch the ball drop in Times Square, and about 12:30, you wake up and discover you missed it all, so you drag yourself to bed while all the young people or young at heart continue to party and make a lot of noise.

Why noise?

Why not enter the New Year with some peace and quiet, with nothing but the sound of a clock ticking away on the mantle?

Though few are aware of the custom, making noise as the New Year comes in was once thought to be an effective way of pushing away the evil spirits so they would not enter the New Year with you.

I guess if we thought that worked, regardless of our age, we’d all be making a lot of racket as the New Year came in.

Eventually, though, all of us want some quiet. Even the rowdiest, party animals eventually have to sleep, and most people that sleep want some quiet, or perhaps a little white noise to drown out everything else.

If you haven’t already, soon, you will take down the tree and put away the decorations, and you will sing the last carol for the year. The last of the guests will leave, you will eat the last of the leftovers, and you will return to the routines and rhythms of your life.

And once again, some of you will hear noises that make your life unpleasant or unhappy.  

It’s not that the noises ever stopped, it’s just that during this time of the year they got drowned out a bit by the jingling of bells, the singing of carols, the parties, the shopping, and the giving and receiving of gifts.

For some of you, the holidays only turned the volume up on the noise.  The holidays reminded you of a loved one no longer here, of unresolved pain from the past, of political, religious, and lifestyle differences that just makes getting together with some family uncomfortable.

But now that Christmas Day has come and gone, you can hear the other noises in your life again.  

There was noise in the disciple’s lives, just like there is noise in ours. By the 16th chapter of John, Jesus was telling the disciples he was going to be leaving them and returning to the Father. The disciples didn’t understand what he meant. To them, that kind of talk was just noise.

Jesus said that when he left them, they would grieve and mourn, but then their grief and mourning would turn into joy–sort of like when a woman who goes into labor. During labor, her pain is great, but after the baby is born, she forgets about the pain, and the anguish turns to joy.

The first words out of my wife’s mouth when John was born was that she would never do that again. But 18 months later, Ryan was born — more joy.  

So Jesus told the disciples that the time was getting near that he would leave the world and go back to the Father. But he knew that even though the disciples believed him, they still could not comprehend his words.

He knew the noise of his arrest, crucifixion, and death were ahead, which would cause them to scatter, each to his own home.

He knew they would all leave him. But he said to them, “I am not alone, for my Father is with me.”

Then he said, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:32-33) NIV

Will you please remember these words, “I have overcome the world?” I will come back to them.

Like the disciples, we are sensitive to the unpleasant sounds of people in pain, grief, worry, and desperation. The noise of our own lives come crashing through, too, as we journey through our days.

Our sin creates noise, and so does the sin of others.

We incur too much debt. We deal with emotions of jealousy, anger, and pride. We live with false hope, selfishness, guilt, worry, and fear. We struggle with self-reliance and hopelessness. These things all make noise in our lives that we wish would go away.

When the boys were small, the noise in the car could get a little loud as we traveled. Of course, they were usually making most of it.

It’s was always funny when one of them would say with some indignation, “O.K., can I have a little peace and quiet?”

It’s a simple request. Getting a little peace and quiet depended on the rest of us in the car to cooperate. But I always reminded the boys that peace had to begin with them.

What does the song say? “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with ME?”

If we think that peace will come because the world suddenly stops bringing troubles to our door, we are living in fantasy land.

But how much control over the noisemakers in life do we have?

Part of our problem is that we don’t feel like we have a lot of control over the noise? Sometimes we don’t.  

So if peace is left us to us, are we doomed?

The Christmas of 1995, we were home in Alabama, and we kept hearing a noise outside that sounded like a car with bad brakes. It was a terrible, screeching sound that started each evening after dark.

Filled with curiosity, we finally took our flashlights over into the neighbor’s yard listening for the strange noise.

It led us to the giant oak tree in front of the neighbor’s house. We shined our light up into the tree and found two large screech owls roosting in the lower branches of that tree. As soon as we cast the flashlight on the owls, they flew away into the darkness. When they flew away, they took their noise went with them.

Where are the noises coming from in your life? You need to listen and identify the sources of your noise.

Sometimes, just being able to identify the problem and its source takes away our anxiety. Being able to name the demon in the darkness is going to take away much of our concern and help us understand what needs to be done to silence those noises in our lives.

Significant progress has occurred when we acknowledge that we need help to silence the noise in our lives.

When we shine the light of Jesus on our noise, Jesus can help us

  1. Identify what’s causing the noise.
  2. Calm our anxiety
  3. Drive the source of the trouble away, if that’s possible.

If not, Jesus will give you the understanding we need to deal with the noise and overcome it.

During that same Christmas, I was the chaplain on call for a hospital in North Georgia. During my week on call, I was summoned to the hospital and introduced to a family I didn’t know.

In the emergency room was a 75-year-old woman that had just died of an aneurism. Her neighbor, who had tried to revive her was there, as well as her daughter. We met in a small room they provided for us. The noise of grief was present.

After two hours of ministering with the family, I left and went to the office. I discovered that one of my members, a retired missionary to Israel, had been admitted to the hospital. In addition, he and his wife found out that their son’s house in Atlanta had caught fire.

Before leaving the office, I helped my secretary with computer problems but could do nothing about the Riso Graph printer that needed the services of a technician. More noise.

Then I left to make a couple of visits. I visited with an elderly couple in the church and listened to them as they lamented the uncertainty of their future. Elmer had a life-threatening aneurysm.

A trip to Houston seemed eminent. Could the doctors operate? Could the doctors extend his life? How long would they have to stay? Noise.

Then I made one brief visit to a friend for whom the holidays seemed to be a blur. It was the first Christmas she had spent without her mother. That day was her mother’s birthday. It’s was less than a happy Christmas, and so would be the beginning of the New Year. The noise of grief was very real.  

I often think that peace and quiet will begin when no one gets sick, no one dies, no one hurts, nothing breaks, no one suffers, there are no more fires, and no one is lonely.

Then I stop long enough to listen to what I am saying. I realize that what I am longing for is not going to happen in this lifetime. I know that I am homesick for that place where Jesus went– for heaven. He went home to be with the Father. He said he was going there to prepare a place for us too.

John the Apostle saw a vision of “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4’He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ b or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Rev. 21:1-4) NIV

That day is coming, but it is not now.

Paul wrote to the church at Rome “that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” Romans 8:22 (NIV)

The entire creation groans. It’s making noise. It’s crying out. It’s laboring.

But what did Jesus say? Jesus said, “I have overcome the world.”

Jesus overcame the world the day he was raised from the dead.

Whatever trouble we have in this life, whatever noise this world is sounding off around us or within us, we need to remember that Jesus has overcome it!

Jesus defeated death, and the power of his resurrection is available to all who trust and believe.

Paul wrote to the church at Philippi: “I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it. I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.” Philippians 3:10-14 (The Message)

The wisdom I have gained from growing grey is that there will always be noise. You don’t have to wait until New Year’s Eve to find people that are making it. The world is filled with noise.

The question is whether the noise of this world will overtake us or whether we will allow Jesus to give us peace in the midst of if.

The noise of 2020 that will come into your life does will not have the last word because Jesus is Lord!  But you need to shine the light of the Lord on your noise. 

Yes, we have troubles, and no, we don’t have all the answers, but we have Jesus. Jesus is the answer. 

Paul said without hesitation that he had his eye on the goal. He was reaching out for Christ. God was beckoning him onward. He was off and running, and he was not turning back.

What about you? Can you make that your mantra as we move into 2020?

The great temptation most of us have is to be our own god. We try to make our own way, cut our own path, and overcome our own problems.

We try to quiet our noises in life in our own way. We try to overcome the world when Jesus says He’s already done it.

Jesus knows and understands what makes the noise fly off into the night. Instead of shining His light on the noise, we try to drown it out, or shut it out, or ignore it, or fix it own or own.

That only leads to the restlessness of our souls.

Are you one of those people with a restless soul? Do you struggle to find peace and joy? Is the noise in your life pervasive?

Some people realize just how much noise they have when they lay down to sleep at night.

At the very time they want their bodies to rest, their mind will not shut off. The noise of the day, their marriage, their job, their children, their health, friends, some unconfessed sin, keeps coming to mind. Sleep will not happen because the noise keeps their mind awake.

Mrs. Maudie Rea Free, well into her nineties, was approached one day by a friend who had heard that she was having trouble sleeping.

“Have you tried counting sheep?” she was asked. “Yes,” said Mrs. Maudie Rea, “and that did not help one bit, so I decided to have a little talk with the shepherd, and that made all the difference.”

If the noises in life are keeping you awake and keeping you from experiencing peace, then you should talk with the one who has overcome the world.

If you are troubled, I invite you to talk with the Shepherd. Share with the Lord what’s troubling you. Name it specifically.

Ask God to point you to some scripture that will give you direction regarding your issue.

Ask God to help you find a Christian friend to talk to about the noise in your life.

Ask God to shine His light on the noise in your life and make it clear to you what He expects you to do.

Be obedient to the call of Jesus as you enter this New Year.

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