A Joyful Noise

New World UMCPastor's Blog

Next week is Thanksgiving week, and then we start Advent, and Christmas is just five weeks away. Pretty obvious, as you can see (point to Christmas decorations).

I love having Thanksgiving preceding Advent and Christmas seasons. I think it helps us get ready by reminding us of God’s goodness and posturing us to receive Jesus with grateful and humble hearts. Soon, we will be hearing our favorite Christmas music, eating delicious food, and going from party to party. Yes, it is that time of the year when we get to wear our stretchy pants!

All kidding aside, we arrive at the end of this year reflecting on what has been and giving thanks to God for everything. I know not everything went the way we wanted to—no surprises there. However, if we look with faith, we will see that God has been as good as always to us, and we will be filled with encouragement and hope for what is yet to come despite the hardship and pain we may endure.

Today, I want to talk about how our faith and hope for the future make us celebrate life even when we may be going through difficult times. For this, it is important to accept that we don’t have it easy by virtue of our faith as Christians. Our faith does not exempt us from suffering and disappointment—even with our faith, we still deal with difficult situations that may or may not be of our own making. Nevertheless, we have something not everyone has: faith and hope that God will eventually carry us through everything. This knowledge gives us the power and confidence to pray and worship God with thanksgiving even in the most egregious times.

The Scripture for today’s message is Psalms 100. It is only five verses, but it teaches us much about faith and hope and how to live a life with joy and thanksgiving. It reads,

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into his presence with singing.

Know that the Lord is God.
It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name.

For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

This text is one of the most well-known for many church people. Many learned it while going to Sunday School class as children or as part of their participation in worship ministries. It is very powerful because it calls us to celebrate our faith by remembering who God is and what God has done for us with just a few words.

The way it begins tells us everything: “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, everyone!” But what does it mean to make a joyful noise? How does it happen?

It is believed that Moses wrote this Psalm. This is important to understand why the author said these words.

What do we know about Moses? We know Moses was miraculously saved when he was just a baby after Pharaoh was persecuting the Hebrew children in Egypt to get rid of them. We know he was raised in the house of Pharaoh, and for years he was like a prince in Egypt. We know one day he had to run away from everything because, in his desire to defend a fellow Hebrew man, he killed an Egyptian guard. For 40 years, he kept away until God called him to go back and save his people from Egyptian slavery. Through him, God accomplished the deliverance of his people and led them to the land he had promised to Abraham and Sarah to establish them as a nation.

If Moses wrote this, then, when we read, “Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture,” it takes a profound turn. Moses is telling us, “We are the people of God; remember where he brought us from and how he saved us and gave us a place to raise our families. And it is the Lord who will continue to guide us.”

Moses and his fellow Hebrew people had many reasons to worship God and be thankful. They endured persecution, death, slavery, injustice, and all kinds of abuse. But when they sought God for deliverance, God saved them.

So, when Moses said, “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations,” he was encouraging people to remember where they had come from and to let their memory of who God is and what God has done for them be a guiding principle in their lives as they shout praises of joy to God.

Can we do the same? Can we remember where we have come from and let our memory of who God is and what God has done for us be our guiding principle into the future? Instead of letting disappointment and negative experiences discourage us and dictate how we live, what if we let all the good memories and achievements be the spring that sends us forward with joy?

When we come to a place like this, a place of worship and prayer, Bible study and fellowship, we come looking for forgiveness, peace, reconciliation, wisdom, hope, to give thanks, or all of the above. We come because, at a minimum, we are seeking meaning and purpose, and we somehow know that God is the answer.

This is important because the essence of a life led with joy is faith in God—knowing and trusting that in God we will be ultimately safe. This faith has taught so many people to trust God and worship God throughout the centuries, even while they may have been going through difficult times.

You see, a joyful noise is not contingent upon our circumstances but on knowing that God has been with us, is with us, and will ever be with us. It is that knowledge that encourages and empowers us to worship, whether here at church or anywhere else.

My friends, faith gives us the power and ability to live a loud life of joy even when the dark and negative voices of this world try to shut us down—even when our own memories may yell at us, telling us, “You have nothing to be happy and thankful about!” but this is what faith does for and in us; it gives us the power to overcome even the most hurting and dark voices and memories of our past. Faith provides us with the power to see the good, even in the darkest moments; faith makes us raise a joyful noise in every circumstance we may be facing—in the good, the bad, and the ugly.

So, when Moses says in Psalms 100, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth,” he is inviting us to remember God’s goodness and let that be our guiding principle in life. This “joyful noise” is not simply about music or singing (although that may be a great way to express it!) but having a tried and tested faith in God so when we come to a place like this, we know we can raise our voices and hands, and shout with joy for all the goodness God has given us.

Therefore, just as with Moses, let not our past failures, disappointments, or pain become the guiding principle in our lives; instead, let us allow our experiences of deliverance and trust in God to move us forward, saying, “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”

I think this is a helpful thought and conversation to have with ourselves and each other as we enter a season of remembering how God decided to come into a dark world as a child to give us new light.

What if we let kindness and goodness by our guiding principle this season and always? What if we make a joyful noise every day by first welcoming God’s grace into our lives and then extending it to others?

We can start with remembering who God is and what God has done for us. Let that be the guiding principle for your life that leads you to celebrate your faith with joy. And let it be loud because this kind of joy is supposed to be heard and shared; it is supposed to be loud. So, make a noise!