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The Wait is Over

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I’m going to start this morning by reading a short article from Smithsonian Magazine.
Everybody seems to be looking for a little peace and quiet these days. But even such a reasonable idea can go too far. The quietest place on earth, an anechoic chamber at Orfield Laboratories in Minnesota, is so quiet that the longest anybody has been able to bear it is 45 minutes.
Inside the room it’s silent. So silent that the background noise measured is actually negative decibels, -9.4 dBA. Steven Orfield, the lab’s founder, told Hearing Aid Know: “We challenge people to sit in the chamber in the dark – one person stayed in there for 45 minutes. When it’s quiet, ears will adapt. The quieter the room, the more things you hear. You’ll hear your heart beating, sometimes you can hear your lungs, hear your stomach gurgling loudly. In the anechoic chamber, you become the sound.”
But the room isn’t just for torturing people. Companies test their products in it to find out just how loud they are. And NASA has sent astronauts to help them adapt to the silence of space. For you and me, however, the room is a deeply disorienting place. Not only do people hear their heartbeat, they have trouble orienting themselves and even standing. “How you orient yourself is through sounds you hear when you walk. In the anechnoic chamber, you don’t have any cues,” Orfield told the Daily Mail. “You take away the perceptual cues that allow you to balance and maneuver. If you’re in there for half an hour, you have to be in a chair.”
So the next time you wish for some quiet time, remember that it could also drive you crazy.
That sounds terrible.
Read more: Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter
Over the past few weeks, you’ve heard Mitchell and I talk about waiting. This is on purpose. In order for us to fully appreciate noise, we have to experience silence. In order to fully appreciate the light, we have to sit in the dark. Silence and darkness are disorienting. Robbed of the clues we normally have to navigate and interact with the world that is around us, we are left stumbling, guessing, grabbing, waiting for it to end- waiting for sound to restart, waiting for light to break into the dark. But we must sit and wait. It is the agony and anticipation created by the uncertainty and disorientation of waiting in darkness and in silence that lets us know exactly what we have when light and sound return to us.
I want to take a couple of minutes this morning to engage your voices in this lesson, and so here’s what I want to ask you to do- I’m going to give you a moment to talk to the people around you
And how much more do we appreciate those things when we’ve been forced to go without.
I love the description of the anechoic chamber as a “deeply disorienting place.” We, too, experience deeply disorienting places that come in the form of life challenges we never expected, faith crises that could not have predicted, or the daily challenge to look at the hatred, pain, and fear that exist in our world and believe that God ultimately has control. These are anechoic chambers of their own.
But when those moments pass, when light comes, when new breath is found- we celebrate. What else can you do when the wait ends. Its like a kid who has been stuck in the car for an eternity (and by that I mean a 2 1/2 hour drive) on a drive to their grandparents house, and when they arrive and are set free from the bonds of their carseat they run- both to see their grandparents and to remember what its like to not be trapped.
Today, that’s what we do. We celebrate. We celebrate the birth of the savior, light breaking into darkness, Love fulfilling the hope held on to during the wait. is a psalm of celebration, one that is appropriate in celebration of the work of God both in the birth and life of Jesus and throughout history.

1 Sing to the LORD a new song!

Sing to the LORD, all the earth!

2 Sing to the LORD! Bless his name!

Share the news of his saving work

every single day!

3 Declare God’s glory among the nations;

declare his wondrous works

among all people

4 because the LORD is great

and so worthy of praise.

He is awesome beyond all other gods

5 because all the gods of the nations

are just idols,

but it is the LORD

who created heaven!

6 Greatness and grandeur

are in front of him;

strength and beauty

are in his sanctuary.

7 Give to the LORD,

all families of the nations—

give to the LORD glory and power!

8 Give to the LORD the glory due his name!

Bring gifts!

Enter his courtyards!

9 Bow down to the LORD

in his holy splendor!

Tremble before him, all the earth!

10 Tell the nations, “The LORD rules!

Yes, he set the world firmly in place;

it won’t be shaken.

He will judge all people fairly.”

11 Let heaven celebrate!

Let the earth rejoice!

Let the sea and everything in it roar!

12 Let the countryside

and everything in it celebrate!

Then all the trees of the forest too

will shout out joyfully

13 before the LORD because he is coming!

He is coming to establish justice

on the earth!

He will establish justice

in the world rightly.

He will establish justice

among all people fairly.

Why We Praise

This Psalm basically breaks down into two pieces. First, verses 1-6 explain why we praise the Lord. “his saving works”, “wondrous works,” “beyond all others,” “creator of all.” We praise the LORD because of everything God has done, is doing, and will do.
So I want to pause for a second and do something a little different. I want to ask you this morning what it is that God has done or is doing that pushes you to celebrate God’s work, and I want to you turn to the people around you, in front of you, or behind you, and share that with them. I’ll give you a minute.

How We Praise

The second half of the Psalm explains how we celebrate. We “give,” “enter his courtyard,” “bow down and tremble,” and then we “tell the nations,” and we witness the celebration of all creation, recognizing that even creation itself points us back to its creator, and we remind ourselves and others that it is the work of God to establish justice.
So what do we have to tell the world. This time of year that shouldn’t be too difficult. Mainstream radio stations play “Silent Night” and “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, and people who couldn’t tell you where in the bible the birth of Jesus is found have nativity scenes on their mantels in their homes. We celebrate because God chose to usher Jesus into the world in the form of a baby who experienced life as we do with all its struggles and joys. And we celebrate that inbreaking of light 2000 years later much the same as those who had some understanding of what was happening did at the time that it happened.

2 In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. 2 This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria. 3 Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. 4 Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea. 5 He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant. 6 While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. 7 She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.

Announcement to shepherds

8 Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. 9 The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified.

10 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. 11 Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. 12 This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, 14 “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”

15 When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened. Let’s confirm what the Lord has revealed to us.” 16 They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child. 18 Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. 20 The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told.

The work of God to establish justice for all comes in form of an infant, an amazing thing to celebrate and the story we are to tell.
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