If I’m working at home at night sometimes I’ll put something on the tv for background noise. I’ve found the greatest thing for it, actually. It’s a hunting show called “Meat Eater” and it’s perfect because it’s generally quiet. The host, Steve Rinella, hunts all over the US for game of all kinds. Steve’s a talker, about lots of stuff, but most of the monologue is Steve whispering – trying to be quiet. In the last episode I watched he spent a full 3 minutes whispering about the beauty of the quiet of nature – with time for yourself, with your thoughts, and with no other noise. Quite often he’ll stop and say something like, “Man, listen to how still it is…”
You may not like hunting, but I bet that one aspect is at least a little bit appealing – the idea of stillness. Our lives are so full of sound – smartphone notifications, television, youtube, automobiles, sirens, white noise, the chatter of people. So full of sound are our lives that it’s appealing to find a place that’s totally other – maybe for you it’s a trail-run, or room in the library, or the Barcalounger in your basement at night – that place where it’s just you with your thoughts in the stillness.
As even our sanctuary reminds you now, it’s not very still out in the world. The noise of Christmas is already upon us. The noise of all the giving and the getting. The noise of others telling us what we need. As one of our Board of Ed members recently said in a devotion – the noise of everything that isn’t Christ and the lie that Christmas is truly about the joy of family and finding love or the “gift of giving”. Of course, this decoration for Christmas, it’s meant to call us to something else. In Advent, come here for an escape from all that noise. In these midweek Advent services a hymn brings a quiet theme to our worship – it says, “My Soul in Stillness Waits”. It gives us opportunity to quietly think about what it means to wait for our Savior Jesus in this noisy world. Tonight, think about this blessed stillness as Jesus describes it in Luke 11:27-28.
27 As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” 28 He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
That woman was marvelling at Jesus and his teaching. So she sounded this praise of Jesus by way of his mother – how blessed your mother must be to have a son like you – is the thought. And it’s a significant one – her words reveal a question that’s floating behind all the noise in the world, a question the noise is trying to answer: “What does it mean to be blessed?”
Let’s use Mary, Mother of Jesus to help us answer. Think about how you picture Mary. Think about that night Jesus was born. How do you picture Mary at that moment? Or how do you picture in your mind’s eye the Blessed Virgin herself – as she speaks with Gabriel, or talks with Joseph, meets with Elizabeth? We don’t “venerate” Mary, but there is still is something there isn’t there? I’m willing to bet there’s a lot of golden glow in your Mary scenes. Don’t you look at Mary and say, “Wow, truly blessed is she — to be God’s mom, the woman chosen to bring the Savior into the world!” And by saying it we might mean something like, “What an extra-special person she must have been! How blessed!” Maybe even, “How different from me…”
See, there’s the question as you hear it most often, “Am I blessed?” Your experience is probably very different from how glorious we imagine Mary’s was (mother of God, connected to Christ). You have sicknesses and tragedies, moments where you don’t get your way, difficult marriages, difficult children, bad parents – things are normal in this unimpressive way… And they’re noisy because our hearts and the world cry out, “You would be blessed if only you had this…” “You can be if you stop believing that…” “You will be if you dothis…” In fact, that was the noise people around Jesus were making when the woman praised him. The Pharisees had refused to be “with Jesus” because he didn’t love what they did every day – all the things they thought could make them blessed. They were things that made them Jesus’ enemies, in truth. These kinds of things noisily call for our attention in the world too.
Do you remember, how Mary characterized herself? She responded to the angel Gabriel when he promised that she, a virgin, would have the God-baby…she said, “May it be to me as you have said.” When Elizabeth her cousin visited, as we’ll hear next week, she said that Mary was blessed, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” That’s very much like what Jesus said to the woman, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
This stillness here is blessed but only because here are people who hear the word of God. Still all the voices that tell you what you need and what you don’t have, that promise how better things will be if you do this or that, that worry you over the things that have happened…quiet them and listen. Blessed are those who hear God’s Word. Because his Word tells you what he has done. In a way, it’s a bit like looking out over a beautiful forested valley – where the wind is whistling softly in the pines and the clouds hang around the hills – the kind of view that hushes you because by talking you’d almost spoil it – there’s nothing you can add to it. God calls you to stop, and be quiet, and just observe. He calls you to observe his Savior. In his Word you see the Christ, the one promised, and you hear what he’s about. The world loudly cries out everything it thinks you need and ardently avoids the one problem we all have – that of sin and its guilt because we haven’t listened to God’s Word. Jesus tells us that if we are not with him, if we’re with all the noise of the world and what it promises, then we are against him – he convicts our sinfulness. But Jesus is also the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” In him, hear God say to you that no matter if no one else loves you in the world – he has loved you in sending his Son to die; should you have nothing of the riches this world loves, you are rich beyond measure because Jesus declares you holy before God; should you be troubled and plagued with difficulty, you truly do have peace – because he promises eternal life with him where none of this sin will be. Stop, and listen, wait in stillness and hear: he promises all of this in the Savior he reveals in his Word – in Jesus for whom we wait.
And then, the rest naturally follows: this stillness here is blessed then as here are people who obey God’s Word. That word “obey” is noisy with law – stuff we have to do. But, literally, it has connotations of guarding and keeping something you cherish. Like those important things your father said to you – the ones you’ve never forgotten, that you even share with your own kids. Think of God’s Word in this way – as something so important you prize it.
Keep the Word of God. Believe it. Trust the Savior of whom it tells. Trust that he has done everything to save you; everything to show you abundant love. Believe it though the world says you need so much more and calls you to trust in many other things. Wait in stillness and keep God’s Word as the one word totally worthy of your faith.
Keep the Word of God. Cherish what it says like the family heirloom you wouldn’t sell for all the world. Like the psalmist proclaimed, “I delight far more in what you tell me about living than in gathering a pile of riches.” Cherish and guard what God tells you more than what the voices of your heart claim will make you wealthy and comfortable. Wait in stillness and keep God’s Word as your most prized possession.
Keep the Word of God. Do it. The psalmist again, “I’ve banked your promises in the vault of my heart so I won’t sin myself bankrupt.” Keep in your heart the love God has richly poured out on you in Jesus and then generously pour out everything you have for what he says, and don’t waste a bit on what this world cries about. Wait in stillness and keep God’s Word as the way of life you choose.
And you will be God’s blessed people – not by association with awesomeness or by accomplishments God will laud. You will be God’s blessed people who know what he says about your salvation and for your holy lives. And you will be able to keep that Word dear in your hearts and as a guide for what you do.
Tonight, over the next weeks, take a quiet moment here to step away from the noisy world and to be blessed in Jesus. His Word will fill us with joy and peace as we wait for his Christmas coming and long for his final return. Amen.