voices

The following is a message I got to give at church this morning. 
Perhaps I’m a bit windy…
There’s a television show on NBC about individuals who audition, train, and compete using their voices. It’s a singing show, properly entitled “The Voice.” This show centers around four musicians who search for amazing voices to mentor and turn into stars. I like this show because of the first episode, the audition. The musicians or as the show calls them “coaches” have their backs turned to the individuals auditioning. Thus, their opinions are based solely on the voice they hear. The rest of the competition hangs on their voice.
Not all of us are talented enough to be on a singing show like “The Voice,” but we all have voices. The sound of your voice is made by the air rushing from your lungs past your vocal chords, making them vibrate. It’s like taking a rubber band, stretching it, and plucking it. Based on the size of the rubber band, the twang sound you hear varies from high-pitch to low-pitch.
In the same way, based on the size of your vocal chords and larynx, your voice can be high or low. And your voice changes as you get older. Before puberty, your vocal chords are small and thin and your larynx is small making your voice high. As you go through puberty, the larynx gets bigger and the vocal chords lengthen and thicken, so your voice gets deeper. As your body adjusts to this changing equipment, your voice may “crack” or “break.” To you young gentlemen going through this, may I encourage you by saying this process only lasts a few months. In the mean time, I may chuckle as your voice squeaks occasionally.
Today’s Gospel message is about a voice. The name of the voice was John. He said himself, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness.”  John was on earth to bear witness about the light. The light being Jesus.
We’re in this season of Advent, and Advent is all about voices. Advent is the paradox between light and dark. Advent is the time we prepare and we wait. We sing about having a ‘holly, jolly christmas’. We bake goodies, we decorate our houses, and we buy gifts. We send out greeting cards with nice words like Rejoice, Celebrate, Joy, Hope, and Peace. But in reality, those words don’t really describe the year 2011. If we’re honest, words like Loss, Betrayal, Regret, Loneliness, and Anger better describe our last year. Advent in the church forces us to be honest. Because the church is the safe place where we can speak of our reality. Just because the mistletoe is hung doesn’t mean he didn’t break your heart. Just because we anticipate the birth of the baby Jesus, doesn’t mean we forget about the baby that was miscarried. Just because we smile as we watch our children write letters to Santa Claus, doesn’t mean we won’t have to do without in order to put gifts under the tree. Just because Christmas is coming doesn’t mean the cancer is leaving.
I can’t stand up here and speak of the coming Messiah without acknowledging our reality. Reality is, this world is broken and messed up. And we are too. There is hunger, envy, tension, sickness, rumors, bitterness, death, divorce, fires, and layoffs. Orphans are starving. Spouses are breaking their vows. Wars are beginning. Children are bullying. Churches are fighting. It is in this season of Advent that we admit these realities in our lives and we wait, praying “Come, Lord Jesus.”
Because Christmas will come. The baby will be born and placed in a feeding trough. The angels will sing. The wisemen will bring gifts. We wait throughout Advent for God to come near. And God doesn’t just come near, but He is with us. That’s what Emmanuel means: God with us. We anticipate the Messiah, bringing hope and restoration to this broken world. Isaiah spoke of God restoring that which was once in ruins. The psalmist announced God’s faithfulness and love for His children. John testified about the light. This Light is Jesus. And darkness cannot overcome this Light. We all have darkness in our lives. We want to hide it and pretend it’s not there. But God is not surprised or offended by the dark parts of ourselves. It is in the darkness that the Light, Jesus, shines brightly.  Emmanuel: God with us. God with us in our darkness. God with us in our hurting and grieving. God with us in our doubts and questions. God with us in our fears and anxieties. God with us in our rejections and failures. God with us in our sins and regrets.
This world has lots of voices. Voices of despair and destruction. Voices that speak lies and malicious stories. Voices that pronounce darkness and hopelessness. We hear these voices.  But counteracting these voices are more voices. Voices that speak the exact opposite. Voices of peace and restoration. Voices that bless and encourage. Voices that announce new beginnings and hope.
It is in the season of Advent that we all become preachers. We all become the voice crying out in the wilderness. We testify about the Light. We sing songs about the coming Savior. We write notes of encouragement and love. We speak of second chances and renewal. We live as if there’s real joy and lasting peace, because there is. We acknowledge our present reality and we announce that something new is happening. We sit in our darkness and point to the Light that is coming.
John was the voice. John knew there was Someone greater, and his job was to prepare everyone, point them in the right direction. John didn’t change human history, but he pointed to the One, Jesus, who changed the world. John was the voice crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord.”
Maybe your voice is quiet, reserved, almost like a whisper. You don’t want to speak. You think you have nothing to say. Maybe your voice is booming loud, for the next county to hear. You have a big mouth and always have something to say. You think your opinion matters most. Maybe your voice is squeaking. You’re embarrassed and refuse to speak. You are worried about getting made fun of. I don’t know what you think about your own voice. But this I do know: You have a voice. One that was given by God Almighty. And with the gift of the voice, He gave you something to say. But here’s the beautiful part—you choose. What are you going to do with your voice? What will you speak of? To whom will you share?
Today, I am the voice crying out in the wilderness: God hasn’t forgotten. God will not break His promises. God hears you and loves you. God has come near to be with you in your difficulty. God is getting His hands dirty, working with pitiful old me and you to bring about a new Kingdom. He is reversing that which was. He is building up that which had been torn down. He is binding up the broken-hearted. God is revitalizing the weary and worn-out. God is forgiving the murderer. God is comforting the grief-stricken widow.
And God is giving each of us a voice. How are you using your voice?

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