A Joyful Noise

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of Christmas at my grandparents’ house. We lived about two hours north of them, so visiting them was always a treat, but Christmas was the highlight of the year. My grandparents’ home was like a magnet, pulling together our extended family to reconnect with one another and to celebrate the birth of the Christ child. Throughout the day, the house would slowly fill with joyful noise as aunts, uncles, and cousins arrived. We children would run into the house, always going straight for the tree, to eagerly look for our names on the presents below. At dinner, the adults would gather around the dining room table to eat grandma’s home-cooked bologna, mashed potatoes, and flatbread, while we children enjoyed the same meal in an adjoining room. Plenty of small hands pitched in to help clean up, as the presents couldn’t be opened until the work was done.

As I reflect on Christmas at my grandparents’ home, two things stand out to me. The first is how busy my grandmother always seemed to be. Hosting a dozen-plus people is no small task, even when they all help out! The second thing I remember is how happy it all seemed to make her. As Grandma served, she did so with joy. I never heard her complain, and I never once doubted that she wanted all of us there.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who 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 (Ps. 100:1-2, ESV).

My grandmother served her family with gladness for so many years. It brought her great joy and gave her purpose to serve—to work hard in preparation to see her family together again. The Bible tells us that we are to serve the Lord with gladness. So often we think of serving the Lord as something burdensome or joyless. But oh, the lessons we can learn from a loving grandmother: going to the grocery store, cleaning her home, decorating the tree—all to hear the joyful noise of family gatherings. For that joy, no amount of work is too much, no task is too burdensome.

There is no greater model of a servant for us than Jesus. Jesus came to serve. The book of Hebrews tells us, “[F]or the joy that was set before him [he] endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2, ESV). Jesus suffered that we might be reunited with our Father in heaven, and nothing brings him greater joy.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, and one day you will enter his gates with praise. You will find your seat at the banquet prepared for you before the beginning of time, and your joy will know no end.
Rev. Troy Tysdal, D.Min. is President of Lutheran Brethren Seminary in Fergus Falls, Minnesota.

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