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Anything But Bored
ISAIAH 35:1-10, ISAIAH 40:1-11, REVELATION 19-21
I assume that everyone at some time experiences boredom. I hesitate to ask you to raise your hands if you have ever been bored, because some of you may mean right now. And I haven't even begun the sermon! You've heard about the little boy who watched with wide eyes an enthusiastic, exuberant preacher preach. The boy looked at the flamboyant preacher, looked at the pulpit, looked at the railing, and asked his mother, "What do we do if he gets out?" At any rate, the little boy wasn't bored!
Michael Nolan in the publication, "Youth," lists ways a youth can tell when he/she is bored. You Know You're Bored When.....you clean your room because you don't have anything better to do...the "beautiful music" radio station starts sounding kinda cool...you find the TV test pattern interesting...you start to memorize the nutritional information on the cereal box...you start counting the number of times Michael Jackson moans, groans, or grunts on one of his records...you go to the kitchen and put all the canned foods in alphabetical order.
I suspect that boredom among the young is on the increase today because of the increased pace. Have those of you in my generation watched any music videos on television? They are three-minute dramas. In the time it takes to sing a rock song, the actors have portrayed a mini-story. Even TV and radio commercials are telling stories. In thirty seconds, while selling perfume, autos, and computers, a mini-drama is enacted. I wonder if anyone has produced a video on the Christmas story. The announcement to Mary, trip to Bethlehem, birth of Jesus, adoration of the shepherds, trek of the three wise men, and the escape to Egypt would be reduced to a three minute dramatization.
No wonder, then, some modern youths who are hooked on videos are bored with real life, where it takes an entire lifetime to act out one's story. When they can't get a capsulized version, they are bored. How boring it must be for them to read a novel, to wait for days while the plot slowly unfolds. How boring it must be for a video enthusiast to listen to a sermon, to actually sit and listen to one person speak for eighteen minutes, with no visuals, no one dancing, no props; to listen to a person speak where the story has to be visualized within each listener's head, where the mind and mental resources are called into play. The purpose of a sermon is to encourage the listeners to think, come to some conclusions, apply the ideas to one's life, and make a decision to do something about it. How difficult it must be, how boring a sermon must be for those who are accustomed to responding emotionally, without much thinking. How boring it must be for video enthusiasts to sit in a classroom, listening to a teacher talk, or reading a book. Some folks are bored when life doesn't move along quickly, like a three minute video.
Some folks are bored with repetition. Christmas is difficult for some folks. They sigh, "Here we go again, how boring!" Same old songs; same decorations; same ornaments; same cast of characters: baby, mother, father who is somewhere there in the background (Joseph doesn't get much of a part in the Christmas story), shepherds, wise men, and Santa Claus with his reindeer led by red-nosed Rudolph; same Christmas muzak in the stores, which I must admit is very boring--generic music!
Folks who get bored with repetition also have a difficult time worshiping, for a worship service is a service of repetition. The liturgy is repeated. Why? Because we learn by repeating. We find our security in repeating rituals. We find meaning, foundation, and structure in our lives by repeating rituals, liturgy, and the stories of our faith. Stable families have rituals, traditions, history, customs. They may be boring at times, but they give life. Liturgy, rituals, repetition provide order and children and youth, especially today, need order in their lives. They need the repetition of weekly worship with the larger church family, doing the same things over and over.
What youths accustomed to three-minute dramas find boring is the waiting. They find longer dramas, novels, worship, and life in general boring because they don't like to wait. What people find boring about Christmas, liturgy, and rituals is the waiting. Because the same stories, songs, message don't seem to go anywhere, they are bored with the waiting. Many people don't like to wait, they find it boring. They want to celebrate now. They don't like Advent. They want Christmas.
They want pleasure now. They want immediate gratification, immediate satisfaction. They don't want to "put off." They want to leave school now, not wait for years and years of schooling before society says they are ready to graduate to life. They don't want to wait for marriage for sexual gratification. They want it now. They want the big job, the big chance, the big win, the lottery, NOW. They don't want to wait.
But, life doesn't work that way. Much of life is waiting. Gratification is postponed. Satisfaction is postponed. There is usually something missing. How many perfect events have you attended? How many perfect relationships have you experienced? How many perfect jobs have you had? How many perfect meals have you prepared? Perfection is rare. There is usually something missing, so we yearn, we long, we anticipate, we wait. Many folks can't handle the waiting. They get bored. They disguise the waiting with boredom.
But, Christians need never be bored. Oh, I shouldn't say "never." But, in the long run, boredom can be minimized by Christians. The long season of Advent teaches us how to wait. We prepare and wait for Christmas. We prepare and wait for the coming of the Lord. Boredom can be minimized by Christians who see the broader picture, who understand why we are waiting, who understand why complete fulfillment, satisfaction and achievement are not attained in this life. Christians understand that we are waiting for the coming of the Lord in all his glory to bring the kingdom of God to this earth as it is in heaven, that for which we pray in the Lord's Prayer. Christians who understand the larger picture are anything but bored. We wait with anticipation, eagerness, exhilaration, excitement, hope.
The Jews in captivity in Babylon could endure the deprivation, could endure the waiting because of the promised return to Jerusalem. The promise of going home gave them hope during the waiting period. We heard a glorious passage of scripture read this morning where Isaiah the prophet comforted his people with the promise of going home to Jerusalem. "The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad." Even the environment will celebrate. The desert will be watered and will blossom. The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. The lame man shall leap like a deer, and the dumb will suddenly find a tongue for singing. And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way. The unclean shall not pass over it, and fools shall not err therein. No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast cone up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing.
Over in chapter 40 of Isaiah, in a passage made famous by Handel's Messiah, the road home to Jerusalem will be smooth, without bumps, without pot holes, without treacherous curves. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain...Behold, the Lord God comes with might and his arm rules for him...He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms, he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. So will the captives be freed by the Lord and go home.
Those prophecies of Isaiah have become very important in Christian tradition, and we repeat them, over and over, every Advent. We tell the story over and over to remind us of our heritage, to give us hope for the future, to assure us of the ultimate triumph of God in human affairs. We wait. We wait for Christmas to celebrate the coming of the Lord as a baby born in Bethlehem. We wait for the coming of the Lord into our lives day by day. We wait for the final coming of the Lord in ultimate triumph.
Listen to these selected verses from the last chapters of Revelation, which give us a vivid picture, an exciting imagery of God's triumph. Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True...His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed which no one knows but himself. He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, followed him on white horses. From his mouth issues a sharp sword with which to smite the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, King of kings and Lord of lords. (Revelation 19:11-16) Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a great voice from the throne saying, "Behold the dwelling of God is with people. God will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away." And he who sat upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." (Revelation 21:1-5)
And, the Bible ends with these words, "Surely I am coming soon." "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen. (Revelation 22:20-21)
With this vision before us, with the promise of God's ultimate victory in our lives and in the world, how can we be bored!
© 1989 Douglas I. Norris