Make a joyful noise unto God, all the earth:
Sing forth the glory of his name: Make his praise glorious. (Psalm 66:1-2.)
And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne; and books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works. (Revelation 20:12.)
When I first read Psalm 66:1, it seemed to me that making a “joyful noise” was an oxymoron. I consider myself more like the Grinch than Santa Claus because I sometimes hate all the “Noise! Noise! Noise!” that the holidays bring. Opportunities for peace and quiet are very rare during the Christmas season in a household filled with three kids, dozens of relatives, and an endless supply of telemarketers (who routinely forget to check their “do not call” lists). It is hard for me to imagine God wanting any more noise radiating from Planet Earth.
In the signal processing field, filtering out noise is essential before any joyful understanding can ever be realized. Sophisticated software algorithms and digital circuits specifically deal with eliminating noise so that a signal can be detected and successfully processed. Associating joy with noise seems counterintuitive from this perspective.
However, my understanding of Psalm 66 improved when I read Revelation 20 where it explained how we would be judged according to our works. It is more logical for me to equate our works with noise, since it is hard to imagine there is anything we could ever do (i.e., any noise we could make) with our short lifespan here on earth that would ever make any sort of significant difference affecting the universe. Yet it is all the many good things (however small) that collectively create a positive force that lasts and ultimately fulfills God’s will. I believe we are truly blessed that Saint Matthew’s offers us so many opportunities to experience first-hand the spiritual depth and meaning that are possible in our everyday lives which might otherwise be lost in the (not so joyful) noise of a busy secular society.
Christmas lists usually describe the things we want. And New Year’s resolutions usually describe the things we want to do. Perhaps by combining these two concepts we could create a list of joyful noises we are capable of making, and then define a New Year’s list to enumerate all the things God wants us to do. Checking items off of this list might make it so that 2007 doesn’t just rhyme with heaven, but also brings our world a step closer to it.