Celebrating Jesus at Christmas (Week 3)

“Jesus is Joy!”

Luke 2:8-12, (NASB)

Christmas is a season of joy, but what does it mean to have joy when so many aren’t happy? How can we experience the promised joy of Christmas? Let’s look at the Bible to learn how to find true joy and live with it in our everyday lives, this season and into the New Year.

 

A Christmas Scripture reading from Luke 2:8–12,

8    In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.

9    And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.

10  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;

11  for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

12  “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

 

The good news of Jesus Christ is the “good news of great joy which will be for all the people”.

 

This is the gift of Christmas! Listen to the words of the famous hymn, “Joy to the World”:

[Verse 1]
Joy to the world, the Lord has come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing

[Verse 2]
Joy to the world, the Savior reigns
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy

[Verse 3]
No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found
Far as, far as the curse is found

[Verse 4]
He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love, and wonders of His love
And wonders, wonders of His love

 

Joy is an important promise of the Bible, so important that we must memorize it and persevere in the promise of joy as greater than our happiness or sadness, our situations and circumstances. Joy is rooted in the Christmas story because joy comes from God in fulfillment of His promise to bring “Joy to the world [because] the Lord has come!”

 

Here is today’s BIG IDEA:   Joy is the gift of the Lord’s Presence!

 

Listen to Psalm 16:5-11 to hear this big idea in Scripture:

The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. I will bless the Lord who has counseled me; Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night. I have set the Lord continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely. For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. (emphasis added)

 

We know this big idea is true because its converse is a daily reality for so many. Listen to what happens when God removes His presence. From Lamentations 5:15, “The joy of our hearts has ceased; Our dancing has been turned into mourning.” (emphasis added) The gift of joy ceased because God had removed the gift of His presence from Jerusalem. And we know that God would not restore Jerusalem for 70 years, but until that time He let the land lay barren as judgment for the rebellion of His chosen people. The author of Lamentations is Jeremiah, known as the weeping prophet, but even in the midst of judgment, God does not leave His people without hope. He gives Jeremiah this promise of hope found in Lamentations 3:22-26,

The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently For the salvation of the Lord.

 

Because God’s lovingkindnesses never cease and His compassions never fail, and they are new every morning, I can go through each day with joy. That is why I start every day with the singing of “This is the Day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it” and why I start each morning with a set apart time of Bible reading, prayer, and listening to God so that I cultivate an immediate awareness of God’s presence in my life. How can you start your day becoming  aware of the presence of the Lord? Is there a favorite song you could sing?

 

While the people of Israel would experience a return to Jerusalem, they would not experience the fullness of this promise until the declaration of the angel that first Christmas morning: Jesus Christ is the Person of the promise and He promises to give His joy to us! Listen to Jesus’ words from John 15:8-11,

My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. (emphasis added)

 

Jesus is joy! Jesus is the gift from God to bring about the salvation of the LORD! This is why we can sing, “I’ve got joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.”

 

The joy of Jesus is different and distinct from happiness or sadness. Joy is not an emotion; it is a gift from God to every person who receives His Son Jesus Christ and puts their trust in Him for their salvation. Just like with our salvation, joy is not something we earn or work for. Joy is what we have in a personal relationship with Jesus! Joy is a grace of God and the grace of God brings joy! Joy is something you have, but it is also a presence at work in you.

 

So, in my life, I not only start my day with time with the Lord to become aware of His presence tangibly and practically, but I am also learning to practice His presence throughout my day, as I go… That means I am learning to pay attention to the work of the Holy Spirit – eyes open to the presence of God in and through me, in and through others. How about you? Are there ways you can start practicing paying attention to the presence of God in your life and in the activities and events of your days? Are you aware of God’s presence in you as you go about your day?

 

But we have to do more than know we have joy; we are commanded to be a joyful people! That takes the grace of God, too. Let me be honest, I know that this seems to be an incredibly insensitive command of God because we all experience so much pain and grief on this side of Heaven. I get it…there are times for grief and lament in our lives. I am not leading us to a Pollyannaish faith or a “happy-clappy” Christianity. Remember how James 1:2 commands us, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials…”

 

I am teaching us that this command of God is not insensitive, it is a part of His lovingkindness and compassion from a loving Father to His children, that are new every morning. Our joy is us coming in agreement with who God is, not us coming in agreement with the evil of this world and the depravity of a fallen creation. Listen to Jesus talk about the importance of joy to His disciples from John 16:20-22,

Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy. Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.

 

Just as Nehemiah said at the rebuilding of Jerusalem after such a long period of suffering and hardship: “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

 

Did you hear that? Joy is strength! When we manifest the presence of God in our situations and circumstances, we are bringing the God of the universe to bear on whatever we are facing! This is us facing the giants of our lives and this world with faith, hope, and love!

 

After a period of deep grief over his sin and a painful loss of a child, King David cries out to God in Psalm 51:11-12, “Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.”

 

Are you seeing the intimate connection between joy and God’s presence? This is why we need to learn to be aware of God’s presence through the Holy Spirit in our everyday lives as we go about our day. Paul teaches us that joy is in the “Fruit of the Spirit” that God gives to us when we first believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. God manifests joy in us and we are to manifest what we have and who we are in Christ by putting aside our flesh and passions so that we can walk in submission to the Holy Spirit. There is power in a submitted obedient life and one of the greatest powers God gives us through His Holy Spirit is the ability to be joyful! Paul teaches us in Galatians 5:22-23,

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

 

We are strengthened to live faithfully to God’s commands by the joy of our salvation – the presence of God in us. When we lose our joy we find obedience to be burdensome and incongruent with our circumstances. When we walk away from God and sin against Him and disobey His commandments we lose the awareness of the joy of our salvation and do not manifest the presence of God as we once did – we find it hard to practice His presence and sing worship songs. This becomes a vicious cycle that rational thought actually reinforces. But this is why we must sing every day and why we must read our Bible every day and why we must pray. Only the Holy Spirit can lead us to rejoice always, again I say rejoice! Joy changes everything!!!! Joy is a discipline of the Christian life…

 

There is power in rejoicing, which is the outward expression of joy, because joy is the manifestation of the person of Christ in you – you are putting Jesus on display for all to see. Rejoicing is a declaration of your faith, hope, and love! Rejoicing has power over darkness and dominion over evil spirits because it is bringing the presence of Jesus to your situation. That is why Paul says, “Rejoice always” in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 and again, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). There is so much power in joy – it is an atmosphere changer! Both in you and outside of you – a truly joyful person is infectious!

 

Friends, I know there is every reason to weep or lament. I read the news, too. I work with people every day, in some of the hardest situations of life. I am living in the real world, right there with you. We are commanded to be joyful, not because there isn’t suffering in the world, but because there is hope in the new heaven and new earth, in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the dead, in the communion of the saints, and in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Our faith and hope call us to rejoice, especially in the midst of our weeping and lamenting. Because our suffering does not tell the whole story – Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection does!

 

The Christmas story is the beginning of the “good news of great joy which will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10b). Joy doesn’t come from singing a Christmas carol, but believing in the truth it proclaims: “Joy to the World [because] the Lord has come”! The key to experiencing the joy is found in the first verse of this famous hymn: Let every heart prepare Him room”.

 

If you don’t make room for God’s presence to dwell in your heart, then the joy offered to the world that Christmas morning 2,019 years ago will not enter your life. I want you to live in the fullness of God’s joy, so please this Christmas, invite the Christ of Christmas into your life.  
 
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