Faithlife Sermons

The Heart of Christmas: Joy

Christmas 2022  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Texts:
Luke 2:8-12 esp. Vs. 10
Luke 2:8-12 “In the same region [where Mary gave birth to Jesus] 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.””
Jesus is the good news of great joy for all people.
Matthew 2:9-11 esp. Vs. 10
Matthew 2:9-11 “After hearing the king, [the Magi] went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”
The Magi, or wise men, rejoiced at the star — which was just the SIGN of His coming.
The coming of Jesus changed and changes everything!
2000 years ago Jesus’ coming brought joy, GREAT joy, even in the midst of oppression, taxation, death, spiritual darkness, terrible immorality, and religious corruption.
2000 years ago — NOT today.
But maybe EVEN today Jesus’ coming can bring GREAT joy.
Jesus brings this GREAT joy in fulfillment of the prophecy of:
Psalm 45:7 (NASB95) You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of joy above Your fellows.
Only 2 of the Gospels give us the details, the nitty gritty, about the birth of Jesus.
Both of them include messages of Great Joy.
We must remember and WE MUST TELL everyone, that ,at the heart of Christmas is the birth of Jesus and the joy He brings.
It falls on us, the followers of Jesus, to tell — the world will not.
It will tell ANYthing and EVERYthing that will distract from the message of the coming of Jesus.
In order to tell the ACCOUNT, WE must be ambassadors of GREAT joy.
In the midst of a dreary world, with all of our own problems, that can be hard to do.
The circumstances of life have a way of robbing us of joy.
Disappointment, frustration, and loss can suck the very life from us; however, Jesus’s birth reminds us that, no matter how hard life is, we don’t have to go through it alone.
Oh how I wish the shooter in the Walmart at Chesapeak, VA had truly understood that.
In reading his “Death Note” left on his phone we understand that this tormented man had a KNOWLEDGE of God, a KNOWLEDGE of salvation through Jesus — but not a current EXPERIENCE of relationship with Jesus.
So close and yet so far away!
How terribly sad for him and those he killed.
God has come to us full of grace and truth, and that should bring us joy.
We can trust that Jesus’s presence WITH us and IN us will reveal the truth about our lives and at the same time will offer us the grace to see things change.
So, church. Can you feel it in the air?
The countdown has begun as we quickly move toward Christmas day and the celebration of the birth of Jesus!
Today we begin a sermon series where we seek to recover the heart of Christmas.
It is too easy to get lost in all the gifts, decorations, and parties and miss the central focus of Christmas.
Jesus was born to bring the gifts of joy, love, hope and peace, and that is the real reason for this season
This week, I want to introduce one piece of the heart of Christmas: a joy that is ours no matter the circumstances.
Illustration: To begin our discussion today, I want to share a few different scenarios, and tell me which ones would bring you the most joy.
Are you ready? If this would make you joyful, stand up. If not, stay seated. (Consider having graphics/photos on the screen to accompany each scenario).
Here is the first one: you go through the drive thru of Chick-fil-A, order your breakfast, and discover the car in front of you paid for it. Joy? Stand up or stay seated.
Ok, next scenario. You wake up Christmas morning and find that it snowed four inches overnight. Joy? Or maybe pain because you now have to shovel it. Stand up or stay seated.
Last one: you remember to water your Christmas tree enough so it doesn’t become dry and crispy and drop needles all over your floor. Joy or no?
(This illustration needs to introduce the idea that our joy often is connected to our circumstances.)
Maybe some of you saw these situations as reasons for joy.
This week’s sermon is so important because, for many of us, our joy is reflective of this illustration.
Our joy in life is largely connected to the circumstances in our lives.
When things are going well, we feel good.
When things are going poorly, we feel bad.
Our joy ebbs and flows.
I believe one aspect of the heart of Christmas is that Jesus came so that our joy would not have to fluctuate with our environment.
As John began his gospel letter, he gave a different perspective on the birth of Jesus.
Rather than tell us his iteration with the shepherds, magi, and manger, he gave us a big-picture explanation of what took place in Bethlehem.
What John wrote is a cause for joy no matter what we face in life.
Read John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
What John described is known as the incarnation.
Coming from the Latin word carne, which means flesh, the incarnation was God putting skin on and becoming one of us.
Verse 14 says the Word became flesh. (Word is capitalized because it is the person of Jesus.)
He is called the Word because he perfectly embodies all of scripture in human flesh by the way he lived here on earth.
When Jesus was born in the manger, he was God coming to live among us—as one of us—with skin and bone, flesh and blood.
This passage gives us two reasons for a joy that does not have to change with the seasons or shift with our situations.
It can be a constant in our lives and a grounding attitude in the face of all the world has to offer.
Scripture: John 1:14 // Romans 5:8 // 1 John 4:9

POINT # 1 – WE CAN HAVE JOY BECAUSE GOD CAME TO US

A common misconception people carry around with them is that to be reunited with God in right relationship with him, we must work super hard to be perfect, or strive to make our way to Him.
One of the greatest joy robbers in our lives is thinking we can never be good enough.
We are broken and flawed people who hurt others, we make mistakes, and we live selfish lives.
If we are relying on our abilities to earn a connection with God, we will always be disappointed.
But the reality is that God steps into the mess of our lives.
He comes to us.
That should give us GREAT joy.
It can OFTEN be hard for us to find reason for joy in our circumstances;
however, if we look closely, we might see God coming near to us like He did that first Christmas night
to let us know He is making something beautiful of and in our lives when we are tempted to feel hopeless.
Joy is at the heart of Christmas because knowing that we could never make it to him, God came to us.
It is the only religion in the world where the deity does what is necessary to unite with humanity.
Paul emphatically makes this statement in the book of Romans as he insists we can be saved through Jesus.
Read Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
For Paul, there is not a naughty list and a good list that we have to work hard to escape or earn.
The gift of God’s grace is offered to us generously without price because we could never afford it on our own.
Romans 6:23 (NASB95) For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
While we were sinners, Christ died for us.
This is why the characters in the Christmas story are so overjoyed—from the shepherds in the field to Simeon at the temple—because the long-awaited arrival of the Messiah meant God had finally come to rescue us.
The second reason joy can be a constant reality for us in our lives is because of how much God loves us and is committed to our transformation through His power.

POINT #2 – GOD LOVES US JUST AS WE ARE AND TOO MUCH TO LEAVE US THAT WAY

Looking further in John chapter one we find the author telling his readers that it is through Jesus that we see the glory and fullness of God.
His arrival among us should fill us with joy because not only did God come close to us, but He came because he loves us.
Do you realize that you are loved by God?
Not just tolerated or put up with but loved! Deeply loved.
In fact, John says this love that God has for us is like that of a father for his children. Jesus came from the Father full of grace and truth.
This is key to understanding our second reason for abiding joy.
When Jesus came to us, He came full of grace.
This grace that John writes about is the Greek word charis, which means favor, kindness, or a gift of blessing.
Like a wrapped gift shared from one to another can bring joy to our hearts, so this gift of Jesus is grace from God.
We haven’t earned it. We don’t deserve it.
But God offers it to us, and when we recognize it, it fills us with joy.
God loves us just the way we are!
Jesus also came full of truth.
The word John uses here is the word aletheia, which means divine reality revealed to man or a straightforwardness.
Jesus holds grace in one hand that allows us to be accepted into his family, and in the other hand he holds truth that shows us the areas of our lives that must be transformed to live the fullest life possible.
The book of 1 John expounds upon this idea as well.
Read 1 John 4:9 “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.”
John insists the reason Jesus came to us and manifested his love among us is because He desires for us to find incredible joy in him.
In order for this to happen, it requires a gift of truth and grace.
It is the most loving thing to do for another—to embrace with full acceptance and humble truth telling.
Back to that thought of grace.
Grace is a word that shows up in the church a lot, but that is because it is the way in which we are able to live with joy.
Our heavenly Father sent Jesus to a manger in Bethlehem because He wanted to dwell among us to demonstrate his amazing grace and life-changing truth.
We can experience joy in our lives no matter the circumstances because we can be confident in knowing that God is with us, and God is for us.
The late pastor Charles Spurgeon said it this way:
“There is a marvelous medicinal power in joy. Most medicines are distasteful; but this, which is the best of all medicines, is sweet to the taste, and comforting to the heart. This blessed joy is very contagious. One dolorous spirit brings a kind of plague into the house; one person who is wretched seems to stop all the birds from singing wherever he goes . . . [But] the grace of joy is contagious. Holy joy will oil the wheels of your life’s machinery. Holy joy will strengthen you for your daily labor. Holy joy will beautify you and give you an influence over the lives of others.”
This Christmas may you come to find at the heart of this holiday a deep and abiding joy because of the love of God and the sacrifice of Jesus.
It holds the power to change us and to change the world.

I need GRACE and TRUTH operating in my life.

Come to Jesus in prayer.
Repent of your sins and surrender to Him to be the Lord of your life.

The Lord’s Supper

When we know who He is and what He has done.
NOT just a head-knowledge, but a heart knowledge that changes our lives.
We do what He told us to do.
We remember His sacrifice:
Sermon Tie-in
This morning joy is here in the Person of Jesus.
He died for our sins.
But He isn’t dead.
He rose from the dead and defeated death.
He wants us to remember what He did.
To lean on Him.
So, He gave us a “supper.”
A way of remembering His sacrifice for us.
A sacrifice that gives us victory.
Preparation
Jesus invites you to open the door of your heart and invite Him in to share this “meal” with Him.
Revelation 3:20 NASB 2020
20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.
Before we partake of this meal we need to examine ourselves.
We don’t partake lightly or flippantly or just out of habit.
We prepare:
2 Corinthians 13:5 (NCV)
5 Look closely at yourselves. Test yourselves to see if you are living in the faith. …
Prayer
Receive Elements
All invited - you don’t have to be a member
Take a piece of the Bread and one of the cups and hold it until we all partake together
Hymn: At the Cross
Bread
Matthew 26:26 NASB 2020
26 Now while they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”
Prayer
I. End prayer with prayer from Seder:
A. Blessed are you, O Lord our God, who brings forth bread from the earth.
Cup
Matthew 26:27–28 NASB 2020
27 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is being poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.
Prayer
I. End prayer with prayer from Seder:
A. Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.
Jesus is Coming
This meal reminds us that Jesus is coming soon. Jesus told us in:
Revelation 22:12 NASB 2020
12 “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to reward each one as his work deserves.
Hymn: He’s Coming Soon
Think: Jesus is committed to being honest with us about what we need to repent from. He is also committed to extending grace and mercy to remind us that we are loved beyond measure.
Feel: God wanted to be near to us in order to rescue us. The arrival of Jesus brings us joy because he is the very presence of the divine.
Do: Receive the correction of God through Christ. At the same time, receive the grace of God through Christ.
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