We are continuing our series on Advent.
As we saw last week it is unusual for a Baptist Church to celebrate Christmas using the word Advent.
But the word advent just simply means the coming of a notable Person, thing or event.
And as such we are celebrating the coming of the Lord in the past, present and future.
In the past He came as a babe that was wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.
In the present He comes through the person and work of the Holy Spirit.
In the Future He comes as King of kings and Lord of lords to rule and reign on this earth.
The advent candles is a long standing tradition in many churches and homes starting sometime in the early 1800’s.
Often shown on a wreath made with evergreen, holly and berries.
The evergreen represents everlasting life, the holly—the thorns, the berries—the blood of Christ, the pine cones—the resurrection or new life.
Although I am using the candles here on the table before us, I am not sticking to the traditional, often over ritualized order.
Last week we started with the candle of Hope.
We saw that we have hope in the person of Jesus Christ and the watchful expectation of His coming!
And What a day that will be!
Hope is vital for every human being!
We need hope, but we also can’t just sit around and hope!
While we wait, we work.
While we work the second candle here on the table reminds us of the Joy we can have as we look at the birth, life, and ministry of Jesus to us.
When the shepherds were in their fields that night so long ago, and the angel appeared to them, the first words from the angels were words of joy.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
The result of this encounter, with not only the angels, but the the child Jesus Christ Himself, It was pure Joy!
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
I have struggled with having joy this last couple of weeks.
I’m not sure what has happened, but it has been difficult to get into the Christmas spirit this year.
The truth is, and I confess it now before you, I have not been obedient to God.
Having Joy is a command!
11 Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous: And shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.
4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.
11 But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: Let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: Let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee.
16 Rejoice evermore.
I could go on and on, because the Bible commands it often.
So if it is a command of God for us to rejoice, how do we get this joy, when we don’t feel it?
This morning I want to look at Scripture to see how joy is not dependent upon our feelings, but rather on our choices.
Let us see where our joy comes from...
I. Joy Comes through the Spirit
I. Joy Comes through the Spirit
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
When we don’t yield to the Holy Spirit in our lives, we do not experience the fruit of the Spirit.
Yielding to the Spirit is an every moment thing!
Joy is dependent on our choice, are we going to choose to yield to the Holy Spirit and thereby receive the fruit of the Spirit, including Joy.
The Holy Spirit enables us to live joyfully no matter what the circumstances.
In the book of John chapter 1, the record of John the Baptist is given.
Turn with me to John 1:19-27
19 And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?
20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.
21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.
22 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?
23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.
24 And they which were sent were of the Pharisees.
25 And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?
26 John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not;
27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.
John is a great example of joy, from the earliest age, John was filled with the Holy Spirit.
In fact, John was filled from his mother’s womb
15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.
After Mary was told that she would give birth to Jesus, she went into the hill country, to Judah.
When she entered the house of Zacharias and greeted her cousin Elisabeth, the Bible says that John leapt for joy inside Elizabeth’s womb.
41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:
Elisabeth was about 6 months along when this happened.
The baby inside her, John the Baptist, filled with the Holy Spirit already, was filled with joy at the arrival of the woman who was carrying the Messiah.
So, John was filled with joy because he was filled (controlled) by the Holy Spirit.
Joy comes through the Holy Spirit.
If we will just yield…everyday…all day…we will be filled with joy as well.
It is easy to become addicted to negative feelings of anxiety or despondency.
According to scientific research 80% of the average persons thoughts are negative, and 95% of our thoughts are repetitive.
They discovered the more negative a thought, the more often we return to it.
This is the natural man, but the old man was crucified, we need to be controlled by the Holy Spirit and live in newness of life!
Yield to the Holy Spirit and have Joy!
II. Joy comes through Obedience
II. Joy comes through Obedience
One of the great lessons from John’s life is that he was obedient to God’s calling, no matter the outcome.
As he is questioned by the Pharisees, here in this passage we read earlier, he remains firm in his convictions.
It’s clear that when God called him to go, he did so with great confidence and assurance that God’s plan was still in effect.
We often curb our ideas, which are formulated often through fear of outcome, according to our desires.
But instead we need to obey God’s commands, and find out what He wants and go there and do that!
Eugene Peterson, an American theologian that I don’t often quote, but he said “The assumption of spirituality is that always God is doing something before I know it. So the task is not to get God to do something I think needs to be done, but to become aware of what God is doing so that I can respond to it and participate and take delight in it.”
In other words, my task in the Christian life is not to try to get God to do what I want Him to do, but to find out what God wants and Obey that.
John was obedient to his call from God.
He was called to be the one that Isaiah prophesied about in Isaiah 40:3
3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
John obeyed even in the face of Danger.
He called out Herod about his immoral relationship with Herodias.
This eventually led to his death, and yet John was obedient.
“But what does this have to do with Joy?” You ask.
I’m so glad you asked!
Look at these verses!
10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. 11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
Jesus said these words have I spoken unto you…what words…If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love...
So these words Jesus spoke SO THAT the Joy of Jesus might remain in you…that your joy might be full.
Joy is directly dependent upon obedience.
We can see this in the life of backslidden Christians if you look carefully.
People often display their happy mask, but when you get down to the heart of it, the disobedient Christian does not have joy.
Because Jesus said, if you obey his commands, your joy will be full.
I have said often that growing up I didn’t want to be a pastor, but I don’t want to leave the impression that I am stuck being a pastor.
The truth is I can’t imagine doing anything other than pastoring the Mills Memorial Baptist Church.
I don’t want to give the impression that this is second choice!
The truth is pastoring is now my first choice!
I was just too thick headed to see it at the time.
The truth is obeying God, no matter what it is that He asks, is the best way to be happy—to have real joy!
So if you want to have joy, you must be filled (yielded) to the Holy Spirit, and you must be obedient.
Then the third principle I see about Joy is perhaps from a different perspective than you might think...
III. Joy comes through Anticipation
III. Joy comes through Anticipation
Timothy Paul Jones from the Gospel Coalition reminds us in his article, “Why Celebrate Advent” that Advent is really a season of waiting, and the waiting is critical to appreciating the arrival of Jesus—in any context.
“In a religious [social environment] that has fixated itself on using Jesus to provide seekers with their most convenient lives here and now [live stream services, hot coffee waiting, church info available now on websites or apps, etc], Advent is a particularly awkward intrusion. Advent links our hearts with those of ancient prophets who pined for a long-promised Messiah but [they] passed long before his arrival”
Advent truly is about waiting!
And there is a lot of waiting in this time of year!
In Advent we wait to light another candle.
we wait to see our loved ones open their presents
We wait for the next big event, party, or cantata (by the way remind you that our cantata is this Saturday at 7pm)…we are full of anticipation this time of year.
The joy of anticipation is almost tangible.
My family went to Sight and Sound theater in Lancaster, PA this year. We had watched one of the DVDs from Sight and Sound and loved it. One night during the pandemic we had the opportunity to rent one of their performances over the internet, and it was an exciting night for our family during a very dreary and monotonous season. On our way to Pennsylvania, you could tell that was the highlight of the trip. All time on the trip was measured by how much longer until we saw the performance.
When the day arrived and we got to the theater we looked around, and found our seats and you could just feel a buzz of excitement, especially in our row. Then it started, and thankfully it truly lived up to the hype. We loved it.
What do we anticipate the most in this Christian life...the coming of the Lord.
In John the Baptist’s day, they anticipated the first coming and ministry of the Christ.
26 John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; 27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. 28 These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing. 29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. 30 This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. 31 And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.
You can hear it in his voice, “Behold the Lamb of God!”
He’s Here! He has come!
Now in our age, we joyfully anticipate the second coming of our Lord!
We which are alive will be raptured up to meet him in the air, then He will come to earth and conquer evil, and reign in righteousness.
What a day that will be, When my Jesus I shall see, And I look upon His face, The One who saved me by His grace; When He takes me by the hand, And leads me through the Promised Land, What a day, glorious day that will be.
Not only should that fill us with hope, but joy!
There are over 1,500 passages in the Old Testament and one out of ever 25 verse in the New Testament mentions the Messiah’s return.
We have much to rejoice about!
This joy comes through the Spirit - Yield to Him today!
This joy comes through obedience - Obey Him Today!
This joy comes through Anticipation - Wait on Him Today!
And then fourthly, through all of this we cannot miss the heart of the message, especially during this Christmas season!
IV. Joy Comes Only through Christ
IV. Joy Comes Only through Christ
John faithfully preached and prepared the way for the Messiah, and when he saw him he cried out with Joy, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world!”
Peter in his first epistle, speaking of Jesus said...
8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
Those he wrote this epistle to had not seen Jesus in person, yet they loved him.
We do not see him still, yet we who have believed and rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory!
Max Lucado asked the question, “Who was Peter talking to?
1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
He was talking to Christians who had been driven from their cities,
separated from their families.
Their rights had been taken.
Their property had been taken.
Their possessions had been taken.
Their futures had been taken.
But their joy had not been taken, Why?
Because they had Jesus, and He was the source of their Joy.”
These Christians, humanly speaking, had no reason to have joy!
But Christ was all they needed!
During this Advent Season, do not leave the source of our joy behind!
Make Jesus the center of all of your celebration!
Walk with him this week!
Read the His Word and sit at His feet and learn from Him!
Dedicate some time to pray and spend time pouring your heart out to Him!
Pray without ceasing, everywhere you go, carry on a conversation with Him!
See His influence everywhere you look,
in the love people have for one another,
the kindness we see, especially during this season,
in joy of the Christmas season
in the laughter of our loved ones
in the provision of food, gifts and time see the Jesus’ influence throughout it all!
The Bible tells us that “the joy of the Lord is your strength”
So yield to the Holy Spirit today and get joy!
Obey the Lord and get joy!
Revel in the Anticipation of this season and get joy!
Walk with our Savior and get joy!