The Joy of New Beginnings
The Joy of New Beginnings
TEXT: Philippians 4: 4-7
Move 1: Introduction
The third Sunday of Advent is customarily called Joy Sunday. It’s about the joy that comes from knowing, perhaps for the first time, that the long awaited Messiah is about to be born. It’s the joy that comes with the possibility of new beginnings. Listen for that Joy as it is expressed in Philippians 4: 4-7:
“Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute! Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” (Philippians 4:4-7, The Message)
Prayer for Enlightenment
This is Joy Sunday, but the joy that Jesus brings isn’t the same as just having a smile on our face. Jesus brings the real joy that, no matter what, God loves us. Sometimes people say that real joy is contagious – we cannot keep it to ourselves. And that contagious joy finds expression in the simple phrase Merry Christmas.
Move 2: Merry Christmas Under Assault
However, in the past few years we have seen Merry Christmas under assault. A year ago a major discount store forbade its employees to wish customers a Merry Christmas. They opted for the more politically correct Happy Holidays. And just a week or so ago we heard of a major international airport that was forced to remove six Christmas trees because they might be offensive to those of non-Christian religious tradition. Bah, Humbug!
Move 3: A Bah, Humbug Advent
But you know, Jesus was born into a bah, humbug type of world. The day Jesus was born his Jewish kindred were living under the severe oppression of Rome. Although on the surface Jews were permitted to worship as they pleased there was great resentment among the Jews and the Romans barely trusted the Jewish king and religious authorities. Life was harsh and the world longed and waited for a Savior. And according to tradition, outside of heaven, Jesus’ birth was little noticed except by a handful of simple shepherds and three pagan kings. So Jesus was probably pretty good at dealing with bah, humbug attitudes.
Move 3: Jesus Response
How might Jesus respond to our bah, humbug attitudes? This week I received an email message that contained a response to the assault on Merry Christmas. I want to share just a little of it with you this morning.
It has come to my attention that many of you are upset that folks are taking My name out of the season. This is how I personally feel about the celebration of my birth: I don't care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth just, GET ALONG AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER. Now, having said that let Me go on.
If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn't allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn. If all My followers did that there wouldn't be any need for such a scene on the town square because there would be many of them all around town.
Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can & may remember Me anytime you see any tree.
If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my wish list. Choose something from it.
1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.
2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don't have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.
4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.
7. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a "Merry Christmas" that doesn't keep you from wishing them one.
9. Stop complaining that there are no prayers in the schools. I hear the prayers of schoolchildren and teachers all the time. Teach your kids to pray silently in school like I taught you in Matthew 6:6.
P.S. Don't forget; I am God and can take care of Myself. Just love Me & do what I have told you to do. I'll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above & get to work; time is short. I'll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love and remember, I LOVE YOU.
Move 4: Time to Chill Out
This week the popular radio talk show host, Glen Beck, appeared on Good Morning America to talk about the bah, humbug attitude of our society. Here’s what he had to say:
“The real meaning of Christmas is about redemption and second chances. . . . More and more, though, Christmas is all about consumerism.” As Christian, Beck said, that’s what offends me.
Move 5: Put the Joy Back in Christmas
Don’t you think it’s about time we put the joy back into Christmas? I think that God thinks it’s about time we all take a chill pill and stop trying to outdo those who would undo Christmas. Let’s put the joy back into Christmas and begin to celebrate the new beginning that is possible ONLY because God’s Son was born to save us.