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Journey Toward Christmas: Good News that will cause Great Joy

Journey Toward Christmas  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The coming of God’s Anointed One is a message that will cause great joy in the lives of God’s people.

Text: Luke 2:8-18; Galatians 5:22-23; Psalm 30
Theme: The coming of God’s Anointed One is a message that will cause great joy in the lives of God’s people.
Date: 12/17/2017 File Name: JourneyTowardChristmas03-2.wpd ID Number: 1014
The Savior was born and creation responded: a star appeared in the sky, Magi began an arduous trip westward, and an angel descended on Bethlehem with a choir in tow. But the Christ’s coming slipped past many people unnoticed. While the people of Bethlehem slept, God sent his angel to a handful of shepherds tending their flocks in the hills outside town. The glory of the Lord surrounded the shepherds and the angel cried, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10–11, NIV).
We are well into Advent now, having lit three of five candles. Today, we celebrate the Shepherd’s Candle. In the story we read that the shepherds were waiting for morning. They were waiting for the sky to turn pink and the sun to come up, because that meant another night was over and their sheep were safe. Instead of morning, however, they saw something totally unexpected: a sky full of angels, singing the praises of God about the Savior who had just been born. Their normal night was turned into an extraordinary night — one they would never forget. They were busy waiting for the night to be over, but something better than morning was coming — it was "Good News of Great Joy."
The Gospel always brings joy. Our joy is a response to the same message that the Angel’s gave to the shepherds in the fields around Bethlehem: Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. As we sit here this morning, you and I are a part of the all people that the angels give good tidings to. It’s news that ought to fill our hearts and minds and souls with inexpressible joy: A Savior has come into the world who saves sinners. If we were to literally translate that phrase great joy it would read mega-gladness! Does the thought of a Savior who saves you from sin, and judgement, and hell bring mega-gladness to your heart, and soul?
So let’s take some time to examine the attribute of joy in the believer’s life!


1. to discover some of the principles of Christian joy we need to turn to the Epistle to the Philippians
a. it often referred to as the Epistle of Joy
“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! ... .” (Philippians 3:1, NIV84)
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4, NIV84)
b. God desires that His people experience, and exhibit joy
2. few things have done more harm to the cause of Christ and brought more disrepute to His Church than joyless Christians!
a. God wants you and I to experience a joyful heart and to have cheerful faces
b. the two are connected ...
“A happy heart makes the face cheerful, ... .” (Proverbs 15:13, NIV84)
“A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.” (Proverbs 15:30, NIV84)
ILLUS. God has even designed us in such a way so that it is easier to express cheerfulness then to exhibit sullenness. It takes 64 facial muscles to make a frown, but only thirteen to make a smile. I'll tell ya what folks: a lot of Christians who are working their faces too hard! Their attitude is (say with frown on face and crossed arms) "Yea, I'm a Christian. Hallelujah."


1. the non-Christians in our culture see too many mean-eyed, furrowed-brow, locked-jaw, crossed-arm, petty-minded, unsmiling Christians
ILLUS. Martin Luther wrote, “God is not a God of sadness, and death, but the devil is. Christ is a God of joy, and so the Scriptures often say that we should rejoice ... A Christian should and must be a cheerful person.”
2. the world needs to see joyful believers who can praise the Lord no matter what their circumstances are or what their lot in life may be
a. the Apostle Peter told the recipients of his first epistle that the Christian's joy is an inward grace that issues from the believer's faith despite trials and temptations
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:6–9, NIV84)
a. has your faith in Christ filled you with an inexpressible and glorious joy?
1) God Has Caused Us to Be Born Again; in this we rejoice greatly
2) We Have a Living Hope Through Christ’s Resurrection; in this we rejoice greatly
3) We Have an Heavenly Inheritance That Is Imperishable, Undefiled, and Unfading; in this we rejoice greatly
4) We Are Being Protected by the Power of God; in this we rejoice greatly
5) We Look Forward to a Salvation Ready to Be Revealed in the Last Time; in this we rejoice greatly
3. joy is not merely a simplistic or sentimental way of dealing with life, but a way to meet life head on
a. according to the Apostle Peter, joy occurs even in the midst of grief caused by suffering through all kinds of trials
4. joy is an effectual, spiritual gift given by God to believers that helps to sustain us in difficult times and increases our happiness in good times
a. it’s a gift based not on feeling, but on the knowledge that God has done something remarkable on our behalf — He has sent us a Savior who is Christ the Lord
b. happiness, on the other hand, is a feeling and usually is determined by outside events or circumstances
ILLUS. I will experience profound happiness at the dinner table with the Orrick family a week from now. That happiness will center on my mother-in-law’s dinner rolls. And as happy as they will make me, it is a fleeting happiness.
c. the believer’s joy, on the other hand, is independent of circumstances because the Christian life transcends circumstances
1) joy is an attitude, a disposition, a mind-set that flows from a deep conviction that God is alive and real and has revealed His Fatherhood through the Son who has come into my life
2) that knowledge enables me to meet the challenges of life and to wade into impossibilities with enthusiasm and expectancy
3) "rejoicing always" in the Lord enables me to let go of the frustration and pick up the broken pieces and start over again


1. FIRST, we can rejoice because of saving grace
“ . . . an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21, NIV)
a. Jesus said that being born again is like finding buried treasure
ILLUS. Most of us love stories of people finding buried treasure. In 2014 a couple in rural Northern California were out walking their dog along the back side of their property when they saw the edge of a tin can sticking up out of the ground. They began to dig, and found a total of eight tin cans, the size of paint cans, full of mint-quality gold coins — 1,400 coins. Among the coins was the crown jewel of the collection — an 1866 $20 gold piece from the San Francisco Mint valued at more than $1 million. The coins date from 1847 to 1894 and have a face value of $28,000, but have an assessed value at $11 million because of their value to collectors. The collection is the largest known discovery of buried gold coins that has ever been recovered in the US.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” (Matthew 13:44, NIV84)
b. Jesus stresses two points in this simple little parable
1) 1st, that salvation is a great treasure and its gain requires a great cost
2) 2nd, and the point of this morning’s message: that discovering God's treasure of salvation brings great joy
c. we can rejoice because of God's saving grace
2. SECOND, we can rejoice because of sustaining grace
“You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great.” (Psalm 18:35, NIV84)
a. God does not save us only to leave us to our own strength
ILLUS. In the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, IL you will find, among other things, Lincoln's well-used Bible. In the flyleaf is a note he scribbled as he made his way by train to the capitol for his inauguration. Listen to his words as he asks for sustaining grace from God: "I go to assume a task more difficult than that which has devolved upon any other man since the days of Washington. He never would have succeeded but for the aid of Divine Providence, upon which he at all times relied. I feel that I cannot succeed without the same divine blessing which sustained him, and on the same Almighty Being I place my reliance for support. And I hope you, my friends, will all pray that I may receive the divine assistance, without which I cannot succeed, but with which success is certain."
b. we can rejoice because of sustaining grace
3. THIRD, we can rejoice because of glorifying grace
“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one:” (John 17:22, NIV84)
a. the day is coming when all believers will hear the trumpet of God that signifies our Lord's Second coming
b. on that day all those who have given their hearts and lives to Jesus Christ are going home
“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Philippians 3:20–21, NIV84)
ILLUS. Henry C. Morrison was one of the great missionaries of the late 19th century. After serving for forty years on the African mission field, he headed home by boat. On that same trans-Atlantic steamer also sailed President Theodore Roosevelt returning from one of his famous big-game trophy hunts. As they entered New York Harbor ship's horns blared and fire-fighting ships sprayed fountains of water into the air. When they docked, there was great fanfare as bands played and all kinds of dignitaries waited to greet the President and welcome him home. This dear missionary and his wife with their luggage in hand quietly made their way to the deck of the ship to exit. No one had come to welcome them back home. There were no bands playing or banners flying in their honor. Henry Morrison went to his hotel room with a rather heavy heart. As he sat there on the bed, he told his wife, “Honey, for 40 years we poured our lives into ministry and service. And yet we come back to America and not a single soul comes to welcome us home!” His wife came and sat down next to her husband. She put her hand on his shoulder, and said to him, “Henry, you have forgotten something, you’re not home yet!”
c. we can rejoice because of glorifying grace
1) the Scriptures tell us in Isaiah: Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him (Isaiah 64:4)
4. we are to rejoice in the Lord always


1. one of the marks of authentic Christianity is that believers will have an enthusiasm for spiritual things which is noticeable to others
ILLUS. Eugene Peterson, in his best-selling book, A Long Obedience In the Same Direction, writes: “It is not difficult in our world to get a person interested in the message of the Gospel; it is terrifically difficult to sustain the interest. Millions of people in our culture make decisions for Christ, but there is a dreadful attrition rate. Many claim to have been born again, but the evidence for mature Christian discipleship is slim. In our kind of culture anything, even news about God, can be sold if it is packaged freshly; but when it loses its novelty, it goes on the garbage heap. There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.”
2. the Greek word for enthusiasm is a word that means "inspired by God"
3. the implication is that Christians will be excited over and rejoice in the things of God
a. but this is not always how it is in real life is it?
b. most believers know that they should be enthusiastic about spiritual things
1) deep down, you know that you should be enthusiastic about Bible study
2) deep down, you know that you should be enthusiastic about worship
3) deep down, you know that you should be enthusiastic about devotional time
4) deep down, you know that you should be enthusiastic about service and ministry
4. but let's be honest, we're not always as enthusiastic about these things as we know we should be
a. the fact is, family reunions, baseball games and trips to the lake offer infinitely more excitement to the average church-goer then does a typical morning in church
5. have you ever wondered why this is true?
a. from God's viewpoint the answer it very simple
b. it is the result of a hardened heart that is no longer filled with inexpressible and glorious joy


“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:22–24, NIV84)
1. the Bible teaches that your ability to have joy and to rejoice in the things of God is tied to your filling with the Holy Spirit of God
2. joy is like a crop that must be properly cultivated and protected
a. but, according to Paul, our fleshly passions and desires war against the fruit of the Spirit
b. just as there are the fruits of the Spirit, there are also the fruits of the flesh
1) they include hate, sorrow, conflict, anxiety, malevolence, evil, disloyalty, cruelty, and self-indulgence
3. so, how do we go about cultivating joy in our lives?
a. there is no better place to go to discover the secrets to joy than Paul’s letter to the Philippians
b. written while he was chained in a Roman prison, Paul gives six clues to what enabled him to rejoice in literally any situation


1. 1st, Maintain a Grateful Heart
a. Paul’s gratitude is reflected in every line of his letter to the Philippians
1) imprisoned and possibly facing death, the apostle still refuses to register even the slightest complaint
2) he writes to the Philippians: I thank my God every time I remember you ...
b. he denies himself the option of focusing on the negative aspects of his imprisonment
1) Paul encouraged himself by thinking about how God was using his situation to bring the gospel to others
2) if you want to experience joy, you’re going to have to sit down and count your blessings instead of listing your misfortunes
2. 2nd, Focus on Future Hope
a. Paul labored and suffered with his future rest in mind — he wrote to the Philippians
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21, NIV)
b. Paul had a valiant, courageous confidence in Christ
ILLUS. The apostle cites Christ as an example of confident hope. Jesus faced the Cross with a mind clearly focused on His goal. His suffering was of less importance when He considered the needs of mankind. He put aside self-pity and clothed Himself with compassion for men.
c. Paul tells us: “For the joy set before him [he] endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2, NIV)
3. 3rd, Pursue Godly Goals
a. Paul kept his spiritual goals clearly in mind
“What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:8–11, NIV84)
b. Paul’s goal, to know Christ, meant following and imitating Christ, even in suffering and death
1) to know Him would be worth any price because of the final payoff — eternal life
c. Paul struggled toward those goals with every ounce of energy
“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14, NIV)
4. 4th, Pray
a. the impulse to pray when we are in trouble is almost automatic
1) but prayer ought to be more than an appeal for deliverance
2) it is more than a toll-free order system by which we obtain or change circumstances to make us happy
b. as we make our appeal to God, we often feel it is our “right” to grumble and worry until He delivers us
1) not so, according to Paul
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6, NIV)
5. 5th, Think Godly Thoughts
a. Paul writes to the Philippian believers:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:8–9, NIV)
b. tragedies and difficult circumstances have a way of cutting off our fresh air
1) we become so engrossed in the painful moment that we see, hear, think, and feel little else
2) we begin choking on stale, cloudy thoughts
c. but Paul points out that we can choose what to think about
1) we can focus on gloom and doom or on promises and praise
ILLUS.. In one of his letters to a young man in the ministry named Timothy, Paul told him to ‘stir up’ the gift of God that was in him. The Greek word of stir up means to rekindle as in getting a fire burning brightly agin. That requires some personal effort. One of the surest ways to rekindle the spirit of joy in your life is to take the "poker" of your memory and stir up some past occurrences in your life when God was at work. You need to recall the times that God intervened in your life and answered your prayers. Meditate upon your blessings. Throw the "logs" of praise, thankfulness and gratitude on the fire of God and see if the flame of the Holy Spirit does not burn more brightly in your life.
6. 6th, Learn Contentment
a. Paul learned to be content in any situation
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11, NIV)
b. when we worry over the things we don’t have instead of finding contentment in what we do have, joy shrivels and dies
c. dissatisfaction breeds anxiety and frustration — contentment fosters joy
7. if you will learn to do these six things, you will begin to experience the real joy that God announced to the shepherds and want to give to us
ILLUS. Martin Luther said it best when he wrote; ". . . When we hear that Christ was made a curse for us, let us believe it with joy and assurance. By faith Christ changes places with us. He gets our sins, we get his holiness."
a. this is why we can experience mega-gladness — an inexpressible and glorious joy
b. Christ has come into the world, and this is good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people
Are you one of the all people who has received the Savior into your life?
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