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How Great Our Joy!

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The Christian's joy is great because it is Christ's joy. A joy of incalculable worth that is able to overcome the sorrows of this world.

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Our Scripture lesson this morning comes from Hebrews 12:1-2:
Hebrews 12:1–2 ESV
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
I chose this passage because it highlights how great our joy is as Christians. The theme of the fourth week of Advent is joy. Consequently, this is the 29th Advent sermon I have preached on Joy! You would think that in 28 sermons I would have said everything that could be said about the Scriptural topic of Joy, but as I was meditating and praying over some of the joy passages of Scripture, the words of the hymn we just sang kept coming into my mind:
How great our joy! Great our joy!
Joy, joy, joy, Joy joy, joy!
Praise we the Lord in heaven on high! Praise we the Lord in heaven on high!
I suddenly realized I have never preached on How Great our Joy in the Lord truly is.
As we look at Hebrews 12:1-2 we are reminded that our Joy is Great because it is the Joy of Christ.

It is the Joy of Christ

Hebrews 12:1-2 is clearly about Christ’s joy, “who for the joy set before him endured the cross.” However, it is just as much about our joy, because we are urged to “look to Jesus” as we “run the race set before us.” The clear implication is that we are to “run the race” as Jesus ran His race.
What do we see when we look to Jesus? We see him saying...
John 15:11 ESV
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
The Christian’s joy is not to be just any joy, it is to be the joy of Jesus! This is evident when we look at passages such as Galatians 5:22:
Galatians 5:22 ESV
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
Our joy has a supernatural origin—it is the fruit of the Holy Spirit!
There is much joy and merry making during the holiday season. Sadly much of this joy is fueled by alcohol. Why is this? It is because worldly joy has no way of authentically dealing with sorrow—it must drown sorrow and pain in a flood of alcohol.
Jesus’ joy is much different. Jesus’ joy was able to overcome pain and sorrow, rather than being overcome by it.
Hebrews 12:2 ESV
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Therefore, our Joy is Great because....

It is a Joy Not Overcome by Sorrow

Many of you know that Jonella Williamson, the director of Daughters of Grace, like myself, she is a big Lord of the Rings fan. Last week she posted a quotation from the Lord of the Rings on her Facebook page. It read...
"Pippin glanced in some wonder at Gandalf's face now close beside his own, for the sound of that laugh had been gay and merry. Yet in the wizard's face he saw at first only lines of care and sorrow; though as he looked more intently he perceived that under all there was a great joy: a fountain of mirth enough to set a kingdom laughing, were it to gush forth.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien
Tolkien was a Christian. In fact, he is one of the people God used to lead C. S. Lewis to the Lord. Although, the Lord of the Rings is not a Christian allegory, it is overtly “Christian.” In Tolkien’s imaginary world, Gandalf was the equivalent of an angel. He had been sent by God to live and serve the inhabitants of Middle Earth for many centuries. As the centuries worn on, the cares and sorrows of life in a fallen world had taken a toll on Gandalf’s face, but beneath all the lines of care and sorrow was a fountain of joy! He remembered the joy of the Undying Land and he looked forward to it!
I spoke to Jonella this week, and have her permission to share this with you. Jonella suffers from a particularly bad form of lupus and she frequently posts pictures of herself receiving her infusion treatments on Facebook. By quoting Tolkien, it was her way of saying, “When you see pictures of my infusion treatments, please look deeper in order to see the Joy of Jesus that is in my soul.”
Jesus knew, Tolkien knew, Jonella knows and I want you to know of a joy that is greater than the joys of this world.
One of the things Jonella told me was this, “I have learned that real joy is much deeper than what most people think of as ‘happiness.’” The joys and happiness this world gives are wonderful and I hope you have them in abundance this holiday season! However, all of these worldly joys can be taken away from us in an instant.
When we look at Jesus we see a “man of sorrows” when to comes to worldly joy and happiness, but when we look deeper, we see a “man of joy!” Jesus was able to “empty himself,” and take on our human sorrows because He never took His eyes off the heavenly joy that was set before Him. This is the joy that He gives us—heavenly joy. The apostle Paul would write:
Romans 8:18 ESV
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Karl Marx, cynically referred to the hope of glory as the “opium of the masses.” To say such a thing clearly shows Karl Marx knew nothing of the Christian hope or joy. Our joy does not take away the pain of sorrow, it overcomes it!
It overcomes it because...

It is a Joy of Incalculable Worth

Our Christian Joy is of Incalculable worth because it never dies. We don’t just live in a world of sorrow, but of death. In this fallen world we don’t have the power to be truly joyful for more than a few hours.
Think of the happiest times of your life—they ended not because some external force stole your joy, but because you were physically, emotionally and mentally took exhausted to continue! Now I want you to imagine heaven—there you will have the strength to be joyous not for mere hours or day, but for all eternity! Nor will your joy stay at the same level or decline over time, but it will grow and grow and grow for all eternity.
Tolkien’s friend C.S. Lewis pictured heaven like a mountain of joy. His his book, The Last Battle, his characters when they begin to experience and enjoy the pleasures of heaven begin to shout as they ascend the Mountain of Joy, “Higher, higher!” In heaven, joy and pleasure are not just everlasting, they grow in intensity. In addition, our ability to enjoy those pleasure grows as well! No wonder Paul would write:
1 Corinthians 2:9 ESV
But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—
This was the joy set before Jesus that allowed Him to endure the cross and this is the joy that He gives those who believe in Him.
So how great is our joy? Very Great Indeed!
It is Christ’s Joy
It is a Joy that Overcomes Sorrow
It is a Joy of Incalculable Worth
Therefore I urge you...

Conclusion: Embrace Christ’s Joy!

Don’t leave here today without making Christ’s joy your joy. Our lives in this world will be filled with cares and sorrows. It is very easy to let the sorrows and cares of this world rob us of our Christmas Joy if we forget where our true joy comes from.
Lift your eyes and see Jesus seated on His throne at the right had of God the Father. His joy can now become your joy if your make Him your Lord and Savior. This is what the angel promised us at Jesus’ birth....
Luke 2:10–11 ESV
And the angel said to them, “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.
Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son Jesus to this fallen world so that He might lift us up into your heavenly joy. Amen.
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