God With Us -Brings Joy
Have you ever given or received a puppy for Christmas?
If not you have seen it played out on a TV show
A super-cute, tiny, cuddly fuzz ball wearing a bright red bow around its neck.
Usually comes bouncing around the corner or peeks its head out of a box as soon as the kids or special someone lifts the loosely fitting lid.
It’s always adorable, and it starts giving kisses or tumbling out over its clumsy, oversized paws.
You can probably feel the warm fuzzies even now as we talk about it, right?
But what about putting it in that box
That little bundle of love and joy—we won’t mention the dog hair and, um, accidents—just does not want to be contained inside a box.
You certainly can’t wrap him up the week before and stick his box under the Christmas tree.
You have to work to keep him hidden—probably somewhere outside the house.
Then you have to wait until exactly one minute before the kids come down the stairs to drop that doggie into the box and probably bribe him with a treat or a toy that just might occupy him for 38.6 seconds, so you can pop on the lid and rush him into the hands of his new best friend.
Some people just skip the box altogether, hide out in the next room, then put the puppy on the floor and let him come bouncing into the room to the accompaniment of squeals of delight.
You see, a dog is just plain uncontainable in a box.
It comes spilling out to love and lick everyone that’s around.
And it doesn’t stop there.
The people who receive a puppy for Christmas just can’t keep it to themselves.
They pass that little pup around to everyone in the house, and they don’t stop there.
They carry it or lead it around to the neighbors.
They drive with it to the relatives or friends—or to the store or salon or dentist. (OK, maybe not the dentist.)
But they want to show and share this adorable little ball of fur with everyone they can.
And then those people want to go grab their kids, husband, girlfriend, or whomever to share the cuteness and happiness that this little puppy exudes.
Joy is a lot like puppies.
Fortunately, it’s not as hairy and doesn’t make a mess, but joy is boundless and uncontainable.
Joy overflows, and when you’ve experienced joy, you want to share it with someone else—or as many people as you can.
Joy bubbles over and touches everyone it comes in contact with.
Joy is what we are celebrating on this third Sunday of Advent.
If you’ve been journeying with us the past two weeks toward Christmas, you know that we have been celebrating Advent.
The word advent means an anticipation or longing
and as we celebrate Christmas it is not only a time of gifts and family
it is also a time that we come together to celebrate the birth if Jesus and look forward in anticipation knowing that one day He is coming back for us
This week we will light the third candle which represents the Joy we experience in Jesus our Lord and Savior
If you were here with us on the first Sunday, you remember we talked about Zechariah.
Luke 1 tells the story of Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth.
They were the parents of John the Baptist, who was sent to prepare the way for Jesus, the Messiah.
Zechariah was a priest who received a visit from an angel that told him,
But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.
now remember Zechariah and Elizabeth were old.
Elizabeth was way beyond childbearing years, and the couple had never been able to have kids.
Zechariah questioned what he had heard from the angel
And as a result, his voice was taken away until the baby was born.
But today, let’s look a little closer at Elizabeth and the joy she experienced
but first in order To understand Elizabeth’s joy,
we have to understand a little bit about her pain.
You see, for the ancient Jews, children were a tremendous blessing.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They shall not be ashamed, But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.
Children allowed a family to pass on its name and heritage.
They provided more hands to handle the daily tasks
Children were a gift from God and a sign of His favor.
So To be childless, then, was a source of great frustration, sorrow, and shame.
Elizabeth would have experienced all of these emotions .
She most likely would have married Zechariah when she was a young teenager, and the couple would have hoped right away to have children.
Elizabeth probably would have imagined what it would be like to have a home filled with kids.
She would have dreamed of holding her own babies.
She might have made lists of names in her mind, drawing from the family names that would be passed traditionally down the family lines.
At first, Elizabeth might have dismissed the lack of a pregnancy.
Maybe the timing just wasn’t right to conceive.
Friends and family probably offered encouragement and shared in her sorrow.
but gradually, Elizabeth’s hope slowly died as she came to terms with the fact that something was wrong,
she could not have a child.
At some point, the social stigma would have stuck.
“Barren,” they called her.
It became a shameful and permanent mark.
She would never be considered as worthy or esteemed as other women.
However even through all of thus she and Zechariah remained faithful to God.
Luke described them like this:
And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
and then then God came.
On an ordinary day with Zechariah at work in the temple, the angel Gabriel showed up out of the blue with that miraculous message.
Zechariah couldn’t even tell his wife what the angel had said.
He would have had to either write it out, if Elizabeth could read, or use signs and gestures to give his wife the news.
Elizabeth must have thought she was getting the wrong message at first. It seemed too good to be true!
Could she even allow herself to go there?
Could she open her heart to the possibility
From what we can tell from Luke’s account, it seems Elizabeth had an easier time of accepting the miraculous news than her husband.
“Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
Elizabeth spent the first five months of her pregnancy in seclusion.
We don’t know
maybe she knew no one would believe her news until she was definitely showing.
Maybe this was her way of sharing her husband’s silence as they lived daily through a miracle unfolding before their eyes
What we do know is that in her sixth month of pregnancy, Elizabeth experienced a deep encounter with joy brought by the coming Messiah, whose human life had just sprung into being in Mary’s womb.
As we discussed last week, young Mary left her home shortly after her own angelic visit and came to stay with her cousin Elizabeth for three months.
As soon as she arrived, Elizabeth’s baby “leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:41).
Elizabeth’s joy overflowed, as she greeted Mary
Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”
The puppy was out of the box now.
Joy was flowing.
And true to its nature, joy was contagious.
Mary burst into her own song of praise and thanksgiving as she gave words to the miracle happening through her.
these two women shared a joy that could no longer be contained,
And joy began rippling outward.
When Elizabeth gave birth to John three months later, the joy of her miracle spread through her village and family.
They say there is no joy greater than that of a mother holding her newborn child.
For Elizabeth, the joy must have been especially overwhelming.
She was experiencing a miracle, and it was a miracle that healed a lifetime of hurt, pain, disrespect, and shame.
And it was only the beginning of the many miracles she would witness in her lifetime.
Our Source of Joy
Our Source of Joy
What would you and I give to know such joy?
To see the scars and shame of our life washed away so dramatically?
The joy Elizabeth experienced is available to us.
the joy brought into our world by Jesus, God with Us.
The apostle Peter wrote,
whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.
An inexpressible and glorious joy.
That’s deep stuff.
True joy runs much deeper than happiness.
We love to be happy.
We love to feel good.
Happiness comes and goes as the circumstances around us change by the hour and the minute.
Happiness can come from many things:
· Birthday parties and balloons.
· Your favorite song
· An encouraging message from a friend.
· Winning the big game.
· A delicious meal.
These are good and enjoyable things
They should be savored and enjoyed for sure—but all are fleeting.
But joy is much deer
True joy based on a relationship with our Creator.
Joy comes from God with Us
Jesus is the source of our joy.
Peter called it “an inexpressible and glorious joy”
that is part of the inheritance we are receiving in Christ.
It’s the promise of eternal life beyond this world,
we find the deep kind of joy that fills us no matter the pain that we still face on this earth.
As Jesus explained to His disciples about His coming death and resurrection, “So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy” (John 16:22).
As we turn our eyes expectantly to Jesus in this Christmas season
we can experience His joy.
And we can know with confidence that an even greater, unending joy awaits us one day.
Joy Defies Our Circumstances
Joy Defies Our Circumstances
We compared happiness and joy a little bit ago, but if there’s one defining characteristic of joy that I hope you take away from our time together today, it is this: Joy defies our circumstances not happiness
Happiness comes and goes with positive events or experiences.
Joy flows deep even in the face of challenge, hardship, or suffering.
Joy drawn from Jesus, God with Us, sees the big picture beyond the immediate pain.
James said it best
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
Joy understands that there is more than meets the eye.
That God is at work always, even in the tough stuff of life.
And that eventually God will make everything right
Because of that, we can experience joy in the here and now, no matter how bad the here and now looks and feels.
What are the circumstances you are facing right now as we journey toward Christmas?
What are the situations that are stealing your joy?
I don’t mean to make light of what you are going through, because I know the pain is real for us all.
But can I encourage you to take a look from another angle?
Can I encourage you to ask God to give you another view—to show you His big picture?
You may not experience a miracle as clear as Elizabeth’s, but in Advent and in Christmas there is a miracle for us all:
the miracle of God come to earth to be with us, to heal us, to forgive us, to redeem and restore all our pain, to turn it into good.
This is a cause for joy even in our darkest days.
This was the message of the angel long ago announcing the arrival of Christ to the terrified shepherds outside of Bethlehem:
And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.
Jesus, come to be God with Us, has brought us joy—no matter what we are facing.
Joy Is a Choice
Joy Is a Choice
Before we close today, I’d like to look at one more aspect of joy that we can apply
That is the fact that joy can be a choice, and joy can be an action.
We’ve talked about Mary in previous weeks, and we talked about her today as she spent time with Elizabeth.
Remember when Mary showed up at Elizabeth’s house?
Elizabeth was overcome with joy, which spread to Mary. When it did, the beginning of Mary’s expression went like this:
And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
These are important words—with the key word being rejoices.
This is Mary choosing and embracing joy in the role she had been given by God.
She didn’t have to.
Remember those cartoons and old movies where an army sergeant or leader asks for a volunteer? The mission is dangerous, sometimes ridiculously so. It will require a brave and true individual willing to put his or her life on the line. Will the bold volunteer please step forward?
You know what happens. At the same second, in perfect coordination, the entire line steps backward, leaving the main character standing in front when the leader turns around. Forget volunteering—he is volunteered, whether he likes it or not.
Mary could have looked at her situation a little bit like that. She didn’t ask to be the mother of God’s Son.
If she had been asked, she might have stepped backward.
But in Mary’s words we see her response: She rejoices.
She chooses joy.
She focuses on the big picture and embraces her difficult role.
Similarly, in our own situations and seasons, we can do the same.
We can choose joy.
We can rejoice.
We can embrace the miracle of God with Us and align our vision with the work He is doing in and through us.
The Bible is filled with verses exhorting and encouraging us to rejoice.
Probably because we all need lots of reminders.
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;
These are only the beginning, but the message and the takeaway is the same:
We have reason for joy because God is with us, and we can choose to embrace it.
Choose to make this a season of joy.
Let’s rejoice as we figuratively await the arrival of Christ, and let’s celebrate His birth with joy.
God is with us and so joy is with us!
A joy that flows deep within our spirits and outward because our King, our Savior, is with us, always loving, always working, even in the midst of any hardship we will face.
“But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.” —Psalm 5:11