Great Joy

Great Joy

In only 11 days, we celebrate, with great joy, one of God’s most significant promises coming to pass.
Isaiah 9:6-7
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.
The passion, the zeal of the Lord Almighty to establish His kingdom, to save His people, His great plan of salvation begins.  The King of Kings and Lord of Lords steps down from His throne and becomes weak, vulnerable, and poor just like one of us.  The One, True, Living God humbled Himself and came in a way that no one would have ever imagined nor guessed.  He came through an unmarried, teenage, virgin pregnancy.  Mary, a seemingly insignificant girl full of hopes and dreams with the upcoming marriage to the love of her life, Joseph, is chosen for a greater destiny than she could have ever imagined!
Luke 1:26-38
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

“No word from God will ever fail.”  How incredible is this declaration coming from the angel Gabriel?  Despite all of the surrounding impossibilities and inconveniences, Jesus will be born.  He will live the perfect life, die an untimely and tragic death, and raise again to life forever; making a way for all who come to Him to enter into eternal life here and now!
If only we could be as Mary was.  If only we could hear the word of God and despite all of the challenges and outright impossibilities, simply agree that the word of the Lord will be fulfilled in and through us, God’s servants.  Just as Dal preached last week, if we could simply say to God, “Go for it!”  If we would only say, “Amen!”, then fully expect and anticipate the coming of the fulfillment of God’s word, in His way and in His time.
Mary was literally to become pregnant with the word of God.  She would have to nurture and protect it until it grew within her mature enough to give birth to it.  Without God’s word, there was no way possible that this could happen.  The stage had been set and Heaven and Earth was moving in order for God’s will to come to pass.  It was a time of fear and uncertainty, yet also a time of great anticipation, expectation, and great joy!
Luke 2:1-20
1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

As how God often works, God’s priceless gift to us came at a time that we didn’t expect, in a way that we did not expect, and in the midst of circumstances that we would not expect.  I’ve often wondered why God didn’t make a room available for them or why Mary and Joseph didn’t fight for a room given her late stage in pregnancy.  Whatever the case, God’s plan was for Jesus to be born in complete humility.  It reminds me of how the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians that we have the all-surpassing power of God within us, these weak jars of clay, to prove that this power is truly from God and not from us.  It seems that God loves to work the extraordinary through the common and ordinary.  To further prove this point, we’ll continue.

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

This huge angelic production of Heaven proclaiming the recent birth of the Messiah, the Lord, was given not to a group of kings, not to the elders and teachers of the law, not to the priests, but to a group of shepherds working the overnight shift.  God humbles the proud, but empowers and reveals His plans and purposes to the humble; doing the extraordinary through the common and ordinary.  The angels announced that the news of the birth of Jesus would cause great joy for all the people and indeed, it still does today!  Rejoice, be glad, should praise to God Almighty for His free gift of salvation!
Watch how the shepherds responded to this invitation from Heaven:

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

This morning, we are all like those shepherds.  We all have been told about the free gift of God’s salvation that we receive through faith in Jesus.  However, how many of us have hurried off?  How many of us are like the shepherds who hear about God’s salvation, then hurry off to check it out for ourselves?  How many of us want to see the fullness of God’s salvation personally and first hand?  How many of us leave the things of the world behind and run as fast as we can the race set before us with great joy wanting all to know and to experience God’s salvation?
The good news of Jesus is still as powerful and relevant today as it has ever been and is desperately needed by so many.  God’s will today still remains that this good news would cause great joy for ALL people!  How then ought we live?  How can we live so that our lives point people to Jesus and cause great joy to fill our own lives and also in those around us?
Ephesians 5:1-20
1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them.

8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus said:
Matthew 5:14-16
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Who is the light of the world?  US!  Why?  Because Christ shines on us and therefore His light reflects through us.
To be the light of the world, however, we must step out of the darkness and away from the shadows of sin.  We need to find out what pleases the Lord and begin to live as children of light.  We need to live wisely making the most of every opportunity.  We need to be filled at all times with the Holy Spirit, always giving thanks for everything and speaking to one another with songs from the Spirit.  Our lives are to be like a real-life musical that gives honor and praise to Jesus.  This is the lifestyle that is not only filled with joy, but that overflows with great joy into the lives of others.
Mary gave birth to Jesus in the least desirable of circumstances.  Sitting there next to the manger with her newborn baby, Jesus, beside her, a group of shepherds came to her.  She didn’t whine, she didn’t complain, she didn’t lament.  Scripture says, “19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
This morning, wherever you find yourself, take to heart this wisdom from Mary.  Even if you currently find yourself in the most unexpected and undesirable circumstances, treasure these things up and ponder them in your heart.  Just as Mary did, ask God what He is up to in your life and simply tell Him to “Go for it!”  Give thanks to God always and for everything and make the most of every opportunity.
Your life is a life that could be filled to overflowing with joy in the Holy Spirit in any circumstances.  Your life is a life that could cause great joy in the lives of those around you.  Your life is a life that was created to be the light of this world.  Go for it!  Let your light shine amongst those around you, that it may result in glory given to Jesus! To Him, be all honor, glory, and praise forever!
Go For It!
The Grinch