Christmas Sunday

Seeking the Savior

(Luke 2:1-20)

 

INTRODUCTION

“For reasons I cannot quite remember (perhaps the guidebooks or the guide himself told us it wasn't much to get worked up about), I wasn't excited to visit the birthplace of Christ [while on a study tour of Israel in the summer of 2000]. I recall wishing we could spend our time in Jerusalem, but I didn't have a choice. If the group was going to Bethlehem, I was, too.

 

We walked through the dusty streets of the town and soon came to the entrance to the Church of the Nativity. We stood in line for what seemed like hours, winding our way downward into a series of caves (though we often have nativity sets of barns and stables, Christ was actually born in a cave).

 

Once there, I was hushed by the holiness of it all. There were candles lit here, there, and everywhere. Hundreds were on their knees in prayer, scattered about on the cold, damp floor. We made our way to the traditional cave of the birth where we read Matthew's story once again. Soon we were singing. ‘O Holy Night,’ ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem,’ and ‘Silent Night.’

 

Right there in a church building that has been ravaged by war and terrorism and today is owned by four different religious groups, we prayed for peace. We offered a continued invitation for shalom. It was one of the more sacred moments of my life.

 

As we left, I passed by all the pilgrims yet again. Some were from Germany, Poland, or Italy and others from England, Spain, or China. They, too, sang and prayed. Anger and violence wrestled about in all our worlds, but in that moment we had all come together in Bethlehem to worship and celebrate the Prince of Peace who, if anything, was working shalom into the folds of our lives as he will until the day he returns to work it into all things, once-for-all.”

 

Brian Lowery, "Still Unto Us," Christian Standard magazine (12-17-06).

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2008/november/6112408.html].

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Seeking the perfect Cabbage Patch Doll

        • During the Cabbage Patch Doll craze my sister wanted one

        • She had specific things she wanted for her doll (blonde hair and saddle shoes were two things)

        • Our family was traveling over the holidays and decided to stop at a Hill’s Department store in some town

        • They were getting ready to hand out Cabbage Patch Dolls at the doors to their back storage area

          • Everyone was told, by the employees, that you had to take whatever doll was handed to you (you couldn’t request a specific doll)

          • While we were waiting, another family stepped in line in front of us

          • I remember that our family was pretty irritated by that, but we didn’t say anything

          • When my sister was handed her Cabbage Patch Doll, it had blonde hair and saddle shoes – just what she wanted

        • God is in control of everything and He allowed that family to step in line in front of us for a reason

          • Had we protested, my sister may have gotten a different doll

          • We had to trust God and be obedient to our Christian values, of being kind and compassionate, even in difficult situations

          • While it was frustrating for a little bit, the end result was beyond our imagination and fulfilled the desires of a young girl

 

  • WE

    • Perhaps all of us can think of a time when we were confronted by frustration concerning something we’ve been seeking

        • Maybe we were seeking a certain item, especially during Black Friday shopping, only to find out that the item had already sold out

        • There are times when hunters have done all of the right things to prepare for the season, only to find out that someone else has harvested the buck, we’ve been scoping out and tracking, prior to opening day

        • It may take quite a bit of travel to eventually find the thing we’re seeking

    • In God’s sovereignty, He allows difficulties to come our way, so we’ll trust Him and many times the end result is beyond our wildest dreams and fulfills our heart’s desire

Through the very familiar Christmas story found in Luke’s Gospel, we’ll see that Mary and Joseph had to travel a long distance in order to be obedient to God through the census decree. ​​ It was probably a difficult journey, especially for Mary who was close to full term in her pregnancy. ​​ The shepherds also had to travel a short distance, after experiencing a frightening encounter with an angel and the glory of God, in order to be obedient to God. ​​ Luke wants us to understand that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – Finding the Savior requires obedience.

 

The Jews were seeking the Messiah (Savior). ​​ They were looking forward to His arrival.

 

Let’s pray

 

  • GOD (Luke 2:1-20)

    • Mary & Joseph’s Obedience (vv. 1-7)

        • PRINCIPLE #1 – God controls all history.

          • God uses the events of this world to accomplish His purposes

          • That’s exactly what He was doing with Caesar Augustus and his decree about a census of the entire Roman world

            • Anyone who doesn’t believe in God or doesn’t believe that God is sovereign will look at Luke’s Gospel and say that the census decree was just a coincidence

            • Individuals who believe in God and that He is sovereign will recognize that God is in control of all history

            • Two examples

              • John Cafarchio told me last week that the Sunday school lesson he taught hit some of the same points that the sermon did last week (that’s not coincidence, that’s God’s sovereignty and His control)

              • Pastor Marc and I were discussing the message he will be sharing on December 29, 2019 and it struck me that God moved some things around, in the preaching schedule, so that the passage of scripture Marc will be sharing fits perfectly with the beginning of the new year and an incredible initiative that will be introduced (I won’t step on Marc’s toes, but God is in control and He orchestrates things perfectly)

              • We could try to manufacture these kinds of things, but it’s much more powerful when God orchestrates them on our behalf (my prayer is that we’ll have eyes to see and ears to hear what God is doing and saying to us, so we don’t miss out on praising and glorifying Him)

            • Application

              • How has God used events or circumstances in your life to accomplish His purposes?

                • Can you recall a specific situation where you saw God work things out, so that you knew He was in control?

                • Are you attuned to what God is doing in your life and at Idaville Church?

                • Are you listening to His voice?

                • Too often we have a preconceived idea of how we want God to work in our lives and how we want Him to answer our prayers

                  • When we focus on that, we will miss what He is doing and saying to us

                  • We have to be willing to submit to His will and plan

                  • When we focus on Him, it will be easy to see what He is doing and hear what He is saying to us

                • God is in control of every circumstance in our lives, so we need to trust Him and follow His lead

              • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Watch and listen for ways that God is showing me that He is in control and then praise and glorify His name.

            • So, Caesar Augustus’ decree was not by chance, but by God’s sovereign providence and plan

          • Everyone went to his own town to register

            • “‘Own Town’ means one’s ancestral home.” [Stein, The New American Commentary, Luke, 106]

              • This is a little different for us today, because the United States is a melting pot of ethnic groups from all around the world

              • Perhaps you’re able to trace your lineage back to a specific country

                • Judy’s maiden name is Doolittle

                • That last name is pretty easy to trace back to England

                • Maybe you have a last name that’s easily traced back to a particular country

                • [Let the congregation share their country of origin]

              • Others of us have a more difficult time of determining our lineage

                • My own lineage is a melting pot

                • We are part Irish (Kennedy), part Swiss German (Rife [Reif], Hykes, & Johns), part Native American (Seneca, from my mother’s side)

                • Tschantz (Swiss German farmers) became Johns in the United States

              • The simplest way for us to relate to our “own town” would be to think about the town where we were born or perhaps the town where our parents were born

                • My parents would claim Chambersburg and Greencastle as their birth place

                • I was born in Huntington, IN

                • [Let the congregation share where they or their parents were born]

                • Just imagine if we had to return to the town where we were born in order to register for taxation

                • “The census, which could be controversial, uses customs that would be the least offensive. ​​ For Jews an ancestral registration would be a most natural way to sign up for taxes (2 Sam. 24).” ​​ [Bock, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Luke, 204]

                • Caesar Augustus was using the path of least resistance in order to accomplish his goal of tax income

            • That’s what Joseph and Mary had to do, but they had to trace their lineage back hundreds of years to King David and what was considered his home town

          • So, Joseph and Mary set out on their journey

        • Their journey

          • Joseph and Mary were living in the town of Nazareth in the region of Galilee when the decree was communicated

          • They had to travel 70 miles south to the town of Bethlehem in the region of Judea, or 90 miles if they bypassed Samaria

            • [show map]

            • It would take about 33 hours to walk that distance, so it was at least a three to four-day journey for them

            • Bethlehem was at a higher elevation than Nazareth, which explains Luke’s use of, “went up,” even though they were traveling south

          • While it only mentions that Joseph belonged to the house and line of David, we know that Mary could also trace her lineage back to David

            • Mary would not have been required to go to Bethlehem to register with Joseph, because the registration would have been for the entire family

            • But, I can only imagine that Mary wanted her husband to be there for the birth of her first child

            • Both Mary and Joseph had been visited by an angel telling them about the child Mary was carrying

            • I’m sure Joseph didn’t want to miss this incredible birth of the Messiah

          • All of this was taking place because God is in control of all history

            • It was foretold hundreds of years before, that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem

            • Micah 5:2, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.

          • So, Mary and Joseph had to be obedient to God, through the census that Caesar Augustus had decreed, in order to see the Savior

          • Finding the Savior requires obedience.

        • Jesus is born!

          • While they were there” is a non-specific time identifier

            • Luke doesn’t give us the exact timeframe of how long Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem before Jesus was born

            • He just tells us that “the time came for the baby to be born

          • Mary gives birth to her firstborn, a son

            • She does what all mothers did at that time, and used pieces of cloth to wrap Him up

            • The cloths helped to keep the baby warm, but it also helped to keep their arms and legs straight

            • We call this swaddling today

              • Seth and Emily were pros at this with our granddaughter, Kinsley

              • When she would be fussy, they would wrap her up tight in a perfect swaddle and Kinsley would settled down and be able to sleep

              • It gave her comfort and warmth and she felt secure

              • They can’t do this anymore, because she’s rolling over on her own

            • Mary also did something that most mothers probably did not do at that time

              • After she swaddled Him, she placed Him in an animal feeding trough (manger)

              • The reason Luke gives, is that there was no room for them in the inn

                • The inn should not be mistaken for a hotel or motel in our day and age

                • It would be more like a hostel where everything was shared

                • “The ‘inn’ probably refers to a public caravansary (a crude overnight lodging place for caravans), which was the one lodging place in Bethlehem.” ​​ [Stein, 107]

                • The stable was perhaps beside this public shelter in a cave

                • Mary and Joseph took refuge in the stable since there wasn’t any more places available in the public shelter area

              • The unique cradle for Jesus was again by God’s design and purpose

                • We don’t know if there were other babies born that night, but if there were, Jesus would be the only One using a feeding trough as a cradle

                • This would be an important sign for the shepherds, as we’ll see

        • Mary and Joseph have been obedient to God by following the decree to register in their ancestral home town of Bethlehem

        • Luke then tells us of a group of guys hanging out in the fields outside Bethlehem

    • Shepherd’s Obedience (vv. 8-20)

        • Shepherds (v. 8)

          • Who were these shepherds?

            • Some characterize shepherds as dishonest and despised by the culture of the day, but those views come primarily from 5th Century literature and writings

            • “Shepherds in an agrarian society (crops and farmland) may have small landholdings, but these would be inadequate to meet the demands of their own families, the needs of their own agricultural pursuits, and the burden of taxation. ​​ As a result, they might hire themselves out to work for wages. ​​ They were, then, peasants located toward the bottom of the scale of power and privilege.” ​​ [Green, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Gospel of Luke, 130]

            • This did not mean that they were dishonest

              • In fact, the shepherd motif in the Bible is primarily positive

              • In the Old Testament we find that Abraham, Moses, and David had all been shepherds at one time in their lives [Bock, 213]

              • The New Testament even uses the concept of a shepherd to identify leaders within a church, and how they lead the church as shepherding (taking care of the flock) [Bock, 213]

            • The shepherds were perhaps taking care of the sheep that were used for sacrifices at the temple

            • Because of their occupation, they were considered ceremonially unclean and could not worship at the temple

            • Read 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

          • So, these peasant farmers who had hired themselves out as shepherds were watching the sheep in the middle of the night, when something incredible happened!

        • Angel’s announcement (vv. 9-14)

          • The shepherds are minding their own business and perhaps talking quietly around a camp fire when all of sudden there is another person there with them

            • They don’t mistake this person for another shepherd or a townsperson, because God’s glory is shining around them

              • Isaiah 60:19, The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.

              • Revelation 21:23, The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.

            • In the darkness of night, it becomes like daylight

              • What do cockroaches do when we turn a light on? ​​ (they scatter in fear)

              • What’s our reaction when we’ve been in the darkness for a long time and sudden a bright light is turned on? ​​ (we may jump because of being startled)

              • The shepherd’s reaction is no different (they are terrified)

          • The angel’s words

            • Do not be afraid

              • This is not the first time that the angel of the Lord has had to comfort those to whom he has visited and brought a message

              • He had to do the same thing with Zechariah (Luke 1:12-13) and Mary (Luke 1:29-30) [Butler, Holman New Testament Commentary, Luke, 29]

            • I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people

              • Good news

                • The Greek word for “good news” is euangelizomai and means “to proclaim and preach the good news” [Bock, 215; Stein, 108]

                  • The good news was that on that same day in Bethlehem a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord

                  • Savior (soter) – Jesus will deliver His people [Mary (Luke 1:46-55) and Zechariah’s (Luke 1:67-79) hymns expressed this truth]

                  • Christ – it comes from the Greek word for “Anointed One” and speaks of Jesus’ as the Messiah (the promised One)

                  • Lord – “the holy, unspeakable personal name of God himself” [Butler, 30]

                • This Greek verb (euangelizō) and noun (euangelion) are where we get our English word evangelism

                • We’re commanded to do the same thing that the angel did with the shepherds, proclaim and preach the good news of Jesus Christ

              • Great joy

                • The message of the Gospel (good news) should bring us great joy

                • “Gospel elicits joy, not fear. ​​ Joy is the inward feeling of happiness and contentment that bursts forth in rejoicing and praise.” [Butler, 29]

              • All the people

                • PRINCIPLE #2 – Jesus came for all people.

                  • Now this doesn’t mean we’re automatically guaranteed salvation and heaven

                  • We’re all born with a desire to have our own way (it’s called our sinful nature)

                  • David spoke about being sinful from the time he was conceived, which means from the time life begins in the womb (Rom. 3:23)

                  • Jesus came to take the punishment we deserve, for our sinful, rebellious nature (Rom. 6:23; 1 Cor. 15:3-4)

                  • John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

                • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Believe in Jesus and His perfect sacrifice for my sins on the cross and receive God’s gift of eternal life.

            • The sign

              • The angel doesn’t command the shepherds to go into Bethlehem and find Jesus, but what the angel says next is specific information on how to identify the correct baby

              • So, it’s implied that they should go to Bethlehem and check out this incredible baby

              • They’ll know they’ve found the right place when they find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger (feeding trough)

          • What the shepherds get next is a heavenly choir concert

            • A great company of angels join the angel who had told them about Jesus and they begin to worship God

            • They glorify God, because He has fulfilled His promise of sending a Savior

            • This Savior is going to bring peace between God and those in humanity who believe in Jesus, repent of their sins, and accept His gift of eternal life (on whom his favor rests)

            • PRINCIPLE #3 – Jesus brings peace between God and humanity.

              • Romans 5:1-2, Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. ​​ And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

              • Ephesians 2:14-16, For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. ​​ His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

          • As soon as the angels returned to heaven the shepherds started talking among themselves

        • Shepherd’s response (vv. 15-20)

          • Let’s go!

            • The shepherds understood the implied message from the angel

              • They couldn’t wait to see with their own eyes what the Lord had made known to them

              • They had to obey what the Lord had told them through the angel

              • Finding the Savior requires obedience.

            • PRINCIPLE #4 – God’s desire is that His people seek Jesus.

              • That’s exactly what the shepherds did

              • They found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger

              • The idea behind the word found is that they searched, without stopping, until they found the right baby

              • That’s perhaps where some of us are today

                • We’ve been searching for true peace

                • We’ve looked at many different religions, but still haven’t found the peace of God

                • If that’s you, I want to encourage you to keep searching, keep seeking, until you find Jesus

                • Don’t ever give up

                • He came for you!

            • After the shepherds found Jesus they didn’t just sit there at the manger for the rest of their lives, rather, they started telling other people about Him

          • Let’s share!

            • They told everyone what they had seen and heard about Jesus, the Messiah

            • Those who heard were amazed

              • That doesn’t mean that they believed in Jesus as the Messiah or their Savior

              • The same will be true for us when we share with others about Jesus

                • They may see a radical change in us and think how amazing that transformation is, but still not believe in Jesus as their Savior

                • Some people are excited for us and that it “worked” for us, but still not believe it will “work” for them

                • Our responsibility isn’t to save them, but to faithfully share the Gospel (good news) with them

                • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Faithfully share the Gospel with those I come in contact with.

                  • I would encourage you to begin praying each day for divine appointments to share the Gospel and then be on the look out

                  • Jesus commanded His disciples and us to do this continually (Matt. 28:18-20)

                  • Making disciples is more than just a quick Gospel presentation and a prayer

                  • When someone responds to the Gospel it means walking together with them as they grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18)

                  • That takes a lifetime

              • Mary was contemplative and took Jesus’ miraculous birth and the incredible story of the heavenly host that the shepherds shared with her and remembered them with fondness – it would be something she would never forget, but return to continually as she raised Jesus

            • The shepherds weren’t done

          • Let’s rejoice!

            • After seeing Jesus and telling others about Him, they returned to the fields outside Bethlehem, but they didn’t do it quietly

            • They glorified and praised God for all that He had done

            • Application

              • Have we done that recently?

              • Let’s do that this morning

                • We added 2 new members this past year (“Thank you God, we praise You!”)

                • We know of 2 individuals who accepted Jesus as their Savior (“Thank you God, we praise You!”)

                • There were 8 people baptized this year (“Thank you God, we praise You!”)

                • There were 5 children dedicated to the Lord ((“Thank you God, we praise You!”)

                • There were people who were healed this year through supernatural means or through surgery (“Thank you God, we praise You!”)

                • There were people who were spared even though they went through an accident (“Thank you God, we praise You!”)

                • There were individuals and families who experienced restored relationships (“Thank you God, we praise You!”)

                • We had individuals in our lives who were promoted to heaven (“Thank you God, we praise You!”)

            • God is worthy of our praise and worthy to be glorified!

 

  • YOU

    • God controls all history, including the circumstances you are currently going through

    • Jesus came for all people to bring peace between God and us

    • God’s desire is that we seek Jesus

 

  • WE

    • As a body of believers we need to share the Gospel with others

    • As a body of believers we need to rejoice in what God has done

 

CONCLUSION

As you celebrate Christ’s birth with family this Christmas, take time to remember the significance of what God did in fulfilling His plan of salvation through His One and only Son, Jesus Christ. ​​ Make sure that you are seeking the Savior during this season and all year long.

13

 

3rd Sunday of Advent

The Star: ​​ A Journey of Joy

(Luke 2:8-20)

 

INTRODUCTION

VIDEO – Joy Bumper video

 

Today is the third Sunday of Advent, and we’re glad you’re here journeying with us through this season. ​​ We’ve been spending the last couple of Sundays talking about Advent and how it is a season of preparation and expectation. ​​ We’ve already learned about the journey of hope and love.

 

Our guiding symbol through the season is the star. ​​ Just as that Star of Bethlehem drew the wise men toward the Savior thousands of years ago, the star guides our focus on a spiritual journey of hope, love, joy, and peace that all connect us to the Morning Star, the light of the world, Jesus.

 

As we continue to follow the star toward Christmas, it leads us today to focus on the journey of joy. ​​ Joy can be the fuel that brightens our journey, and it is a fascinating concept. ​​ Joy is often misunderstood. ​​ It is often confused with happiness. ​​ And it regularly shows up in situations where it may be least expected.

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Birth of our children

        • I remember with the birth of all three of our boys that while Judy was experiencing labor pains, there was extreme joy that followed as soon as they were born

        • At least for a short period of time, after giving birth, Judy didn’t notice the pain her body was experiencing

        • With Seth’s birth, she was told for the last two months of the pregnancy that she couldn’t have the baby yet

          • She wasn’t able to mentally prepare for his delivery like she had done for Wade’s delivery

          • Then one day, they told her she could have the baby

          • That delivery was probably the most difficult of the three

        • While I didn’t experience labor pains, I was filled with joy and wept at the birth of all three of our boys

    • Being laid-off

        • While working at the headquarters of Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) in Missouri, I was caught up in one of the layoffs that took place

        • There had been financial struggles for many ministries that year and CEF was not exempt

        • The night before the layoffs were announced, I remember thinking that they would never lay me off, because of how much I did and how much I knew

          • It was that night that God told me I was one of the ones who would be laid off

          • So, I went to work the next day anticipating that I would not a job by the end of the day

        • There was definitely fear associated with being laid off

          • I had a wife and three boys to take care of

          • We had a beautiful home and a mortgage to pay each month

          • We had two vehicles with monthly insurance payments

          • I had no idea where I would get a job

          • Yet, the next day when the Vice President of USA Ministries came into my office and explained that I was being laid off, I was filled with joy

          • As he prayed for me, I remember raising my hands (under my desk) and thanking God for showing me that it was time for me to leave CEF and pursue other opportunities

          • I had some growing to do and that experience was the catalyst that started that growth, both personally and spiritually

 

  • WE

    • What fears are you facing right now?

        • Health concerns?

        • Financial concerns?

        • Relational concerns?

        • Employment concerns?

        • Educational concerns?

        • Spiritual concerns?

        • Governmental concerns?

        • Societal concerns?

        • The list could go on!

    • Are those concerns stripping you of joy?

        • Are those concerns consuming every waking moment?

        • Are they keeping you awake at night?

        • Are you struggling to find joy in the difficult situation?

 

Through this journey of joy, today, God wants us to understand that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – We can have joy in life’s journey.

 

Let’s pray

 

As we look at the journey of joy today, we’ll see that joy and pain co-exist, that joy connects us with others, and that our response to joy should be worship.

 

  • GOD (Luke 2:8-20)

    • Joy and Pain (vv. 8-14)

        • Sometimes it’s easier to find joy in our circumstances when we stop focusing on them and begin to focus on the needs of others

          • In America, we are blessed in so many ways

          • We have plenty of food at our fingertips and clean drinking water

          • Most everyone has a safe place to live

          • We have multiple educational opportunities for our children

          • We have a governmental system that provides certain freedoms

          • We have our own toothbrush and toothpaste

          • We have multiple versions of the Bible and many of us have multiple copies of the Bible

          • Yet, there are individuals around the world who have so much less than we have and find joy in it

          • Operation Christmas Child is an organization that provides boxes filled with items we take for granted, but that children around the world cherish and find great joy in

          • Show VIDEO – LoveGrowsinUkraine [https://video.samaritanspurse.org/love-grows-in-ukraine/]

            • I just love the children’s faces with those huge smiles on them

            • Their faces say it all – they are filled with joy!

            • Even though they live a life that we would consider hard or difficult, they find joy in the simple things

          • As we think about joy and pain or joy and fear, I’m reminded of the shepherds the night Jesus was born

        • Shepherds

          • Read Luke 2:8-14

          • The shepherds were a strong, ruddy group

            • They didn’t lead easy lives

            • They were considered ceremonially unclean because of their work and therefore weren’t able to worship at the Temple

            • They continually had to guard their flocks against wild animals

              • We’re reminded of David, the shepherd boy, who killed Goliath

              • When he came before King Saul to offer his services against Goliath, he told the King that he had killed the lion and bear to protect his father’s flocks

            • They also laid in the opening to the sheep pen throughout the night and became the “door” to protect the sheep from thieves

            • The shepherds had their fears and pains, but I’m sure they experienced joy also

          • The angels appearance brought fear

            • While these shepherds were a hardy bunch, the appearance of an angel in the dead of night terrified them

            • They didn’t know what to think about what they were seeing

            • The angel and his group came in peace with the world’s greatest birth announcement, but first he had to help the shepherds get over their fear

              • He calms their fears by telling them not to be afraid

              • They weren’t the first ones to hear those words from an angel

              • Mary and Joseph also heard those same words when they each had their own individual meeting with an angel

            • Once the shepherd’s fear was taken care of, they were ready to hear the angel’s message

          • The angels message would bring joy

            • The angel had good news that would bring great joy to all of humanity

            • There was a baby that was born in Bethlehem that night

            • It wasn’t just any baby, but it was Christ the Lord!

            • The angel gave the shepherds specific information to identify the baby they were to look for (the baby would be wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger – a feeding trough for animals)

            • Before the angel left he was joined with a choir of angels, praising God

        • Application

          • It’s a strange thing about joy – it seems the natural reaction for most of us is to think joy could only come when pain is removed

            • But the truth is, in our fallen world, joy and pain exist side by side

            • Our lives are a constant balance of joy and pain as we walk through the experiences of life

            • In fact, it is often the pain or struggle that magnifies the power of joy

            • And it’s here in this dichotomy that the message of the angel is for us as well: ​​ Do not be afraid!

          • The struggles you’re going through – health, finances, relationships, school, employment, society, government, etc. – those are the exact places where the words of the angel can penetrate the most deeply and powerfully

            • The angel’s message is for you!

            • There is good news of great joy

            • James writes about joy in trials and makes a pretty astounding statement

            • James 1:2-4, Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. ​​ Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

              • Can James really mean that?

              • It’s not a “fake it ‘til you make it” idea

              • It’s understanding that through our trials we can grow and become mature in our faith as we seek God

              • As we walk in relationship with God, we can grow to experience a sense of joy that comes from understanding there is more than the pain we’re currently facing

            • We can have joy in life’s journey

          • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Not be afraid of the difficult things I’m currently going through and remember that I can have joy in the middle of it with God’s help.

        • The shepherds experienced joy and fear co-existing, but they also realized that joy brings connection with others

    • Joy and Connection (vv. 15-19)

        • Thinking back about the video from Operation Christmas Child, did you notice that they bring all the children together

          • The children are experiencing the joy of receiving their gift with other children who are also receiving a gift

          • It’s a time of building community and togetherness

          • They are also hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ as they gather together

          • In Ukraine, the children continue to gather together to learn how to read

          • The joy each child experiences is done in connection with other children – they experience joy together

        • Read Luke 2:15-19

        • The shepherds were experiencing the joy of Jesus’ birth together

          • Scripture doesn’t tell us how many shepherds were together that evening, but it was more than one

          • They had experienced a heavenly choir and the incredible news that the Messiah had been born

          • This was who Israel was waiting for!

          • As the shepherds were processing everything they had just seen and heard, they decided to go and see what had happened

          • So, they hurried off into town and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby – just like the angel had said

          • The shepherds didn’t just keep this incredible news to themselves

        • The shepherds connected with others in Bethlehem after seeing Jesus

          • They began to spread the word concerning what they had been told about Jesus

          • He is the Savior, He is Christ the Lord

            • Those were two important terms for the Israelites

            • They were looking for a Savior from Roman rule

            • Christ was even more important for them

            • Christ can be translated Messiah

              • In Greek it was “The Christ”

              • In Hebrew it was “the Messiah”

              • Both mean “the Anointed One”

            • John 3:17, For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

            • What do we need to be saved from?

              • The Israelites thought they needed to be saved from Roman rule

              • We may be feeling like we need to be saved from the difficult circumstances we’re currently in (health, finances, school, employment, relationships, government, society, etc.)

              • In many cases we need to be saved from those things, but there is a greater concern we need to be saved from – the darkness of sin in our lives

                • Sin is an age-old problem that every generation and every individual has been enslaved to since the fall of Adam and Eve

                • Isaiah 53:6, We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

                • We are born with a desire to have our own way

                • It is not a condition that only certain people struggle with – it’s a condition that all humanity struggles with

                • Romans 3:23, For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

                • God knew from the beginning of time that we would reject Him and go our own way – we would choose to be separated from Him

                • That is what we earn or deserve for our sin – ​​ for the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23)

                • Since God knew we would choose to reject Him, He already had a plan in place to deal with the darkness of sin in our lives

                • He was waiting for just the right time

                  • Romans 5:6, You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

                  • Galatians 4:4-7, But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive full rights of sons. ​​ Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” ​​ So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

                • God’s plan was to send Jesus from heaven to earth, grow up to be a man, live a perfect life, die on a cross to take our punishment for sin, be buried, and come alive again on the third day, conquering sin and death

                • Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 that Jesus fulfilled God’s plan that was prophesied by Old Testament prophets – He died, was buried, and came alive again in three days

              • Romans 10:9-10, 13, That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. ​​ For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved . . . for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

                • You have to admit that you are enslaved to sin

                • You have to be willing to turn from your sin (Repent)

                • You have to believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus died, was buried, and came alive again to save you from your sin

                • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Believe in Jesus, confess that with my mouth, and be saved from the darkness of sin in my life.

              • When you make that decision to be saved from your sins, you are connected with millions of other believers around the world

              • The good news of great joy wasn’t just for the shepherds, the Israelites, Americans, or all Christians

              • The good news is for the whole world (everyone), regardless of borders, governments, nationalities, races, or socio-economic levels

          • The shepherds connected with those in Bethlehem and shared the good news about Jesus

        • The response of those they told was amazement!

        • There is one more aspect of joy that we need to investigate

    • Joy and Worship (v. 20)

        • Questions

          • What is our response to joy?

          • What do we do when joy interrupts our everyday lives and sets up camp alongside our fears and pain?

          • How do we live in the balance of joy and pain/fear until Jesus comes again?

          • How do we foster and experience this joy that is offered to us?

        • Feelings about joy

          • Sometimes it’s easy to embrace joy

          • Sometimes our struggles and hurts are so overwhelming that we are trapped and bound by our fear

          • Joy can feel so far away, so distant, maybe even impossible

        • The Bible shows us that the appropriate response to joy is always worship

          • It is even possible that worship can jump-start joy as we fix our eyes on God and His greater reality and plan rather than on our immediate problems or the fears we are facing at the moment

          • In the Christmas story we see the response to joy from three different groups

            • The angels, Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:13-14)

            • The shepherds, The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:20)

            • The wise men, When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. ​​ On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. ​​ Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. (Matthew 2:10-11)

          • All of creation rejoices and worships the Lord

            • Psalm 96:11-13, Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. ​​ Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth.

            • Isaiah 55:12, You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

        • Application

          • We can experience the same kind of joy that causes us to worship this Advent season

            • Peter told us our walk of faith in Jesus brings us a sense of joy

            • 1 Peter 1:8-9, 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, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

            • When we change our focus from the fear and pain we are currently experiencing and focus on eternity, we begin to realize that what we going through may not be that bad – it gives us perspective

            • 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. ​​ So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. ​​ For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

          • We have a choice

            • We can wallow in self-pity, fear, and pain

            • Or, we can change our perspective and focus, by worshiping God in the fear and pain

            • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Focus on the unseen by worshiping God in the middle of my fear and pain as a way to jump-start joy in my life.

 

  • YOU

    • Not experiencing joy in your life

        • The brokenness of our fallen world stands at odds with Christ’s joy

        • We straddle the tension between our physical and spiritual realities

        • While we talk about the angels, shepherds, and wise men worshiping God, because of Jesus’ birth, it may be a very difficult and lonely time for many of us

        • What can we do when we find ourselves in that position?

          • First, take the time to connect with others – joy can be contagious (this room is a great place to start if you need to find someone to listen, to pray, and to worship)

          • Second, take time and make a choice to be purposefully thankful (gratitude has a way of reminding us of joy and the reasons we have to rejoice even in the midst of pain – even make a list so you can refer back to it when you’re experiencing fear and pain)

          • Third, let’s worship God for who He is! (we can worship God for who He is, because His eternal love and faithfulness never change and His goodness and mercy never run out)

    • Experiencing joy in your life

        • Make yourself available for those who are struggling this Christmas season

        • Practical ways

          • We will be taking up a love offering during the closing song this morning for a family in the church who is struggling financially

          • There are many individuals within our church and even outside our church who are lonely and would welcome a visit (we can recommend individuals to you)

          • There are individuals who just need someone to pray with them and encourage them

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CONCLUSION

VIDEO – “Advent_4_-_Joy_English_Version”

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