Spurred on by Dave’s reminder last week of the different Advent themes for each Sunday in Advent, Garry spoke this morning on joy, taking as his text Luke 2:8-14 TNIV. Joy comes largely from our perspective and perspective comes from both knowledge and faith. Hebrews 10:32-35 TNIV talks about the early Christians’ remarkable reaction to suffering which included loss of goods (‘confiscate’ does not quite get over the force of this word – think about the Viking raids and ‘pillaging’ for a better idea of the force used) and even loss of life. They retained joy in these difficult circumstances of opposition and persecution because they knew they had something even better (eternal salvation), which could not be taken from them. We can know joy even in the worst of circumstances because we know that what we have on earth is not all we possess; we are storing for ourselves treasures in heaven.
God is everything He says He is and does not make empty promises. He is therefore able to infuse us with joy and fill us to overflowing.
We can rejoice in:
1) God’s reign
1 Chron 16:31 TNIV reminds us that God reigns over all. Christmas is the time when we see God’s ruling clearly, for He planned the setting, arranged the circumstances and chose the right time for His Son’s birth on earth. He fulfilled the promises made right back in the Garden of Eden that He would send a Saviour.
2) God’s goodness
2 Chron 6:41 TNIV shows us that God’s people rejoice in His goodness. We rest on the fact that God is good; goodness marks out what God does. Ps 73:1 TNIV reminds us that God is good to His people, but Matt 5:45 TNIV reminds us that He is good to all people (the righteous and unrighteous alike.) Ps 103:1-5, 10 TNIV outline many of the ways in which we can experience God’s goodness, for He forgives all our sins, heals all our diseases, crowns us with compassion and does not treat us as our sins deserve.
3) God’s salvation
God’s plan of salvation was initiated in time with the birth of Christ. The events at Bethlehem ultimately started the ball rolling: the birth of Christ led inexorably to His death and resurrection and therefore to our deliverance from sin. 1 Sam 2:1 TNIV talks about the deliverance or salvation which God brings and 1 Sam 10:19 TNIV reminds us that God delivers us ‘out of all your disasters and calamities.’ God is able to save us from our enemies, from sin and from death. Even the name chosen for God’s Son reflects this, for Jesus means ‘he will save his people from their sins.’ (Matt 1:22 TNIV) God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves and He saves us!
4) God’s provision
Deut 26:11 TNIV and Luke 6:38 TNIV remind us of God’s abundant provision and generosity. Every good and perfect gift comes from God who is able to meet all our needs. (Phil 4:19 TNIV) Our God gives good gifts which overflow.
5) the fact that God gives joy
Neh 12:43 TNIV reminds us that God gives us great joy. Rom 15:13 TNIV is a prayer for the God of hope to fill us with all joy and peace so that we overflow with hope. God Himself at Christmas-time stepped from eternity into time so that He could change our destiny.
Cromford in Derbyshire used to be a mining village where the lead had to be transported down the Pennines into the valleys. Following a severe accident when the carriage ran out of control, a ‘crash pit’ was built. If a carriage was descending too quickly, it would run into the crash pit, rather than running on into the railway station and causing harm. If the carriage was descending at the correct speed, the points could be changed so that it could arrive safely at its proper destination. We were destined for hell because of our sin, but Jesus shows us that God has done something about this and made a way for us to have a new destiny which includes spending eternity with Him. No wonder we have joy!