Wednesday, December 16, 2015

How Does One Find Joy This Christmas?

This past Sunday we lit the candle of joy in our advent wreath.  It is hard to feel joyful this Christmas in the midst of a constant barrage of negativity and fear in the news. 

Luke 2:8-20 ~

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


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

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

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

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Matthew 2:1-4 ~

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”


Matthew 2:16-18 ~

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.

Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

 “A voice is heard in Ramah,
    weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
    and refusing to be comforted,
    because they are no more.”
 
A group of dirty, poor shepherds taking care of the sheep one night see a wondrous sight.  A fantastic light filled the sky.  Angels appeared and brought incredible news.  Their savior had been born.  Joy filled their hearts.  They believed.  They came to worship.
 
Some intelligent, well-to-do wise men, pouring over their star charts see a wondrous sight.  A fantastic new star filled the sky.  Its light brought them incredible news.  A savior had been born.  Joy filled their hearts.  They believed.  They came to worship.
 
One shrewd, evil man, plotting his lordship hears of a wondrous event.  Travelers from the east brought incredible news.  A new King had been born.  Dismay filled his heart.  He believed.  He wanted to be worshiped.  And so he murdered innocent children.
 
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As we consider joy this Christmas, I want to ask the following questions.  How can we have joy when loved ones pass away too soon?  How can there be joy when we lose our jobs and struggle to make ends meet? How can we have joy when it’s a struggle to get out of bed each morning? How can we experience joy when senseless violence takes the lives of men, women and children every day?
 
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We can’t have joy if we keep Jesus as a tiny baby in a manger.  We won’t have it if we keep him nailed to the cross or buried in the tomb.

The only way to experience true joy is if we acknowledge that He rose again.  He rose with the light of dawn to give us joy.  We experience joy in knowing that He is with us in the midst of this dark world. 

The world itself doesn’t become light because of His resurrection.  We still experience hardship and persecution and tragedy.  Senseless violence still happens.  However, we have His light inside us, guiding us through the darkness. 

We can have joy because He can turn our trials and tragedies into a vessel to fill us with more of Him.  He lights our path and helps us find our way through the tribulation.  His light brings hope in the midst of despair.

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We in turn, as believers of Jesus Christ, can turn on His light to a very dark world.  We can shine hope and peace in the darkness.  We can bring light to our neighbors, co-workers and community in the midst of the blackness of night. 

We can do this because His light fills us with the ability to have joy as we rely and trust Him to guide us through the darkness.  We have joy as we focus on bringing comfort, love and help to those struggling.  We have joy as we rely on Him to work through our circumstances to bring about His glory.

Joy is possible this Christmas because of the light He brings.