2018 Christmas Advent (3)
This Sunday marks the last Advent Sunday for 2018.
We started this Advent Season with the Advent of Hope. We noted that Hope is not dependent on our current circumstances, but on trusting in a God Who loves us and has a perfect plan for our lives.
Two Sundays ago, we looked at the Advent of Peace. One of the things we looked at in our study of the Advent of Peace is that if you have trusted Jesus as your Savior, you can have peace in the midst of the storms of life. The key is to keep your focus on Jesus. Storms are an inevitable part of life, but for the believer, they never go through those storms on their own. God is with the believer each step of the way.
Last Sunday we discussed the Advent of Love. In our discussion of the Advent of Love we looked at the reality that those that trust in Jesus are adopted into the family of God. We also discussed that when God chose to adopt us, He didn’t make the choice based on anything about us that made us worthy. He chose us when we were ruled by the ugliness of sin. We ended with a challenge to allow the Love of God to flow through us each day, that lives would be transformed.
This morning we will look at that last Advent for 2018, the Advent of Joy. Next Slides
2018 Christmas Advent-The Advent of Joy
2018 Christmas Advent-The Advent of Joy
As we begin our look at the Advent of Joy, let’s start by looking at the difference between happiness and joy. We will begin this by looking a happiness.
Contrasting Joy & Happiness.
In looking at the history of the word happiness, you find the word is linked to circumstances. In German the word luck and happiness are identical. The key is this: Next Slides
Happiness is tied to good circumstances.
If the circumstances around us, our relationships, our job or school, the activities we do in our free time are good, we are happy, but: Next Slides
Happiness can disappear with one phone call, letter, conversation, grade or job review.....
Of course, if you think about it, you could easily add to that list.
So how is joy different from happiness?
While happiness is tied to circumstances, joy is a choice that is not tied to circumstances. Next Slide
The anticipation of the celebration of Jesus 1st coming-Christmas day.
The anticipation of Jesus 2nd coming.
Joy is an emotion that’s acquired by the anticipation, acquisition or even the expectation of something great or wonderful.
While it is very likely all of us will experience Christmas Day, since it is the day after tomorrow. There is a good chance that we will all be gone before His 2nd coming, when He returns to usher in His millennial reign. We are not going to take the time to discuss the 2nd coming this morning, we will leave that for another time, but the point is this:
“Joy is an inner sense of well-being and satisfaction that endures through good times and bad, it abides through happy experiences and sad circumstances. You see, joy is a gift that God gives us when we allow Him to be the Lord of our lives.” Kyle Idleman The Christmas Experience
So, what is the point? The point is this: Next Slides
So what is the point? The point is this: Next Slides
Christian joy is not tied to circumstances.
Now that we have laid the groundwork for what joy is and isn’t, let’s now look at the
Areas of Joy in the Christmas Story
To begin with, turn in your Bible to Luke chapter 2. While I will show you some other passages this morning, this is where you can put your bookmark.
As you are turning, let me set the stage for you. As someone who was literally raised in the church, my dad was the pastor and much of the time the church was literally less than 50 yards from our house. As someone who was raised in the church, my tendency much of my life has been to look at the Christmas story as kind of a series of events that just sort of happened and when all was said and done everything ended up fitting together and provided for us what we now know as the Christmas story. However, as I have looked at and studied all of the events of the Christmas story, I have come to realize that every detail of the Christmas story was planned by God, things didn’t just happen to work out, they worked out according to the perfect planning of a God Who is in complete control of everything. As we go through some of the details this morning, I think many of you will come away with a since of awe at how God orchestrated all of the events in a very special way. That, to me, is a huge part of the joy of Christmas.
Now let’s look at Luke chapter 2.
-Page 1090 in the Pew Bibles.
To begin with let’s look at: Next Slides
1. Joy in Fulfilled Prophesy.
We see this in verses 1-5 Next Slides
1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
Both Joseph and Mary lived in the Town of Nazareth, yet the Old Testament prophesies were very clear that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, which is over 70 miles south of Nazareth. Next Slide
2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.
It wasn’t like they could jump in their comfy car and 2 1/2 hours later be in Bethlehem. On top of that, we don’t know that either Joseph or Mary knew of the prophecy. So, the God, Who is in complete control, moves the mind of the Roman Ruler, Caesar Augustus, to decree a census to be taken. Now in those days they didn’t send out crews of people to count each household. No, they required each household to go to the place of their lineage to be counted. Joseph, who was a part of the Tribe of Judah and specifically was a direct descendant of King David, was required to go to the Town of David, otherwise known as Bethlehem. And there you see Joy in Fulfilled Prophecy.
That brings us to the next joy we will look at this morning.
Now before we look at that, if you don’t mind, I’d like to use my imagination for a moment and put myself in the place of God. Now if I am God, and I am sending my only Son into the World, when I choose the individuals, I am going to announce His birth to, well I am choosing Kings, maybe the High Priest or some other great Spiritual Leader, but Scripture tells us in many passages that God does things differently than we do. Next Slide
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
So, who does God choose? Well that brings us to the next Area of Joy in the Christmas Story: Next Slides
2. Joy In The Recipients Of The Message.
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
God chooses shepherds. What a curious choice? I mean most shepherds were on the low end of the totem pole in many ways, and these shepherds worked the night shift! Not exactly a lofty position. Yet of all the choices He had as recipients of this the most important of messages, He chose shepherds. Have you ever wondered why? I’d like to give you 2 reasons why, I’m sure there may be several others, but I think these 2 give us a vivid picture of the reality of what the future held for Jesus.
We see the first reason in :
2 Reason why God chose shepherds:
The 1st reason is that : Next Slides
11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
The 1st reason is that :
Jesus was the Good Shepherd.
We see this in Next Slide
11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
We also see this in Next Slide
3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. 4 And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.
3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel.
Shepherds had a unique relationship with their sheep. They lived with the sheep, walked with the sheep, talked with the sheep, slept out in the elements with the sheep. They continually put themselves in harm’s way to protect the sheep and were willing to lay down their life, if need be to save the sheep. When all was said and done, that was exactly what Jesus did. He walked with us as He walked with the disciples. He talked with us as He left us His Word, and He still talks with us today as well. He experienced life in much the same way we experience life. And in the end, he put Himself in harm’s way when He laid down His life for us, His sheep. Jesus was the Good Shepherd.
Shepherds had a unique relationship with their sheep. They lived with the sheep, walked with the sheep, talked with the sheep, slept out in the elements with the sheep. They continually out themselves in harms way to protect the sheep and were willing to lay down their life, if need be to save the sheep. When all was said and done, that was exactly what Jesus did, He laid down His life for us, His sheep. Jesus was the Good Shepherd.
Joy In The Recipients Of The Message.
The second reason: Next Slide
These were not ordinary shepherds.
Hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, Jewish Rabbi’s had established rules that shepherds were only permitted to raise their sheep in the wilderness, far away from Jerusalem. The only exception was sheep raised for the temple sacrifice. Bethlehem, being between 5-6 miles from Jerusalem, was designated as the area where sheep were raised for the temple sacrifice. It was these shepherds near Bethlehem, raising lambs for the temple sacrifice that received the message from the angel of God. That, in and of itself makes these shepherds special....
But wait, there’s more...
Many historians and theologians also believe that these shepherds had rabbinical training and may even have been from the priestly Levite tribe. Perhaps you may be wondering why this would be important?
Because since these were lambs being raised for temple sacrifice, they had to be examined carefully to make sure they were without blemish, only unblemished lambs could be used for the temple sacrifice. These shepherds knew how to carefully examine lambs destined to be sacrificed, lambs who were quite literally born to die a sacrificial death.
As I said a few moments ago, these were not ordinary shepherds.
Now let’s look at the next Area of Joy in the Christmas Story:
3. Joy In The Nature Of Jesus Birth.
Now by the nature of His birth, I am not specifically speaking of the virgin birth, though there is great joy in the virgin birth. By nature of His birth, I am speaking of what we see in . Next Slides
10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Did you happen to notice the last phrase of verse 10 and the first phrase of verse 11? Next Slide
I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day
10....I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. 11 For unto you is born this day...
While Mary may have been the one giving birth, Jesus birth is to bring great joy to all of us.
I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people
For unto you is born this day...
The nature of the birth of Jesus was to bring joy to all of us.
This brings us to the next Area of Joy in the Christmas Story: Next Slides
4. Joy In The Very Specific Sign
For this very specific sign, look at Next Slide
12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
Until recently, I had no idea how loaded those words were.
and this will be a sign to you: you will find a babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."
Meanwhile, an angel roars in over shepherds watching their sheep and announces, "I bring you good tidings of great joy ... Today in the town of David (that's Bethlehem) a Savior has been born to you ... this will be a sign to you: you will find a babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."
I doubt that Linus-in Charlie Browns Christmas - had a clue about the bombshell in the manger. A stunning revelation that, for all my years going over the Christmas story, I had totally missed. Now, this discovery has made this "most wonderful time of the year" even more wonderful!
As I mentioned earlier, Bethlehem was only about 5-6 miles from Jerusalem. Where the great temple of God was. Where, for centuries, people would bring a spotless lamb as a sacrifice for their sin.
I also mentioned earlier that it is widely believed that these shepherds were raising sheep for the temple sacrifice. Destined to be the blood sacrifice for the sin of the people.
Here's what I'm just learning after all these years. When a lamb was born, these temple shepherds would carefully examine him to see if he had any blemishes. If that lamb was without spot, they would ...
Wrap him in cloth strips called swaddling and lay Him in a manger, filled with straw.
Suddenly, heaven announces that the newborn Messiah would be found "wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."
Now, I want you to use your imagination for a moment here. Put yourself in the sandals of these temple shepherds. Here you are, late one-night tending sheep that were literally being born to die, born to be the blood sacrifice for someone else's sin.
All of the sudden and angel of God appears to you and tells you of the birth of the long-awaited Savior.
Then he tells you that the sign will be that you will find Him wrapped in swaddling clothes. By the way, did I happen to mention that there were 2 different Greek words for swaddling clothes? The one most frequently used, was a special blanket that they would use to wrap new born babies in. But that s not the word that Luke, the physician, uses here. He uses the other Greek word. The word he used, referred to strips of clothes that were used to wrap new born lambs for the temple sacrifice. Keep in mind that you have wrapped hundreds and hundreds of newborn lambs in swaddling clothes. You knew exactly what this meant, it meant that this newborn Messiah was, in a sense, a lamb. A spotless Lamb. To be sacrificed.
But the sign doesn’t stop with the swaddling clothes, it goes on to say lying in a manger. In other words, there are 2 parts to this sign.
well in the northern corner of the "little town of Bethlehem," there stood a tower. Called in , Next Slide
The "watchtower of the flock" - or Migdal Eder in Hebrew.
When a ewe of the temple flock was ready to give birth, the shepherds would carry her to the cave beneath the tower of Migdal Eder. It was there, the sacred temple lambs were born.
This is where I fasten my seat belt.
The angel told the shepherds that the second part of the sign by which to identify the newborn Messiah would be a baby wrapped in swaddling strips of clothes that were used for the lambs born for the temple sacrifice, and laying
in a manger.
I've always pictured those poor herders’ sort of playing Christmas hide-and-seek, looking for a baby that fit the description, I mean after all, the angel didn’t give them a map!
Wrong! The Messiah would be wrapped and mangered - just like those spotless lambs, destined for sacrifice. It's likely they went as fast as their sandals could carry them to Migdal Eder. To the cave where it's believed the sacrificial lambs were born! The angel didn’t need to give them a map, he told them exactly where the Baby would be, and it was a place they all knew well.
That baby in the hay was, indeed, the Lamb. God's Lamb.
The Sovereign Lord had every detail planned out.
Ok, so we have looked at 4 specific areas of Joy in the Christmas story out of Luke chapter 2. But many right now may be thinking: Next Slide
What does all of that mean to me today? I mean this all took place around 2000 years ago, and to be honest with I’m not feeling a lot of Christmas joy right now.
Would you allow me to be honest with you for a moment? I know what you mean, and I probably have a better understanding of how you feel than many of you may realize.
To start with I want you to understand that Pam and really love that God brought us to Liberty Chapel. But 2018 has been one of the more difficult years of our life. Let’s start with almost exactly one year ago today. Pam and I were taking a walk out at Heritage Park. At that time things were really going good for us. We were making more money that we ever had before. We had a beautiful home, 2 kids, a dog and a cat and a picket fence. We were living the dream. As we were walking, Pam said to me that she was very happy with where God had us at that point. She wasn’t quite ready for my response. I told her, “She may not want to get used to it because I had had this sense for a while now that something bad was going to happen, specifically that something bad was going to happen to me.” Let’s just say, she was less than thrilled with my response. 5 weeks later I lost my job, and one month after that I was in a trauma unit not completely certain I would ever walk out. 2 months after that Pam had some health issues removed her ability to work. So here we were, both out of work and I had significant limitations on what I could even do physically.
So Pam and I understand heartache, we understand pain, we also understand loss-like some of you, we have one last family member this Christmas.
Yet despite all of that, we have great joy this Christmas, and you can too.
I want to finish this morning with Next Slides
4 Keys To Living In Christmas Joy.
Now one thing you need to realize is that the 1st key opens the door to all the remaining keys. In other words, if you don’t have the first key, the last 3 keys are locked away beyond your reach.
So, what is the 1st key? Next Slides
Accepting the price paid by that Sacrificial Lamb.
The Bible is very clear, we have all sinned-we have all done wrong and the price for the wrong we have done is an eternity separated from God in hell. But the good news is the Bible doesn’t stop with the bad news. It also says in Next Slide
8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
In other words, that baby, wrapped in those swaddling strips of cloth whose specific function was for sacrificial lambs, and place in the manger, that Baby Who later died on a cross,
paid the price for your sin.
In other words, that baby, wrapped in those swaddling strips of cloth whose specific function was for sacrificial lambs, and place in the manger, that Baby Who later died on a cross, paid the price for your sin.
The 1st Key to Christmas Joy is putting your faith and trust in the Spotless Lamb Who takes away the sins of the world.
Perhaps you may be thinking, “Jim, you don’t know me. You don’t know my background, you don’t know what I have done.”
You know what, you’re right, I don’t, but Jesus does, and you were on His mind as He hung on that cross. You know what one of the last things He said while hanging on that cross was? He said: “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” You know who was at the foot of the cross?
ou know what, you’re right, I don’t, but Jesus does, and you were on His mind as He hung on that cross. You know what one of the last things He said while hanging on that cross was? He said: “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” You know who was at the foot of the cross?
Roman soldiers who had beat Him so badly that He didn’t even look human. Who thrust a crown of thorns on His head so deep that it penetrated to His skull and then nailed Him to the cross He carried on His own back up the hill to be crucified.
The Jews that shouted for His crucifixion, were also at the foot of the cross. Chances are they all knew someone who had been healed by Him, in fact some of them had likely been healed by Him, yet still they yelled Crucify Him.
Let’s have a show of hands, How many of you were present that day?
I am here to tell you in absolute confidence, if He could forgive that bunch while hanging on the cross, then He can forgive you, no matter what you have done. You just have to accept His gift of sacrifice for your sins that day and put your faith and trust in Him.
That brings us to the 2nd key to living in Christmas joy: Next Slides
2. Surrendering the controls of your life to the Sovereign God.
Now Sovereign God is kind of a big theological term, let me break it down for you, it simply means:
The God Who is in complete control. Kinda like He was in complete control of every little detail leading up to the birth of Jesus.
Details like putting in the mind of Caesar Augustus to have a census, a census that brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem at the exact time of the birth of Jesus, thus fulfilling prophecies from over 700 years before the birth.
Details like His message of the birth of The Spotless Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world to very special and specific shepherds who were raising lambs for the temple sacrifice.
Details like finding the baby wrapped in the very swaddling strips of cloth they used for baby lambs that would one day be used for the temple sacrifice.
Details like they would find the baby lying in a manger, and not just any manger, but in the manger they had been too many times before.
What we need to understand when we surrender the control of our lives to that Sovereign God, we can rest confidently that just as He had control of all of the details of the birth of Jesus, we can trust Him with the controls of our life as well.
The next key to living in Christmas joy is: Next Slides
3. Move your focus from the troubles of life to Risen Savior.
It is natural for our minds to focus on the troubles of life, whether it is illness or injuries, financial difficulties, issues at work or school....I mean the list is endless.
Instead, we need to focus on Jesus and what He has done. This, in many ways, requires a bit of a blind faith in Him. Now for some of you, this won’t be easy. This all may be so new to you that you have little to go by as a foundation for that blind faith. In fact, this could easily be an entire message all by itself. But you’re in luck, the first week of 2 in January we will be looking at this in more detail. It would be a good idea for you to set those Sundays aside to be here.
This brings us to this mornings last key to living in Christmas joy:
Practice Obedience, there is no joy without obedience.
What could rob you of your joy this Christmas?
God’s choices, Abraham, Moses, David, Israel, God doesn’t look at the outward appearance, He looks at the heart, throughout the Bible, God cares for and lifts up the lowly, He has a heart for the marginalized.
4. Focus less on yourself and more on others.
Where do you find joy in your life?
Now I can’t really speak for you, but for me, I gotta admit, my natural tendency every single day, and by every single day I mean, pretty much every single moment of every single day. My natural tendency is to focus on me over anybody else. I am naturally selfish, and I am pretty sure I’m not the only one here today that struggles with selfishness. But you know what I have noticed? I have noticed that the more time I spend focusing on others and their needs, the easier it becomes and the more natural it becomes.
I have also noticed that I experience real joy when I think less about myself and more about other people. And that I experience even more joy when put myself in a position of lifting up people who are less fortunate than I am.
Joy comes when we find ourselves in a position of lifting up the lowly.
Well I think we all have plenty to think about this morning as we head into the last couple days before Christmas.
You know, I don’t have the ability to see onto the hearts of everyone present here this morning. But there is a very high probability that there are some here today who have not yet taken hold of that 1st key to experiencing Christmas joy. Perhaps you have never accepted Jesus gift of sacrifice for your sins that day when He laid down His life on the cross. Perhaps you have never put your faith and trust in Him. You know we are not promised tomorrow. I have been to way too many funerals for people who in my mind still should be here, none of us are promised tomorrow. But we do have right now, and right now I am going to lead us in prayer. If you have never put your faith and trust in that baby born in a manger that He might die to pay the price for your sins, pray this prayer with me this morning, don’t wait for another day that may never come, pray with me now.
Dear God, I acknowledge this morning that I am a sinner, I have done wrong and my sin has me headed for hell. But I also know now that You died on the cross to pay the price for my sin. And right now, I accept the price you paid, and I trust you as my Lord and Savior. Lord Jesus, come into my life today and take control. In Jesus name, Amen
If you prayed that prayer with me this morning, would you do me a favor and let me know. It could be that you would write your name and phone # on the bottom of the back of your program and tear it off and give it to me. Or maybe just flat out tell me as you exit the auditorium today. Just do something to let me know.
Let’s close our service in prayer.
Let’s close our service in prayer.
When we trust in God.
The Joy of the Gospel breaks through the mundane.
The shepherds show us that joy eliminates fear.
Jesus did not come to imprison the guilty, but to set the prisoner free.