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How to Have a Joyful Christmas | Sunday Message

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie
The Truth Network Radio
December 12, 2021 3:00 am

How to Have a Joyful Christmas | Sunday Message

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie

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December 12, 2021 3:00 am

Have you experienced the joy of Christmas? In today’s episode, Pastor Greg Laurie shares how the jubilance of the Advent season transcends even the toughest circumstances. Listen in for a new message from Luke 2.

Notes

The joy of Christmas is not in what’s opened Christmas day.

Joy does not come from what is under the tree but from who died on the tree!

The Lord needed Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem to fulfill Micah 5:2.

History is His story.

Jesus wasn’t a mere man or just one of the prophets.

Jesus was God in human flesh!

Christmas is not a rags-to-riches story, but rather a riches-to-rags story.

When Jesus arrived, almost everyone missed it. 

1. The highest message came initially to the lowest of people.

2. The message of the first Christmas was a message of joy! 

Great joy which shall be to all people!

At the cross, Christ defeated sin.

At the resurrection, Jesus defeated death.

3. Fear robs us of the joy of Christmas.

“Do not be afraid, the Messiah has come!”

The message of Christmas is fear not and have joy!

The condition of joy is to let go of fear.

Joy and happiness are something you choose, not wait to feel.

“Rejoice in the Lord, always. Again, I will say, rejoice!” —Philippians 4:4

Joy is a powerful magnet the Christian has because the nonbeliever has nothing like it.

4. We can have joy this Christmas because we have a Savior: Christ the Lord.

Jesus is not just your Savior; Jesus is also your Lord!

Scripture Referenced

Micah 5:2

Luke 5:32

Philippians 4:4

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Learn more about Greg Laurie and Harvest Ministries at harvest.org.

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Hey there. Thanks for listening to the Greg Laurie Podcast, a ministry supported by Harvest Partners. I'm Greg Laurie encouraging you.

If you want to find out more about Harvest Ministries and learn more about how to become a Harvest Partner, just go to Harvest.org. Get this Christmas. I heard about a little boy that decided to write God and tell him what he wanted for Christmas. So he said, Dear God, I've been a good boy for two months.

But then the little guy thought, well, I am writing to God and God knows everything. And he'll know I haven't been good for two months. So he crossed out to put one month. I've been good for one month. They thought, I haven't been good for one month. He crossed that out and said, I've been good for two weeks. And he thought, no, I haven't even been good for two weeks.

He made it one week. Even that was too much. And so he had a thought. He walked over to the little nativity set. There's the figure of Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus.

He grabbed the figure of Mary, went back to his letter, set the figure down and wrote, Dear God, if you ever want to see your mother alive again. So that's one way to go with these things. Now you go to the malls. Malls are crazy, aren't they? And parking spaces are so hard to find. Have you ever gone stalking for a parking space?

Do you know what I'm talking about? So someone's coming out of the mall. They have their bags. They're going to their car. So you're looking for their space.

And oh, there they are. You put your signal on and they take a year to put the bags away and you're waiting and people are backing up behind you. People are starting to honk, but you found this space. You're not going to let it go. And then the person puts the bags in the trunk and walks away.

This cannot happen. Listen, if you're going to your parking space in a mall and you're not going to leave, just signal us and say, no, not going to happen. I'm not going to leave. But this is the problem is that people, and if you're one of those people, make sure you leave as quickly as possible. When you're in the car and you are leaving, don't check your phone.

Don't check anything. Get out. And I mean that in Christian love. But because of the pressure, it can be a very hard time for a lot of people. You know, studies have shown that depression, anxiety, stress, and loneliness increased dramatically during the Christmas season. And this is ironic because the message of the angels to the shepherds 2,000 years ago who were keeping watch over their flocks by night was simply, we bring you great joy. But a lot of people are not experiencing great joy right now. Maybe you're thinking, well I'll experience great joy when I finish my Christmas shopping. Or I'll finish, I'll experience great joy when I get my next paycheck. Or I'll experience great joy when those ships that are stranded out there in the harbor are actually able to unload the stuff that is in them so I'll have presents under my Christmas tree. Or I'll have great joy when the hardship I'm going through ends.

But listen, you're not going to find great joy in any of those things. We have to come back to the essential message of what Christmas is. It's not about what's under the tree.

It's about who died on the tree. You see Jesus was born to die that we might live. The incarnation was for the purpose of the atonement. He came with the specific purpose to go to a cross, die for the sins of the world, and rise again from the dead. So you don't need Christmas presents to make you happy.

You need Christ's presence in your life. The message of the season is not shop till you drop. Nor is it let it snow. We need to go back to those wise men who got it right when they said, we have come to worship. If you want a joyful Christmas make it a Christmas that is filled with worship.

Here is the bottom line. Commercial Christmas cannot deliver on its promises. It can't deliver the magic. It can't deliver the delight.

It cannot deliver the hope that it promises. But Christ can. So let's go back to the first Christmas. Let's go back to the story as presented to us in the Gospel of Luke. And by the way turn in your Bible to Luke chapter 2. So when we last looked at the Christmas story we found the very young woman named Mary being told that she was going to be the fulfillment of a Bible prophecy. The angel Gabriel appeared to her and told her she would literally be the fulfillment of the promise of the prophet Isaiah and she would bring forth the Messiah.

Of course Joseph wasn't buying this but an angel of the Lord appeared to him and told him to take Mary as his wife because that one that was going to be born would be called Jesus. And he would save his people from their sins. Now seemingly out of nowhere but really right on God's schedule Caesar Augustus gives a ruling that all the world should be taxed. You know it's a funny thing Caesar history tells us he was actually a small little guy. So little Caesar if you will gave his decree. Pizza. Pizza. No not really. He gave his decree.

Everyone should be taxed. And so now Mary and Joseph find their way back to Bethlehem because that is where they were rooted. They were both of the house of David. But even that was for a purpose because Micah said that out of Bethlehem the Messiah would come. He said, "'Thou Bethlehem, though you be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth one whose origins have been from everlasting.'"

Or a literal translation would be the vanishing point. So this was all part of God's big plan to accomplish His purposes because history is His story. The reality is history swings on the hinge of the door of a stable in Bethlehem. And there the Son of God was born. And of course Jesus wasn't a mere man or just a prophet. He was God coming to us in human flesh as He entered our world. He was God with skin on literally walking among us. And the birth of Jesus was one of the most momentous events in all of human history because the eternal God literally became a fetus and was born of a woman. And He did this in order to become the Savior of the world.

My friend Joel Smallbone is a part of the band called For King and Country. And he wrote this beautiful little piece and I quote from it to think, "'A baby born in a stable, no prestige, no privilege, no social media, no social status, no political campaigns, no private airplanes, yet He turned B.C. into A.D.

He's the most famous name around the globe. He reconnected us back to heaven and turned, brought heaven down to earth.'" How true. So really when you get down to it the story of Jesus is not a rags to riches story.

It's a riches to rags story. Because God left the glory of heaven. Jesus left the comfort and the bliss of being surrounded by the angels and being in the presence of the Father and the Holy Spirit to be born in a barn in a very unsanitary environment as He entered our world. And when the first Christmas came most people missed it altogether. There were no twinkling lights hanging from the eaves of buildings. There were no reindeer on anyone's lawn. Children did not find it hard to sleep that night because basically it was a night like any other night.

In fact on the first Christmas it was business as usual. It was a bleak time spiritually for the Jewish people. There had been an icy silence from heaven and the Jewish people had not heard from God for 400 long years. Not one angelic appearance. Not one prophet speaking for the Lord. Not one miracle had been performed for 400 years.

And then out of nowhere but really right on God's timetable everything changes and the announcement goes out that Jesus has been born. Everyone missed it. The innkeeper missed it.

He didn't have room in his hotel or in his inn for Jesus. The people of Bethlehem missed it. The people of Rome missed it. The religious leaders missed it. Even when King Herod went to them and made them aware of the birth of this child and what does this mean in the Bible and they knew the Scriptures to go to that spoke about Messiah.

But they didn't make this short journey from where they were to go see in Bethlehem if this was true. Everybody missed it for the most part. So now God is going to make the greatest of all announcements.

You know when you have good news you can't wait to share it. And I wonder if up in heaven the Lord said, Ok I need some angels to get this message to planet earth that Messiah has arrived. Oh everyone would have volunteered. And the Lord might have said, Well I am thinking of sending Gabriel. Oh Lord another angel might say, He got to go last time.

I want to go. The Lord says, Alright you can all go. And God sent thousands of angels to make the announcement of the birth of Jesus.

And who did they make this announcement to? According to the Christmas story. Shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night.

Let's revisit that story now. I am reading from Luke 2 starting in verse 8. Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold an angel of the Lord stood before them and the glory of the Lord shone about them and they were greatly afraid. And the angel said to them, Do not be afraid. For behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you.

You will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men. So it was when the angels had gone away from them into heaven. The shepherd said one to another, Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass which the Lord has made known to us.

So here is my first point if you are taking notes. The highest message came initially to the lowest of people. Again the highest message came initially to the lowest of people. I mentioned last time that we have overly romanticized the Christmas story and we miss the raw power of it.

And here is another example. I talked about how we have sort of sanitized the birth of Jesus and the manger and we have missed the fact that it was a very difficult place for a little one to enter this world. Now let's think about the shepherds. You know we think the shepherds were these wonderful people and they were in their way. But these were the very outcasts of society.

If we updated this today and we read there were telemarketers calling people late at night or there were used car dealers trying to close deals we would have a different view of this. And that is how you have to think of a shepherd. They were not looked at in a positive way. They were looked at in a negative way.

We have romanticized them and don't understand who they were. The shepherd was so low on the social ladder. The only one that was worse than them was an actual leper.

They were stereotyped and maligned. For instance the testimony of a shepherd was not even allowed in a court. The rabbis banned pasturing sheep and goats in Israel except on desert plains. And the Mishnah which gives out Jewish law said if a shepherd fell into a pit you weren't even required to rescue them. So I mean they are the lowest of the low. No one wants to hang around with a shepherd.

No one likes the shepherd. So up in heaven God says who shall we tell first? Who should we reveal this message to that Christ has been born?

Not Caesar. Not the religious leaders. Not the influential folk who could potentially influence others.

The highest message came initially to the lowest of the low. Into the social context of religious snobbery and class prejudice the Son of God stepped forth. God handpicked these shepherds to hear this news. He left the self-righteous hypocrites off the mailing list. Are you on God's mailing list?

If you are a Christian you are. And He brings us good news. And it makes perfect sense because Jesus always went out of His way to go to the people who were outcasts. He went to Matthew a tax collector. A man who was a Jew who was working for the occupying force of Rome. And Jesus not only went out of His way to greet Matthew and to love Matthew. He called Matthew to be one of His disciples. Then Jesus saw another tax collector named Zacchaeus up in a tree when he went into Jericho. And He said, hey man, come on down from that tree.

I am coming over to your house for lunch today. People couldn't believe He would spend time with a man like Zacchaeus. Or that woman caught in the very act of adultery. Jesus took time for her. He showed mercy to her. Or that woman at the well from Samaria. The Jews had nothing to do with the Samaritans.

They were prejudiced against the Samaritans. And what does Jesus do? He goes out of His way to spend time with this burned out immoral woman that had tried to fill a hole in her heart with husband after husband. And He told her about the living water that could spiritually refresh her. And who is this message given to initially? It is given to shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night. Just makes perfect sense. And now the shepherd in our mind is elevated.

Elevated isn't he? You know when we tell the Christmas story and we have a Christmas play at church there is always going to be the shepherds. The shepherds are featured. The shepherds are important. And did not Jesus Himself say, I am the good shepherd who gives His life for His sheep. And my sheep hear my voice and they follow me. So this is something that is very important to remember that He took the highest message to the lowest of the low.

Number two. The message of the first Christmas was a message of joy. It was a message of joy.

Verse 10. The angel said, don't be afraid behold I bring you glad tidings of great joy which will be to all people. Not a little joy. Not some joy. Great joy. That is the message of Christmas.

It's great joy. You say, well yeah that's fine for them 2,000 years ago. I live in 2021. Times are hard.

No. Remember it says to all people. Not just for the folks back then but for all of us right to the present day. God wants you to have a joyful and happy Christmas this year. But the reality is, and I touched on this earlier, the holidays can be sad for a lot of folks.

Maybe there is something happening in your home that is making this a hard Christmas. I just read that the surgeon general has issued a warning about the mental health of young people. And the surgeon general told a newspaper that one in three high school students reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness. That's a 40 percent increase from 2009 to 2019. And suicide rates went up during this time by 57 percent among young people ages 10 to 24.

And then he pointed out during the pandemic rates of anxiety and depression have only increased. Man this is sad. People are down. And that's why we need to tell them the real message of Christmas. No matter what you're going through there's great joy. Again not in what's under the tree. Not in the celebration of Christmas with all of its trappings.

But in the essential message of Christmas. I was recently interviewed by a newspaper. And I was asked about a Pew research study that had been done. And in this study this was stated quote, Most Americans say they have spent some time in the past year thinking about big questions like the meaning of life or whether there is any purpose to suffering and why bad things happen to people. End quote. The age old question. Why do bad things happen to good people?

I don't have an answer that would probably satisfy you. But I can say this. Despite the bad things that can happen in our lives we can turn to God. There are things that happen that are utterly inexplicable. And if you have suffered loss, if a loved one has left you and you are now celebrating Christmas it might be even harder.

A time that should be happy can suddenly become miserable. You know our son Christopher went to heaven 13 years ago. And I remember the first Christmas we celebrated after he died.

And it was absolutely devastating. Because he loved Christmas. And he really got into it. He was a great rapper. He wrapped presents so beautifully. He didn't get that from me. But he'd get out his exacto blade and the tape and do all these cool things. He made custom Christmas cards for people.

And he loved this time. And so all those memories flood into your mind when you're there supposedly having a good time and it's actually a very sad time. And maybe I'm talking to someone right now that's really sad. In fact you're so sad you wonder if you should even keep living. You've even thought about taking your own life.

Please, please don't even consider that. You are loved by more people than you will ever realize. And you are needed and you are wanted. And best of all you're loved by God.

And listen. He has a plan for your life. And what is the message of Christmas? It's that God is with us. Remember you should call His name Emmanuel. And what is the purpose of Christmas or the purpose of Jesus being born?

I already mentioned it. Jesus was born to die. He was going to the cross. You see at the cross Jesus defeated sin.

But at His resurrection He defeated death. So here is the message of you've lost a loved one. If they died in faith.

If they died trusting Christ. You will see them again. We don't say goodbye.

We say see you later. Let that resonate with you. Because that's what Christmas is really all about. My third point is fear robs us of the joy of Christmas. Fear robs us of the joy of Christmas.

Look at 2 10. The angels said to them, Do not be afraid. What powerful words. What relevant words for the time we are living in right now. Because fear can cancel out and rob us of our joy. And man we live in frightening times don't we? And we wonder is it going to get worse? Silent crime is on the rise in many cities around the United States.

You've seen it on your TV screens. Gangs of people going in and looting stores. Robbing people. Holding guns up to them. Assaulting them.

Killing them. It's horrible. I was talking to a friend of mine who is a police chief and I said, Chief it seems like it's really bad out there. At least that's what I see on the news.

Is it really that bad? And he said, It is. These are scary times we are living in. And then there is global issues happening right now. The emergence of China as an economic and military superpower. Did you hear about that 2021 test of China's brand new hypersonic missile? Our chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said it was a first use weapon. In other words hypersonic weapons don't follow a single trajectory like a ballistic missile.

These twist and turn on their way to a target and it makes it impossible to track them until they hit. And by the way the United States does not have an equivalent of a hypersonic missile right now. It's scary.

Because this is an aggressive nation that we see them rattling their sabers right now. And there is all the other issues we are facing in the world that continued. Spread of COVID. You think COVID is done.

We are over it. And then there is a new variant. There is a new strain. And then there is overreach by governments locking things down and making our lives harder. It is frightening.

But you know what? It was scary back then too. Because Rome was in power. And the Jewish people were wondering will Rome ever leave us alone.

They had a crazy man named Herod who was ruling over them who would execute people at will. And they wondered well will you ever be free again? Will the Messiah ever come? And the message had just come.

Yes. It's a joyful time. It's a happy time because the Messiah has come. So don't be afraid. I heard that the phrase fear not appears 365 times in the Bible. Now I have not checked that personally.

But I heard it's there. 365 times. That means there is one fear not for every day of the year. So whatever you are facing right now God would say don't be afraid because fear will rob you of your joy.

Let go of that. And choose to rejoice. Choose to rejoice. If you feel like it or not. Paul wrote these words to the people in Philippi. Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice. Now we say well Paul you know he was probably sitting around some beach having a good time. No.

He was imprisoned when he wrote it. Yet he is saying let me loosely paraphrase. Hey everybody if anyone has a reason to complain it's me. But I am not doing that. So lighten up and rejoice in the Lord always.

Just thank God for all that He has given you. And He has given you a lot. Why should they rejoice?

Very simple answer. There is born to them in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord. That brings me to my fourth and final point. We can have joy this Christmas because we have a Savior who is Christ the Lord. You have a Savior. What did He save you from? Saved you from sin.

Saved you from hell. He saved you from judgment. The fact is He saved us. He is saving us. And He will yet save us. So He saved us. We are forgiven of all of our sins. They are not only forgiven.

They are also forgotten. But then He is saving us as you are struggling with temptation and other issues. He is there to help you and sustain you and strengthen you. And ultimately He will save you when you get to heaven and you enter into His presence.

A wonderful thing. It is a Savior who is Christ the Lord. He saves us but then as our Lord He protects us and He watches over us.

And one day He will welcome us into heaven. Let me ask you this in closing. Do you find yourself depressed right now? Do you find yourself in pain? Are you lonely?

Are you feeling despondent? I have good news for you. A Savior has been born. And this Savior is ready to come into your life. As I pointed out in my last message Jesus was born so we might be born again. Jesus said to a religious man named Nicodemus, you must be born again.

What does that even mean? It means you need to have a spiritual rebirth where you say to God I need Your help. I need Your forgiveness and I want Jesus to come into my life and be my Savior and my Lord. And He can do that for you right now. The same Jesus who was born in the manger who died on the cross and rose from the dead now stands at the door of your life and He knocks and He says if you will hear His voice and open the door He will come in. Would you like to open that door of your heart and your life and ask Christ to come in?

You don't have to be alone in this Christmas season. He will be with you and He will live in you. But you must ask Him to come in. He is only a prayer away.

So here is what I would like to do. If you want your sin forgiven. If you want to know with certainty that you will go to heaven when you die. If you want Jesus Christ to come into your life I am going to ask you to pray a prayer with me.

I am also going to say that there might be someone watching right now that has sort of wandered away from their faith. You have been a prodigal son or daughter. It is time for you to come home again. We all love that song, I'll be home for Christmas. Why don't you come home this Christmas? Home to your Father.

Home to the family of God. Home to the church again and get right with the Lord. If you do that this can be a joyful Christmas for you. So I am going to pray this simple prayer. If you want Jesus to come into your life and forgive you of your sin or if you want to make a recommitment to Him you can pray this prayer with me. You can pray it out loud if you like. You can pray it in the quietness of your heart if you choose. But pray with me right now.

Pray these words. Lord Jesus thank You for being born in the manger of Bethlehem. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sin and rising again from the dead. I turn from my sin now and I choose to follow You from this moment forward. Thank You for hearing my prayer and answering this prayer. In Jesus' name I ask this. Amen.

Hey everybody. Thanks for listening to this podcast. To learn more about Harvest Ministries follow this show and consider supporting it. Just go to harvest.org. And to find out how to know God personally go to harvest.org and click on Know God.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-09 20:41:07 / 2023-07-09 20:52:04 / 11

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