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Christmas is Joy

The Verdict / John Munro
The Truth Network Radio
December 21, 2020 1:21 pm

Christmas is Joy

The Verdict / John Munro

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December 21, 2020 1:21 pm

Dr. John H. Munro December 20, 2020 Luke 2:1-20

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I think you'll agree that joy has not been very evident during 2020, has it? We've dealt with COVID-19, we've had layoffs, we've had lockdowns, we've had school closures, we've had political and social divisions, and we've had a very bitter presidential election. Through 2020, many of us have complained, have groused, have been irritated, frustrated, and perhaps even been angry about what has gone on during 2020. It's been a very strange year, hasn't it?

Unprecedented and difficult in many, many ways. There's not been much joy during 2020. And now with Christmas only days away, we wonder about it. Christmas has always had its fair share of critics who complain with some validity about the grass commercialization of Christmas, of the sentimentality and the excesses of Christmas. And there always have been Scrooges who prefer to ring their hands of gloom rather than ring the bells of joy. But for followers of Jesus, we've been reminded in this wonderful time of worship that Christmas is a time of celebration. Christmas is about joy.

And this Christmas, we've been praying that the joy of Christmas will fill your heart, will fill your home, will fill your relationships, and certainly fill us here at Calvary Church. I can remind you, even with the difficulties of 2020, I hope you haven't forgotten how to smile and laugh. Proverbs 17 22 states, a joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones. We're told that laughter releases powerful chemicals in our bodies and is a great stress reliever.

Stress and worry and anxiety and negative and pessimistic attitudes cause, we're told, great damage to our bodies and our minds. So Paul did get it right when he said to the Christians at Philippi, rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say rejoice. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are people of joy, and certainly Christmas is joy. I'm not arguing for some self-indulgence. I'm not arguing for mindless frivolity or some kind of sentimental syrupy type of Christmas.

I'm not saying that at all. And I'm very aware, and Pastor Pierce referred to this in his prayer, I'm very aware that this year has been especially painful for many people. And that Christmas, as we're celebrating Christmas, it often reawakens difficult memories. But listen to the message of heaven to you.

Fear not. For behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. And I want to remind you that joy is a gift from God. It's part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. And in heaven, there is perfect joy.

C.S. Lewis says, joy is the serious business of heaven. Serious joy, yes. Joy is the serious business of heaven. God is a God of joy. And God wants you to be a person of joy.

He wants you to be joyful. And that first Christmas, the angel is announcing that the joy of heaven, the joy of a perfect God, that that joy of heaven is coming to earth and is coming to us in Jesus, in Christ, the Son of God. We're going to conclude this morning by singing joy to the world, the Lord has come. And in the miracle of Christmas, this joy is offered to you. I want to read the familiar story from Luke chapter 2. If you've got your Bible, turn there with me. Familiar verses, I know.

But as I read the Word of God and as you read it with me, I ask that you listen carefully and that you pray this morning that the joy of God will enter your heart. Perhaps you're rather sad. Perhaps things are difficult. Perhaps you're here and you're worrying about something. And perhaps 2020 has been for you a rather sad year. Will you allow the message of Christmas?

Will you allow the Spirit of God to pour His joy into your heart? Look at chapter 2 then, verse 1. In those days, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 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, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. And in the same region, there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 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. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

And this will be a sign for you. You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and 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 among those among those with whom he is pleased. When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us. And they went with haste and find Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told to them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen as it had been told them.

Christmas is knowing joy, not fear. Here are the shepherds watching their flocks this night. They're doing so in the fields just outside Bethlehem, a little town about five miles from the capital of Jerusalem. And now night had fallen over the little town of Bethlehem. And there were the shepherds, humble men.

The bottom is aware of the socioeconomic scale in that culture. And they may that night have little fire. Perhaps they were gathering around it. And little did they know that events were to happen that night at Bethlehem, which would eternally impact not only the shepherds, but the whole universe. Isn't it significant that of all of the people the angel could have appeared to, that it was to these humble shepherds?

It was people like you and me, ordinary people. And the angel of the Lord suddenly appeared around the shepherds. And the glory of the Lord, Luke records, shone round about them. The glory of God transformed that night scene into the most brilliant of light as the glory of God was manifested on these fields outside Bethlehem. It must have been an absolutely spectacular sight. In the Old Testament, when Moses constructed the tabernacle in accordance with the commandments of the Lord, we read at the end of Exodus, Exodus chapter 40, that the glory of the Lord, the Shekinah of glory, filled the tabernacle.

That was magnificent. But this was even greater, wasn't it? Now the glory of the Lord signified that God himself was coming to earth. That in Jesus there is God, Immanuel, God with us. And that the glory of the Lord reflected that spectacular momentous event as God himself is coming into time and space, as the Word is becoming flesh and dwelling among us. The joy of heaven is coming to a dark, dark, sinful world. Not surprisingly, we read that the shepherds were filled with fear.

No wonder. You imagine standing in the presence of an angel. You imagine if you're at work one day, you're working in the bank, you're in a hospital, you're at school, you're going about your business with a few of your friends, and suddenly in a moment there's a blaze of the glory of the Lord. When you get down on your knees and be like these shepherds, terribly afraid.

They had never, ever seen anything vaguely like this. Then they hear a voice, and these unclean shepherds probably were expecting God's judgment to fall on them. I can imagine the whole of their life flashing in front of them, possibly recalling all of their failures and shortcomings. And to their utter astonishment, the message from heaven to them is not one of condemnation, is not one of judgment, but they are told fear not. The message is one of joy and salvation. A message of hope, not of condemnation.

Fear not. First thing the angel said to them, as God is speaking to the shepherds, and so in a sense to the whole universe, and the first thing that is said is fear not. The message is one of good news, of great joy. Not just joy, but great joy. And this joy comes not just to Israel, not just to the shepherds, not just to a select few people, but it comes, we read, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. God's speaking to you today. Whoever you are, you should say, well, I'm just an ordinary person. And God is saying to you, fear not.

Do you hear him? That's the message. Fear not. Christmas, properly understood, is not knowing fear, but is experiencing joy. I meet people and they sometimes think that they're doomed to a life of sadness, a life of despair, despondency, fear, hopelessness. Life has been very difficult for them. Perhaps the home they come from, perhaps some disaster has overtaken them, some illness, some abuse, some terrible wrong inflicted on them, and they struggle and they feel, well, I've missed out. My life is one of disaster.

My life is one of darkness, in some cases leading to serious depression, sometimes even leading to suicide. Living in fear, fear of others, fear of failure, fear of the past, fear of what people think of us, fear of COVID-19, fear of death. A lot of fear in our world, isn't there? I think COVID-19 has brought that out, doesn't it?

So many people living in fear, fear. Today, yes, with COVID-19 still at our doorsteps, although we're very thankful for these vaccines that God has provided for us. Today, the message to you and to me is not one of fear. It's one of celebration. Celebrate Christmas. Christmas is joy, joy to the world, joy to you, and joy to me, fear not. Christmas is knowing joy, not fear. But also, the joy of Christmas is knowing the Savior personally.

Can I emphasize that last word, personally? The joy of Christmas is not just knowing about Jesus Christ. It's not just saying, well, I understand, away in the manger, I love to sing these hymns and it's been wonderful to be here at Calvary singing of Jesus Christ. You know, in a sense, I've always believed that.

And if you're thinking like that, can I say to you kindly but directly, you're missing the point. Because this joy that comes from heaven to earth is to be received and personally experienced. Jesus is born as the Savior. Listen again to the angel.

Fear not. Look to verse 10. Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people, for unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior.

That's it. He comes as a Savior. And it is essential as we celebrate Christmas and sing these wonderful carols and receive and exchange presents and all of that, it is essential that we understand the basic mission of Jesus. The basic mission of Jesus, that Jesus' mission, His number one priority is to be the Savior. And the angel is declaring, God is declaring to mankind, to these shepherds, and to you and me, that when He sends His Son into this world, it is to be the Savior. His very name means Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. How wonderful, our greatest need is forgiveness. These shepherds were guilty men, they were sinful men, and all of us have fallen short. Not one of us could stand a split second in the presence of a holy God.

His light would utterly consume us. We live in the darkness, and God comes in Jesus Christ as the light shining into our darkness, coming not to judge you, but now that through Him you might be saved. And great joy is not knowing just about Jesus. Great joy is not just about singing a Christmas carol. Great joy is not just looking at a nativity scene. Great joy, and some of you have not yet been there.

Great joy is personally receiving Jesus as your Savior. He comes to save all the people. When we began our Christmas season on that Advent with the organ concert and that, we reminded ourselves that Mary, in what we call the Magnificat, she referred to Christ as my Savior. Mary, the Virgin, a holy woman, a pure woman, yet she also needed a Savior like you and like me. She needed a personal Savior. And Christmas is joy by knowing Christ personally as your Savior. He comes to rescue us, to save us. But I have to apply this to myself to understand that when Jesus Christ died on the cross, He was dying for the sins of John Monroe. And although I've believed this, in a sense, all of my life and was brought up with Christmas from my earliest memory, and in a sense never rejected Christ, there had to come for me as there has to come for you a decisive point in time when you open your heart and you personally receive Christ as your Savior.

I'm asking you today a very, very important question. Have you personally trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior? Don't tell me about your church background. Don't tell me that you come from a Christian home. Don't tell me that you're a member of Calvary Church. I'm asking, do you know Christ personally as your Savior?

I can tell you from the authority of Scripture, but also from my personal experience, that there is no joy like knowing Jesus Christ personally. And as a boy, we used to sing, I don't know if you know the song, was it for me? For me alone. The Savior left His glorious throne. The dazzling splendor of the sky, was it for me?

He came to die. It was for me. Yes, all for me. The love of God, so rich and free. Oh, wondrous love, I'll shout and sing. He died for me, my Lord and my King. That's it. He died for me.

Did you say that? Paul says, the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. That's the testimony of an individual saved by the grace of God, trusting completely in Christ as our Savior who dies for us, who rises again, and now is a living Christ. He comes into our heart and our lives forgiving our sins, and we look to Christ and believe in Him. And when you do that, to use the apostle Peter's expression, he says, we rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory. Although, Peter says in 1 Peter 1, although we don't see Christ, I've never seen Jesus, but yet I know Him, have received Him. He is my Savior, and that brings inexpressible joy to know that I'm eternally saved by the grace of God.

Can you say that? He's saved? The joy of Christmas is knowing the Savior personally, but also the joy of Christmas is knowing Jesus as Lord. And to you, verse 11, is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ. He's the Messiah. He's the anointed one.

He's a long-promised Redeemer. He's the Christ, but He's also the Lord. He is Christ the Lord. Jesus is Lord. He's God incarnate. He comes to us.

God doesn't shout instructions, as it were. He comes to us. And the reason the glory of the Lord shone around these shepherds was because the Lord of heaven, the God of glory, had come to earth. Paul writes that God was manifested in the flesh. He writes in Colossians 2 9, in Christ, the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.

What a statement. The whole of deity dwells bodily in Jesus Christ. John writes in his prologue, John 1 14, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

It's staggering, isn't it? That the eternal Almighty God, who dwells in this magnificent glory, now comes. And Jesus comes as a long-promised Messiah, the Christ, to deliver His people. That little baby lying in a feeding trough in a stable was none other than God. No, this is no mere human savior. This is not just some kind of guru or prophet or miracle worker or someone who gives us great insight into life.

No, this is much more than that. This is the Savior from heaven. This is God in flesh.

And so one of the earliest Christian creeds was that Jesus is Lord. He's the Supreme One. He's no rival. He's unique. There's none like Him, nor will there ever be anyone like Him. He's the Son of God. He's God incarnate.

And so Jesus comes, Peter tells us, He dies the just for the unjust so that He might bring us to God. Do you think you can get to God yourself? Do you think you could ever get into the presence of God yourself?

It is utterly impossible. God's too big. God's too holy. God's too far away. You're too sinful.

You're too small. You could never, ever get to God by yourself. This is the miracle of Christmas then, that what we can't do, God has done in Jesus Christ. He comes to deliver us, to rescue us. He brings us to God. He is our peacemaker. He's the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father apart from Him.

He is the unique Jesus because He's God, God incarnate. Do you believe this? Do you believe that Jesus is God? People argue about it, don't they? The cults deny it.

They'll concede that Jesus is a good man, historical figure. That's not the message of Christmas. The message of Christmas is this, that you can receive this joy if you know Christ as your Savior. And that joy will be increased as in your life, more and more, you submit to the Lordship of Christ. Do you believe that?

I do. The more you surrender to Jesus as Lord, the greater your joy. At His birth, people reject Him. People didn't acknowledge that He was Lord. No room, no room for Him in the inn, how symbolic. The innkeeper didn't realize that the one in Mary's womb was none other than God Himself. No room for Jesus.

So many missed the most momentous occasion in human history. King Herod, no room for Jesus. Blinded by his own ambition. The religious establishment, no room for Jesus. Blinded by their own tradition and self-interest. No room for Jesus.

The world's been saying that ever since, hasn't it? He came to His own, His own received Him not. He's rejected, He's put on the tree. Have you any room for Jesus?

Do busy with your own activities? Your life's so important, you want a little bit of Jesus? That's not how it works, is it? And to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ, the Lord. He's Lord. And if He's Lord, I'm to bow at His feet. Is there something, some place in your heart where there's no room for Jesus?

Is there some relationship you have? No room for Jesus. You don't want Jesus in that place. You have no room for Jesus. You don't want Jesus in that part of your life.

Is there some practice, some habit? Perhaps your career, perhaps your pleasure, perhaps your ambition, perhaps your possessions, perhaps your family, all of them are more important than Jesus practically speaking. And so Jesus is in a sense pushed out.

He's put on the periphery of your life, on the circumference rather than being at the very center. I need to remind you that this one who comes is God. He's Lord.

He's not to be pushed aside. He is Lord over all. And I can assure you 100 percent that your joy will increase when you surrender to Christ. Your joy will grow more and more as you acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus over every aspect of your life.

That's joy. Bowing to the Lordship of Jesus. One of our themes for 2020 has been surrender to God's will.

That's it. I am to surrender to the will of God. I know Christ as my Savior and as I go through life, everything has to be surrendered to Him. I like to do my own will. I like to make my own plans as you do. I want to put myself at the center of my life. That doesn't work.

No. That's what the devil wants. Have you found that? The devil gives you the best first. The devil promises that if you follow him, it's going to be great. He always gives you the best first. With following Jesus, as the old chorus said, it's sweeter as the days go by.

The more you follow Jesus, the more you bow to His authority, the more you surrender to His will, it becomes more and more joyful. The devil gives you the best and then the problems. The problems. Then the heartache. Then the toil. Oh, that first drug, it's incredible, so I'm told. That new experience, oh, it is so good.

It's so cool. I've finally done that. And as you pursue that path, it becomes harder and harder. Proverbs says the way of the transgressor is hard. Do you really want to go down that way?

Some of you know exactly what I'm talking about. You've taken a sidetrack and you've stopped following Christ and your life has been messed up. The message of Christmas is this, that your joy will be increased as you surrender to Jesus.

You say that sometimes hard, yes. Not my will, but yours be done. Joy is knowing Christ's lordship in your life. Nehemiah 8, the joy of the Lord is your strength. Joyful Christians are strong. Joyful Christians are strong in the Lord, are wise because their life is surrendered to Christ, who is absolute joy. After all, if you're a believer in Jesus Christ, you're headed for heaven where there's infinite joy. This morning, we're going to break bread in a minute. We open your heart and your life, not only to the Christ, not only to the child Christ, but the man Christ, who died for your sins, was buried and rose again. Receive his joy. Don't leave him outside, outside of your house, outside of this relationship, outside of your business, outside of your possessions.

Don't do that. Invite him in. Our Savior still says, behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and dine with him and he with me. This Christmas, will you open your heart to the Lord Jesus? That Scripture was written to the church, the church of Laodicea. Could it be in some aspect of Calvary Church the Lord is outside? We open the heart of your life, your home, your marriage, your relationship, your bank balance, everything you have, and invite Christ. If you ever go to London, you must visit St. Paul's Cathedral, because in St. Paul's Cathedral, there is this wonderful painting by Holman Hunt.

There it is. It's called The Light of the World. Many of you have seen it before. It's inspired by Revelation 3, verse 20, the verse I just read. And as you look at there, at that picture, you see that Jesus is standing outside the door, knocking gently. The door is overgrown with weeds, and there's no handle on the outside of the door, because it can only be opened on the inside.

He's robed in white, with a red cloak symbolizing his sinless life and his death as a sacrifice on the cross. Do you see him? He's a crown of thorns on his head, and the hand which knocks on the door is nail pierced. The door has to be opened from the inside.

That's it. Will you open that door? Have you any room for Jesus? Some of you have never yet received Christ as Savior.

Will you do that right now? Many of you have, but Christ, lordship hasn't embraced you. Will you open your heart? Jesus said that there is joy, yes joy, in the presence of the angels over one sinner that repents. Is there one sinner here?

I think there's more than one sinner here who repents. There'll be joy in heaven, joy in your heart, joy in your home, joy in your relationships when you trust Jesus as Savior and Lord. Christmas is joy. Receive the joy of the Lord in our Lord Jesus Christ. Father, help us to do that, we pray.

We sometimes pursue our own happiness, our own pleasures, our own self-will. Help us to surrender to Christ. And as we prepare our hearts for communion, Father, I pray that each one of us will be opening our hearts, our lives to the Savior. To the Savior. Thank you for this wonderful message from you to us. Fear not. Good news of great joy for all the people. We humble ourselves before you and thank you for Jesus in his precious name. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-13 06:27:12 / 2024-01-13 06:38:12 / 11

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