December 17, 2023
The Third Sunday of Advent is traditionally known as Gaudete Sunday.
“Gaudete,” when translated from Latin, means “rejoice”.
We know that Advent is a season of waiting and today we are called to be joyful as we await the coming of Jesus Christ.
God, through Zephaniah, offers us glimpses of a hopeful future and calls us to Sing, Daughter Zion; shout aloud, Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem! (Zephaniah 3:14)
Isaiah reminds us of the ways God has delivered us, is delivering us, and will deliver us.
He invites us to shout aloud and sing for joy because, With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. (Isaiah 12:3)
And of course, you can’t talk about joy without mentioning the Apostle Paul and his statement in Philippians 4:4, Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
One of the things people love about Christmas is that it truly is a joyful season.
All season long we celebrate with music and song and lights and decorations.
We celebrate by getting together with family and friends and by exchanging gifts.
Here at MACC we celebrate by serving others also.
Every year for the last seventeen years we have served the community of Macomb and the surrounding areas with a Christmas Eve Dinner.
This takes a lot of volunteers and a lot of work and planning.
If you have never been a part of this ministry I want to encourage you to sign up and help out next Sunday afternoon and next week, because a lot of things get done through the week as well.
Everyone I have talked to who helps with this ministry talks about the joy they receive by serving others.
Which, is a beautiful picture of what Christmas is really all about.
It truly is a joyful time of year.
I’ll admit that the lights, and gifts and the other stuff gives me the warm fuzzies and I have to be careful and maybe you do to.
Maybe, you can get caught up in all the commercialism of Christmas too.
And that is exactly what our enemy wants us to do.
The enemy wants us to trade in the true meaning of Christmas for some hollow version of Christmas.
Because when you come right down to it, the real joy at Christmas comes not from the lights and the decorations and the music but from the meaning of Christmas.
At the heart of Christmas is the astoundingly good news that Jesus Christ was born as the Savior into this world.
From beginning to end the Christmas story is punctuated with various outbursts and moments of joy, and they all center around the birth of Christ.
Or, let me put it this way:
JESUS IS THE JOY GIVER
You can’t get away from it.
You can’t get around it.
You can’t spell Christmas without Christ, and you can’t enter into the true joy of the season without Jesus.
This morning I want us to consider three truths about joy at Christmas.
- JESUS BRINGS THE JOY OF SALVATION.
- WE SHARE THE JOY OF JESUS WITH OTHERS.
- THE JOY OF JESUS ERUPTS IN WORSHIP.
All three of these truths are found right in the very passages which tell us the Christmas story, and so all three of these truths together capture the true meaning of joy at Christmas.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
JESUS BRINGS THE JOY OF SALVATION
Now Jesus brings joy in so many areas of life, but the joy that is especially associated with Christ’s birth is the joy of salvation.
Last week we talked about how Jesus’ very name means salvation, and this week I want us to see the connection that the Bible makes between salvation and joy.
Salvation is deliverance from danger or suffering.
To save is to deliver or protect.
The word carries the idea of victory, health, or preservation.
Sometimes, the Bible uses the words saved or salvation to refer to temporal, physical deliverance, such as Paul’s deliverance from prison (Philippians 1:19).
At other times, the word salvation concerns an eternal, spiritual deliverance.
When Paul told the Philippian jailer what he must do to be saved, he was referring to the jailer’s eternal destiny.
Acts 16:30-31, He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”
Jesus equated being saved with entering the kingdom of God.
Listen to Matthew 19:24-25, Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
So, this leads to the question,
What are we saved from?
In the Christian doctrine of salvation, we are saved from “wrath,” that is, from God’s judgment of sin (Romans 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:9).
Our sin has separated us from God, and the consequence of sin is death (Romans 6:23).
Biblical salvation refers to our deliverance from the consequence of sin and therefore involves the removal of sin.
We are saved from both the power and penalty of sin.
And when you know you are escaping the wrath of God, joy is the natural result!
Only God can remove sin and deliver us from sin’s penalty and God did so through God the Son, Jesus Christ.
The shepherds understood exactly what the angel said…The Savior is here!
God has rescued us through Jesus Christ.
John 3:16-17, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Specifically, it was Jesus’ death on the cross and subsequent resurrection that achieved our salvation (Romans 5:10; Ephesians 1:7).
Scripture is clear that salvation is the gracious, undeserved gift of God (Ephesians 2:5, 8) and is only available through faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12).
How do we receive this gift the joy of salvation?
We are saved by faith.
First, we must hear the gospel—the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection (Ephesians 1:13).
Then, we must believe—fully trust the Lord Jesus (Romans 1:16). This involves repentance, a changing of mind about sin and Christ (Acts 3:19), and calling on the name of the Lord (Romans 10:9-10, 13).
Then we walk obediently with Christ and surrender to Him daily, sacrificing our desires for His. This walk of obedience begins with our baptism and then a life of devotion to him.
There is no true joy without salvation, and there is no true salvation without joy.
The two go together, and they especially go together in those Scriptures which tell us the Christmas story.
For example, we read in the gospel of Luke how when Mary was pregnant with Jesus she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth.
Elizabeth was also pregnant at this time with John the Baptist.
We read in Luke 1: 39-45, At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
I love this scene.
Mary enters the house, and John the Baptist, who was filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb, starts jumping for joy!
Because as Elizabeth put it, Mary was the mother of her Lord!
Jesus is Lord, Mary was Jesus’ mother, and John was in close proximity with Jesus who had come to bring salvation for his people.
And so John begins jumping with joy in his mother’s womb.
And you might wonder, how is that possible?
Well, it’s because he was filled with the Holy Spirit.
You have two of the members of the Trinity here in one house.
You have God the Spirit filling John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb and God the Son growing as a child in Mary’s womb.
Now the Holy Spirit’s role is to glorify Jesus as Savior.
That’s what the Holy Spirit does.
The Holy Spirit’s job is to get excited about Jesus!
And so when Jesus enters the house in Mary’s womb, John the Baptist who is filled with the Holy Spirit gets excited about Jesus because the Savior has come.
Another great example of Jesus bringing the joy of salvation is the wise men in the gospel of Matthew.
They traveled a great distance just to see the Messiah and to worship him.
They had seen his star in the east, but they didn’t know exactly where he was to be born, so they stopped in Jerusalem along the way to ask King Herod for additional information.
Now, again, Jesus is probably 2-4 years old when the wise men finally found him…so this is not a nativity scene, it is a part of the focus that Jesus is the Messiah and that He brings the joy of salvation.
We read in Matthew 2: 9-10, After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.
Once again they rejoiced to find the place where Jesus was.
Because Jesus was the Messiah who had come to bring salvation to his people.
Salvation and joy belong together, and joy and Christmas belong together, because Jesus came to bring us joy, especially the joy of salvation.
Jesus brings the joy of salvation.
WE SHARE THE JOY OF JESUS WITH OTHERS
Notice the news about Jesus’ birth is not only news, it is good news!
And it is not only good news, it is good news of joy!
And it is not only good news of joy, it is good news of great joy!
And it is not only good news of great joy, it is good news of great joy for all the people!
But how will all the people know about this good news of great joy unless we share it with them?
We share good news with each other all the time.
When something good happens, we talk about it with our friends at work or at school.
We post it on Facebook.
When the good news is the birth of a baby, we especially share it with others, don’t we?
We take pictures and send out birth announcements.
We are filled with joy at the birth of a child, and that joy naturally leads to sharing.
We want everyone to know and share in our joy.
Well, if we tell everyone about the birth of our own babies, how much more should we share the birth of God’s Son!
Good news is for sharing, and there is no better news than the news the angels shared with the shepherds that first Christmas Eve: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)
So what did the shepherds do after they received this good news of great joy that was for all the people?
Let’s look at Luke 2:15-18, 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.” 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
When the shepherds heard this good news of great joy that was for all the people, first they checked it out for themselves and found everything just as the angel had told them.
And after they had checked it out for themselves, what did they do?
They spread the word to others.
Because good news is for sharing!
This was good news of great joy for all the people, and it would have been wrong for them to keep it to themselves.
I find it interesting that the Angels birth announcement leads the shepherds to sharing with all people and Jesus’ final command to his disciples was share the Gospel with all people.
So, Jesus brings the joy of salvation
We share the joy of Jesus with others.
THE JOY OF JESUS ERUPTS IN WORSHIP
Listen to vss. 13 & 14 again, 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
This word praise comes from the Greek root word, αἰνέω, and it means the joyful praise of God expressed in doxology, hymn, or prayer…it is worship!
The angels, the messengers themselves erupted in worship, at sharing Jesus with others because they know the joy of salvation he offers to all people.
This is the meaning of Christmas
And then we find this same pattern also with the shepherds when they returned from sharing the good news of Jesus with the people in the town.
We read in Luke 2:20, The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
The shepherds shared the joy of Jesus with others and this erupted in worship and so they returned glorifying and praising God.
God chose them to be eyewitnesses to the birth of Christ, and they would never forget the things they had heard and seen that night, which were just as they had been told.
Let’s not forget that worship erupted before this night of angels and shepherds.
The first example is Mary after she hears the words of prophecy from Elizabeth that we looked at earlier.
Mary was filled with joy and wonder as her cousin Elizabeth spoke words of blessing and favor over her and the child she carried in her womb.
Her joy could not be contained, and so then she burst out in a song of praise, in worship to God.
And Mary sang in Luke 1:46-49, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name.”
We often call this “Mary’s Song” or “The Magnificat,” as Mary magnifies or glorifies the Lord for choosing her to be the mother of Jesus.
And notice that this joy still has to do with salvation.
Mary rejoices in God her Savior.
She is filled with joy at God’s goodness to her, and her joy erupts into worship.
And so the third candle, the pink candle, the advent candle of joy reminds us of these three important aspects of joy relating to Christmas:
- Jesus brings the joy of salvation
- We share the joy of Jesus with others
- The Joy of Jesus Erupts in Worship
And these three aspects of joy at Christmas also become three application points for us as we respond to the message this morning.
First of all, Jesus brings the joy of salvation.
Do you know Christ as your Savior?
Do you know the joy that comes from having Christ as your friend and having your sins forgiven?
Do you know the joy of being restored to right relationship with God through Christ the Savior?
The message that the angel gave to the shepherds that first Christmas night is just as applicable to you two thousand years later, right here, right now: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)
There is no true joy without salvation, and there is no true salvation without joy.
Jesus is the reason for the season, and if you have never trusted Jesus as your Savior, then you are missing out on the true joy of Christmas.
Secondly, we share the joy of Jesus with others.
If you do know Jesus as your Savior, then you need to spread the word!
How many people have you told about Jesus this Christmas season?
You don’t need to be a trained theologian to share Christ with others.
Just tell them that Christmas is all about the birth of Christ who came to be our Savior.
Tell them Jesus died on the cross for our sins so we could be forgiven.
Tell them Jesus rose from the dead and that he is alive today.
Tell them Jesus is coming back to bring peace on earth.
That’s all very good news, and remember, good news is for sharing.
If you know Jesus as your Savior, then you know the joy of salvation, and joy of sharing Jesus with others.
And then finally joy of Jesus erupts in worship.
Praise God every day for your salvation.
Praise him for his amazing grace.
Praise him for his great love in sending his Son, Jesus, to be your Savior.
Praise him for his goodness and kindness in forgiving your sins.
Praise him for the miracle of the incarnation at Christmas, that God the Son took on human flesh and was born into our world as a little baby.
Are you filled with joy this Christmas season?
You should be!