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INTRODUCTION: “Joy to the world, the Lord is come! It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Or is it…? What one word describes Christmas for you? Is it joyful? Or is it depressing? Stressful? How do we experience God’s joy?
OPENING ILLUSTRATION: Santa Letters
"Dear Santa, you did not bring me anything good last year. You did not bring me anything good the year before that. This is your last chance. Signed, Alfred."
"Dear Santa, there are three little boys who live at our house. There is Jeffrey; he is 2. There is David; he is 4. And there is Norman; he is 7. Jeffrey is good some of the time. David is good some of the time. But Norman is good all of the time. I am Norman."
THE CHRISTMAS STORY – GOOD TIDINGS OF GREAT JOY:
“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 around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then 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…” (Luke 2:8-11).
· The first Christmas story was the announcement of great joy – but how many of us have experienced that in our lives??
ILLUSTRATION: Martin Luther once spent three days in a black depression over something that had gone wrong. On the third day his wife came downstairs dressed in mourning clothes.
"Who’s dead?" he asked her. "God," she replied. Luther rebuked her, saying, "What do you mean, God is dead? God cannot die." "Well," she replied, "the way you’ve been acting I was sure He had!"
THE STORY OF HABBAKUK – PART ONE:
“This is the message that the prophet Habakkuk received from the LORD in a vision. How long, O LORD, must I call for help? But you do not listen! "Violence!" I cry, but you do not come to save. Must I forever see this sin and misery all around me? Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence. I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight. The law has become paralyzed and useless, and there is no justice given in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous, and justice is perverted with bribes and trickery.” (Habakkuk 1:1-4).
· Many of us can relate more to Habbakuk’s story, than the story of the shepherds.
THE STORY OF HABBAKUK – PART TWO:
“Though the cherry trees don’t blossom and the strawberries don’t ripen, Though the apples are worm-eaten and the wheat fields stunted, Though the sheep pens are sheepless and the cattle barns empty… Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” (Habbakuk 3:17 Message, 3:18 NKJV).
THOUGH TROUBLE, YET JOY: That’s the story of great joy in the Bible!
· Great joy doesn’t mean that we don’t have troubles or problems in life!
· Rather, God gives us joy in the MIDST of life’s problems and troubles: Though, yet!
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
· Though you will have trouble in the world, yet you can be of good cheer
“Whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy.” (James 1:2).
· Though trouble comes your way, yet you can choose joy
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