Summary: Third in the series. A continuation of the explanation of the Christmas wreath and it’s symbolism.
Advent 3: Joy is no secret
Luke 1:39 – 56
Genesis: 22: 1-19
Tonight, we celebrate the 3rd week in the Advent as we move toward Christmas. We will continue our sermon series tonight looking at the meaning behind the Advent wreath. The first candle represents Hope. The second stands for Preparation. Tonight, we will talk about the third candle, which represents Joy.
Christmas carols and decorations are filled with the word Joy during this time of the year, but have we really taken a close look at what that mean? It is happiness, or is it more than that?
How many of you have ever been truly happy. Happy to the point where your face hurts from smiling or your stomach from laughing; happy to the point that tears run down your face; true bliss with whatever you’re experiencing at the moment. Perhaps you’ve received that new job or that promotion at work that you struggled so hard to earn. Or maybe you did the best possible job you could and earned an award for being the best in a musical competition, an acting performance during a play, a fantastic feat of athletics during a sporting event, or won an award for being the very best at what you do. Maybe you can remember a time when your true love said yes to that very important question. Maybe you’ve been blessed with having a child with your true love. There are many experiences that we have in our lives that give us a happiness that can be experienced in no other way. That feeling is a form of joy. It is this feeling of euphoria that I want to talk to you tonight about. But, I want to go a bit beyond the descriptions I’ve given you.
Abraham and Isaac
A few weeks ago, we heard the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth who thought they couldn’t have a son. Elizabeth was thought to be barren and unable to have children. They prayed and they waited for years until the time was right for their son, John the Baptist to be born. In much the same way, Abraham and Sara thought that they were unable to have children. However, late in life, Sara was able to have a child. Both of these sets of parents prayed and struggled to have children. Both of these parents received an announcement from God that they would be blessed with a son. Both thought that they were beyond child bearing age. God blessed them with children when He thought the time was right. Joy surely filled their hearts as they discovered their new found blessing.
In our Old Testament lesson tonight (Genesis: 22: 1-19), the story of Abraham continues. Abraham was blessed with his son Isaac because of his faithfulness. God’s blessing of Isaac was a great gift to Abraham, and to Sara. The gift of a child always is. Abraham obeyed God; God blessed him with a son.
But, the faithfulness of Abraham that God rewarded with an heir was tested. God told Abraham to sacrifice his only son. Can you imagine the pain of such a command? You must give up the thing most precious to you. After waiting for most of your life for a child, God has asked you to give it up. Worse than that, he’s asked you to kill your son as an act of sacrifice. YOU must kill your son, because God has asked you to. It’s often said that parents should not outlive their children, normally referring to the pain that parents go through when a child dies. How much more painful it must be when you are the cause of the child’s death.
Even Isaac was obedient for this task. He would willingly die in obedience to God. When the moment finally came for the sacrifice to happen, God spared Isaac’s life. What joy must have filled both father and son. Isaac did not need to be sacrificed. Abraham did not need to go through with the task. A great weight had been lifted and joy surely replaced the pain of such an ordeal. Abraham gained his son because he didn’t have to go through with the sacrifice. Isaac gained his life because he didn’t need to lose it on this day. Joy to Abraham was keeping his only son, while being obedient to God. Joy to Isaac was keeping his life. Joy can mean different things to different people.
Mary and Elizabeth
Let’s take a look at what has happened with Mary and Elizabeth. The angel Gabriel has appeared to Mary and told her that she would have a child, even though she is still a virgin. She was also told that her relative, Elizabeth would have a child as well. Two miraculous births: Mary’s virgin pregnancy of Jesus, and the pregnancy of John the Baptist to Elizabeth who was thought barren. Mary was so excited about the news that she immediately went to Elizabeth.