Summary: Finding real joy at Christmas
“All I want for Christmas is Joy”
Hebrews 12:1-2 TLB
Well it’s that time of year again when my wife and I make our annual trek to the attic to bring down our Christmas decorations. Last Sunday afternoon. I will admit getting all those boxes down is not my favorite thing to do. This year I counted them and there were 57 boxes of decorations. Did I mention that my mother-in-law owned a Hallmark store for 15 years? If everything didn’t sell we inherited a lot of ornaments. Ornaments are often fragile. They break easily. So in all that moving as I was coming down the ladder with the box I heard an ornament fall and hit the floor and break. Unfortunately my wife heard it too. HallMark Martin names their ornaments. Like they are kids/babies or something. This one was named Joy. So when my wife picked it up she said honey, “you broke my joy.” I immediately thought, now there’s a sermon illustration.
Joy is not meant to be fragile but it can be. It can break. Falling to pieces. At times JOY can get lost. We forget where we put it. And it takes a long time to find out. Joy has been defined as Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last. And there is truth in that but there’s also more to it. We often compared JOY with another word. Happiness. But although they sound similar; they are not the same.
First of all, happiness is based on circumstances. Based on what is happening in your life at the moment.
• You get a raise at work. You’re happy.
• Child makes the honor roll. You’re happy.
• You make the last payment on your car. You’re happy.
Happiness is based on your circumstances. So naturally when...
• You don’t get a raise
• your child doesn’t make the honor roll
• it seems like your car payments are never going to end.
You’re not so joyful. You’re not happy. That brings us to joy. Joy isn’t like happiness because it isn’t based on whether things are going well or not. In the Scripture we are given nine fruit of the spirit. I want you to see something here at the outset. In Galatians 5, Paul refers to the works of the flesh. Notice that word is plural. Works. He names 16 of them. Then he comes to the fruit of the spirit which he then names nine of them. But it is not plural. It’s not the fruits of the spirit. It is the fruit of the spirit. You see all of this fruit-it’s like it hangs in one clump... Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness-whereas when you are saved you get one spiritual gift-you don’t get all of them but you do produce all of the fruit of the spirit. You can’t produce just one or two. They hang as a clump of fruit. As one. That is important because I want you to understand that they all work together.
This is where we see the difference in happiness and joy. You cannot have happiness and sorrow at the same time. They are opposites and both of them depend on circumstances. If things are good, we’re happy; if things are bad where unhappy. But joy and sorrow can and do exist together. The Scripture says that “Jesus was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, but for the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross.” Hebrews 12:2. Jesus was looking to the future and the ability to do that is a critical part of joy. Let’s look at this verse closer. Let’s break it down. And maybe I should ask you first. How many of you want real joy in your life? Okay. I want you to see several truths here.
(1) People watch how we live. We have a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Who are these people? They seem to fall into two groups.
• The Saints. Those who have gone on to be with Jesus. The writer of Hebrews names at least eight people... Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and then he closes by saying “time is too short for me to tell you about all the others.” Starts a list... Then tells us all of their accomplishments. Now these are the great cloud of witnesses surrounding us... Watching us. Encouraging us.
• Unbelievers in the world. As a believer in Jesus Christ, are you aware that unbelievers watch you? And here is why. They want to know if your faith is real or not. They want to know if when times are tough, when you find yourself in the Valley, when all of your circumstances go wrong, will you still stand up for Jesus or will you give up? Anyone can stand for Jesus when everything is good; when the blessings are pouring in... But it’s when things are not so good, they will ask... hmmm, where is your joy now?