Summary: A brief vignette about joy as part of a jointly held Christmas service in which four different pastors each spoke of either the Joy, Hope, Peace, or Love of Christmas
Joy – a Christmas Vignette
A couple of weeks ago Pastor Gary asked me if I would be willing to speak on one of the “four themes of Christmas.” I was lucky enough to be the first to be asked that, so I was able to pick my topic. I chose “Joy.” To illustrate this, I want to jump ahead in the Christmas story, just a little, to pick up on something that Matthew told us in his Gospel story. Turn with me, if you will, to Matthew chapter 2. … Matthew chapter two, and starting in verse 9. … Matthew 2:9. I will be reading from the New English Translation today…
II. Presentation of Text
Matthew 2:9-11 (NET)
9 After listening to the king they [they, being the magi or wise men and the king being King Herod] left, and once again the star they saw when it rose led them until it stopped above the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star they shouted joyfully. 11 As they came into the house and saw the child with Mary his mother, they bowed down and worshiped him. They opened their treasure boxes and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
The Word of God for the People of God…
I want to quickly point out three thoughts – three observations – (because we pastors are taught to use three as often as we can) which come to me as I read this passage.
III. Page 1 – Joy Is Preceded by Anticipation
The first observation is that joy is preceded by anticipation. They magi had not yet seen Jesus, but their joy was already so great, just in anticipating the meeting, that it could not be contained. Matthew tells us they “shouted joyfully.” The Greek there literally means, “they shouted with great and abundant joy.”
I am sure you have seen this play out in your lives. Whether you remember it as a child or as a parent, there is something extraordinary about the joy of a child on Christmas morning. Not a gift has been opened, but the joy that the children feel is palpable. That’s why they rush in on Christmas morning to wake their parents who were up far too late the night before. Their anticipation at what is to come drives their joy.
That is how it should be with us, whether it’s the joy of Christmas or the joy of living a life dedicated to Christ, my challenge to us as a family of little Christs is that our joy is preceded by anticipation.
IV. Page 2 – Joy Is Followed by Worship
Did you see what happened next? After they shouted joyfully, they bowed down and worshiped Jesus. In the hustle and bustle of Christmas, it is easy to forget that this entire shin-dig is actually not about us at all. It’s not about the gifts. It’s not about family. It’s not about trees, ornaments, lights, or snowflakes. No, Christmas is about that day we have, as a family of little Christs, chosen to set aside to remember that the sovereign God of the universe decided give up infinity to contain Himself in a single cell implanted in the womb of a young, unmarried, teenaged girl.
All too often, when we are overcome with joy, we forget to stop and worship. I get it. It’s completely human to be wrapped up in our own emotions. My challenge for us this Christmas is to remember, while we are experiencing the height of our own joy, to pause and worship the King of Kings.
V. Page 3 – Joy Involves Sacrifice
So, first, joy is preceded by anticipation. Second, joy is followed by worship. The third thing I want to point out is that joys natural reaction should be sacrifice. Listen to what Matthew tells us:
Matthew 2:11b (NET)
11 … They opened their treasure boxes and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Think about it. Three pagan astrologers traveled across the known world. They crossed desert and wilderness. They most likely travelled with a caravan of camels, guards, support staff and advisers. They were influential enough for one of the most narcissistic kings in Israel’s history to grant them an audience with no hesitation. These were most likely powerful, powerful men, but even in all their power, they humbled themselves and sacrificed to a God to whom they didn’t even hold themselves accountable.
They gave gifts of extraordinary value – enough so that during their exile in Egypt, Jesus family most likely lived off of that one, single gift of gold. When was the last time that you truly gave sacrificially? My challenge for us this Christmas as a family of little Christs is that we remember that from our joy the foundation of the Kingdom is laid, so remember to give sacrificially.