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Summary: Joy is not about feeling, circumstance, or economics. Rather, joy is about being a part of something incredible – the Kingdom of God

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Joy – Fruit of the Spirit and Advent

John 15:9-17; Gal 5:16-26 December 12, 2004

Intro:

In The Applause of Heaven, (Word Publishing, 1996, p. 6-8) Max Lucado writes of a certain King:

No man had more reason to be miserable than this one-yet no man was more joyful.His first home was a palace. Servants were at his finger­tips. The snap of his fingers changed the course of history. His name was known and loved. He had everything ­ wealth, power, respect.

And then he had nothing. Students of the event still ponder it. Historians stumble as they attempt to explain it. How could a king lose everything in one instant? One moment he was royalty; the next he was in poverty. His bed became, at best, a borrowed pallet-and usually the hard earth. He never owned even the most basic mode of transportation and was dependent upon handouts for his income. He was sometimes so hungry he would eat raw grain or pick fruit off a tree. He knew what it was like to be rained on, to be cold. He knew what it meant to have no home. His palace grounds had been spotless; now he was exposed to filth. He had never known disease, but was now surrounded by illness. In his kingdom he had been revered; now he was ridiculed. His neighbors tried to lynch him. Some called him a lunatic. His family tried to confine him to their house.

Those who didn’t ridicule him tried to use him. They wanted favors. They wanted tricks. He was a novelty. They wanted to be seen with him-that is, until being with him was out of fashion. Then they wanted to kill him. He was accused of a crime he never committed. Witnesses were hired to lie. The jury was rigged. No lawyer was assigned to his defense. A judge swayed by politics handed down the death penalty. They killed him.

He left as he came-penniless. He was buried in a borrowed grave, his funeral financed by compassionate friends. Though he once had everything, he died with nothing.

He should have been miserable. He should have been bitter. He had every right to be a pot of boiling anger. But he wasn’t. He was joyful. Sourpusses don’t attract a following. People followed him wherever he went. Children avoid soreheads. Children scampered after this man. Crowds don’t gather to listen to the woeful. Crowds clamored to hear him. Why? He was joyful. He was joyful when he was poor. He was joyful when he was abandoned. He was joyful when he was betrayed. He was even joyful as he hung on a tool of torture, his hands pierced with six-inch Roman spikes.

Jesus embodied a stubborn joy. A joy that refused to bend in the wind of hard times. A joy that held its ground against pain. A joy whose roots extended deep into the bedrock of eternity.

Joy

This morning, on the third Sunday of Advent, let’s talk about joy. Just to get you thinking, let me ask: are you a joyful person?

Note that I didn’t ask, “are you happy?” That is different. Most of us instinctively recognize that there is a difference between joy and happiness, yet it is a challenge to put an exact definition on that difference. Lucky for all of us, I got a little help in the mail this week…

So there! Joy is buying discount jewelry! “Guaranteed!”

I can’t be too hard on Winners, even though they didn’t even spell “jewelry” correctly. Perhaps they looked up joy in the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary: “Joy: the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires”.

My goodness! Is that all joy is?? An “emotion” that comes when everything is going well, we are rich and successful and have all the stuff we “desire”???

I beg to differ!!

A Little Boy and Some Chocolate Cake:

Last Friday I had the immense pleasure of accompanying an incredible group of young people from our church as we took food for about 500 people to Edmonton’s inner city and served a meal at the Mustard Seed Street Church. Our contact, Trish, wisely challenged each of us to pick a face to pray for as we served and in the weeks to come.

Let me tell you about joy. It was in the heart of each of our young people as they served and as we later talked about their experience. This wasn’t fleeting happiness, this was work-your-rear-off, be-emotionally-challenged, spend-time-giving, go-home-exhausted-but-knowing-that-what-you-did-that-night-somehow-was-the-Kingdom-of-God-in-action. It was joy. There is an important key there, which I’ll come back to in a moment.

Let me tell you something else about joy. Now, I have been down to the Mustard Seed numerous times, have spent a week in Vancouver inner city, and have lived in Old Strathcona, so I thought I was prepared. Then, as I was hustling about bringing hot chili out to the serving line, I paused for just a moment, and as I looked across the serving table I saw a boy about 5 or 6 yrs old, and his dad. The boy had a long, dirty coat – about 4 sizes too big, but warm, and his dad was standing right behind, hands gently on his shoulders, and they were stopped in front of the dessert tray. The boy reached out, and one of our young people placed this beautiful piece of chocolate cake in his open hands. I saw his eyes light up, I saw this huge smile explode onto his face, and he looked up at his dad and said, “dad, look, I got dessert!!”

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