Summary: 3rd Sunday in Advent, Year A; The world is looking for the kind of joy God has promised us in Christ, but it is a deeper joy than just saying, "Don’t worry, be happy!"
"The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God."(Isaiah 35:1-2)
Years ago, a Scotchman lived in Liverpool where he was to embark for his journey to America. He fingered the few coins that made up his entire earthly wealth, and decided that he would save as much as he could on food during the trip in order to have more money on hand when he reached New York. He went to a small store and bought a supply of crackers and cheese to get him through his days at sea. But as the voyage progressed the sea air made him very hungry. To make matters worse, the dampness in the air made his cheese hard and his crackers soft. He was almost desperate with hunger. The last straw came when he caught the fragrant whiff of delicious food on a tray a steward was carrying to another passenger. The hungry man made up his mind that he would have one good, square meal, even though it might take several of his shillings. He awaited the return of the steward and asked him how much it would cost to go to the dining room and get a dinner. The steward asked the Scotchman if he had a ticket for the steamship passage. The man showed his ticket, and the steward told him that all meals were included in the price of the ticket. The poor man could have saved the money he spent on crackers and cheese; he could have gone to the dining room and eaten as much as he liked every mealtime.
This is a humble picture of the position of many people who have believed in Christ as Savior. Because of that faith they are saved, but they go on their dreary way without enjoying any of the blessings God has for them in Christ! How terrible is the responsibility of these cheese-and-crackers Christians, who show no joy to those who are looking for the reality of joy in life…
A certain layman wished to perform some kind of Christian service, so his pastor suggested that he go to a rescue mission and help. The man duly presented himself to the superintendent of the mission shortly before a service for the down-and-out who walked along Skid Row. The superintendent told the man to stand out on the sidewalk and invite passing men to come into the meeting. The man approached all who passed by and, in a mournful tone, asked them to enter the mission. Each man to whom he spoke glanced at him and went on. He learned his lesson, however, when one man responded to his doleful invitation, “Brother, wouldn’t you like to come in to the meeting?” Cynically, the man looked at his solemn face and said, “No, thanks; I’ve got troubles enough of my own!”
Even people like Martin Luther didn’t always show a good witness. In his later years he could become quite gloomy. One day his wife came into his study dressed in black. Martin asked, “Who’s dead?” She said, “God is.” Martin responded, “My soul, why should you talk like that?” She said, “Because of your gloom!”
It is hard to show the kind of joy people are really looking for if you do not have it. Yet it has been abundantly provided for us in Christ. “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
I. The path to true happiness cannot be found on our own.
King Solomon was the wisest man there was. He said, “I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven.” Yet his quest for knowledge got him nowhere. The conclusion he reached at the end of his search was this: “For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.”
From the quest for knowledge, he moved on to the quest for pleasure. He thought to himself, “Come, now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what was good.” But again, he came away empty-handed. He said, “Laughter is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish?”
Next, he turned to other projects: houses, vineyards, and worldly wealth. He acquired many slaves. He had more herds and flocks than anyone else in Jerusalem had ever seen. He amassed piles of gold and silver, the treasure of kings and provinces. He provided himself with lavish entertainment, and he had hundreds of women in his harem. He said, “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused myself no pleasure.” Yet, in the end, he was no better off. It was all empty and meaningless—a chasing after the wind. As he looked at all the evil in the world, he even declared that in some ways it was better to never have been born at all!