Summary: Many have the view of the Christian life as boring, lifeless, full of duty, ritual, and restriction.yet the picture painted in Scripture is radically opposite of this view.
“Guidelines for Christmas: Jump for Joy”
Is. 35; Lk. 1:11-25
The Sunday School class for 7 year olds was barely underway when one little boy suddenly exclaimed to the teacher, “Can we hurry up? This is boring!” Immediately the little girl to his left gave him a sharp elbow to the side and rebuked him: “Shut up. It’s supposed to be boring!” Unfortunately, too many people, well beyond the age of 7, have a similar view of the Christian life: boring, lifeless, full of duty, ritual, and restriction. Yet the portrait painted in Scripture and modeled in Jesus is radically opposite of this view. Jesus desires for us to live an abundant life of joy. In fact, as we examine our passages for this morning we discover that Jesus brings joy everywhere He goes and in everything He does.
First of all, JESUS BRINGS JOY TO THE WORLD. It was even predicted in the account of the birth of John the Baptist (Lk. 1:11-25). Zechariah and Elizabeth were two loyal, faithful Jews. Zechariah, in fact, was a priest in the Temple. The only problem was the lack of a child - Elizabeth was barren. Not only did lack of children deprive parents of a special joy, it was also considered a sign of divine disfavor, which could lead to social ostracism. So Zechariah and Elizabeth continually prayed. One day, on duty in the Temple, God appeared to Zechariah: “Your wife ... will bear you a son ... He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth...Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God...(and) turn the hearts of the fathers to their children...” God answered their prayers. Not only would they have a child, they would have a son – and their son would be the forerunner for Jesus. Their son would set the stage for joy, by turning people back to God, and restoring and refocusing families. He would pave the way for the life of joy prophesied in Isaiah 35: “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.” TRUE JOY COMES ONLY THROUGH JESUS CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD.
More than two hundred years ago, a young man with the sophistication of an Oxford scholar climbed the steps of a stone monument called the “market cross” in the industrial ghetto of Liverpool, England. Leaning against the cross and looking out over the milling masses, his eyes and ears were shocked by the sights and sounds of dirty and bedraggled miners and millers venting the rage of their hopelessness with damning curses and drunken brawls. Breathing a prayer and stretching tall against the cross, the young man began to sing, “O, for a thousand tongues to sing, My great redeemers praise, The glories of my God and King, The triumphs of His grace.” The words came easily from his lips because he had written them to celebrate the first anniversary of his conversion to Jesus Christ. He had no trouble with the music because he sang in the melody of a popular tune which all of the people would recognize. Wafting over the market square like a clarion call, the song brought an abrupt halt to the bickering and brawling masses. Never before had they heard a note of joy in a religious context. To them, the church meant a sober sound reserved for saints and sanctuaries. To them, religion meant a division between the saved and the damned, with little doubt about their eternal position. To them, God was a great watch-maker in the sky who wound up the world and left it running without a whit of care for his own creation. No wonder Charles Wesley got their attention. He sang a song of a God of love who offered free grace for all through His Son Jesus Christ. (1) Joy is the only tone that can carry that message. Only Jesus brings such joy to the world. Indeed, as Isaiah predicted (35:10), the redeemed of the Lord “…will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” Jesus brings joy to the world.
Then, too, JESUS BRINGS JOY TO HIS FRIENDS. Through God’s love, expressed in Jesus, we are loved. On the night in which he was betrayed, Jesus told his disciples (John 15) “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you....you will remain in my love...as I remain in (the Father’s) love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete...” There’s a trail of unbroken love from God our Father to Jesus to us – what greater joy can there be than to know we are loved? And Jesus told us that WE EXPERIENCE THIS JOY BY BEING HIS FRIEND. And we become His friend through obedience to Him; and obedience means loving each other: “You are my friends if you do what I command...If you obey my commands you will remain in my love...My command is this: love each other as I have loved you.” JOY COMES THROUGH JESUS TO US AS WE LOVE EACH OTHER! The reward for obedience is not salvation – salvation is a gift. The reward for obedience is a deep, life-long joy. As someone once said, “To know God’s will is life’s greatest treasure. To do God’s will is life’s greatest pleasure.” When we love one another with Jesus’ love, we experience joy. Jesus brings joy to His friends.