Summary: To have real joy I must stay connected to Jesus.
I’m not going to ask for a show of hands, but how many of you feel like this this morning.
[Show “Keep Calm. It’s only Christmas” meme]
The truth is that in spite of the words of the famous Andy Williams song that tells us that Christmas is the “the most wonderful time of the year”, the reality is that for many people it is a really stressful time. Some of us here this morning have lost loved ones during the holiday season, so each year Christmas reminds us of that loss. For others the pressure to spend money that we really don’t have to buy the perfect gift for everyone adds to the stress we already feel over our finances. And for most of us, just the busyness of the season puts extra pressure on us.
And the world has no shortage of remedies with how to deal with that stress. A blogger named Cynthia Ewer shared these “10 Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season:
1. Prune the to-do list.
2. Cut the gift list.
3. Wrap as you go.
4. Buy, don’t bake
5. Call, don’t send cards.
6. Scale back décor.
7. Cut the clean-a-thon.
8. Downsize dishwashing
9. Finger food, not feat.
10. Stay home!
Now I’m not opposed to any of those ideas. In fact, I’ve actually done some of those things. But ultimately none of those solutions actually solve the problem of the stress of the holidays because they only deal with the externals and not the root cause. That is why the gift of joy that we’ll talk about this morning may very well be the least utilized and yet the most needed of the four gifts of Christmas that we’re focusing on during this season of Advent.
Hopefully, you remember that Advent is a word that means “coming” or “arrival”. And if we’ll take time to make this time the season of expectation, waiting and wonder that it’s intended to be I think that we’ll find that we’re actually able to enjoy this season rather than getting stressed out by it.
We began that season two weeks ago by looking at the gift of hope. And we discovered that when Jesus came to this earth that very Christmas, he made it possible for us to have the kind of hope that helps us to conquer our past sins, to live a godly life in the present and to overcome our fears about the future. [Light hope candle]
Last week, we looked at the second gift of Christmas – the gift of love. We discovered that the love that God has for us was demonstrated by the loving act of sending His Son to this earth for the purpose of making a sacrifice that would turn away the wrath of God that we deserve. That love did not wait to act until we deserved it and God did that knowing that most people were going to reject that gift. [Light love candle]
The third gift of Christmas – the one we’ll talk about this morning – is the gift of joy. [Light joy candle]
The theme of joy runs throughout the Biblical account of the birth of Jesus.
When the angel came to Zechariah to reveal to him that he and his wife would have a child in their old age, he told Zechariah…
And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth,
(Luke 1:14 ESV)
Several months later when Mary went to visit Elizabeth, and greeted her, Elizabeth responded with these words:
For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.
(Luke 1:44 ESV)
And I’m sure that most of us are familiar with the words that the angel spoke to the shepherds after Jesus’ birth:
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
(Luke 2:10 ESV)
And when the magi saw the star that led them to Jesus so that they could worship Him, they also experienced great joy.
When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
(Matthew 2:10 ESV)
In order to better understand what Biblical joy is all about, we’re going to do what we’ve done each week so far in this series and look at a passage that is not traditionally associated with Christmas. So I’m going to ask you to journey with me to a time that is about 33 years after the birth of Jesus. It is the night before Jesus will go to the cross in fulfillment of the plan that had been initiated all those years before at His birth. Jesus has just finished observing the Passover meal with His disciples where He had told them that He was about to go to the cross. So undoubtedly the disciples have reason to be fearful and stressed out.