Peninsula Community Church
The Journey of Joy
December 17, 2017
Luke 2:8-11 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 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. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Let me begin this morning by asking you a question. Here it is. In life, what brings you the most joy? What ignites your heart with passion? I am sure that if we polled this room we would most likely get all sorts of answers and responses. I am sure that some would say their kids or grandkids bring the joy. Some would say a specific trip they have enjoyed. Others would say a certain meal or a dessert would bring joy. Still others would say sitting before a fire with a good book brings them the most joy. The fact is each of us has a different opinion as to what would bring us joy. This morning, I propose, however, that the greatest doorway to joy is a personal relationship with Christ. It does not matter what specific items or events bring joy, if those things are not founded in a relationship in Christ.
As we review this particular Christmas story this morning, notice if you will, the shepherds were in the field minding their own business. They did not expect or anticipant a visit of any kind, much less the kind of visit that occurred. You see, there was nothing extraordinary about these men. They were shepherds and perhaps the lowest of all people on the totem pole of social standing. People did not visit shepherds. In fact, most people did not associate with shepherds, as they tended to be an isolated nomadic group of people who hung out with people just like themselves. And yet, this is to who God chose to bring the proclamation that Christ was born.
If you will, look at their response with me. It is probably no surprise that their initial response was one of fear. Now these were tough burly men who had confronted lions and bears without giving it a second thought, but this encounter was a bit much for them. They were filled with fear because of the activity occurring that dark night. So, why were they afraid? For one, angels were speaking to them and that by itself was enough. What would you do if you encountered a real angel or angels in the middle of the night with a choir singing behind them? I would imagine there would be some fear expressed.
It is also noteworthy that this circumstance was enhanced by the fact there had been no word from the Lord for 400 years. Can you imagine that? There had been no word from the Lord for 400 years. This was a dark time in terms of a visitation from God. But now at the appropriate time, and at the right moment God chose to come to the lowly shepherds. Listen to the words of Paul but when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Galatians 4:4-5). At the right time Christ came to earth, and this was the right time.
The fear they were experiencing was happening on multiple levels. Their fear was a natural reaction this encounter. The angels were aware of this fear and they countered that fear with a message “Fear not…! Fear not…!” What a statement in comparison to the circumstances. Can you imagine what the shepherds thought? All this is happening and you want me to not fear. You just rocked my world and you want me to act without fear? You see this declaration to not fear was not some passive, unrealistic command, but was founded in the truth that God was up to something. To understand this, we must read the rest of the proclamation as this is directly connected to the birth announcement of Christ. The angels announcement was Do not fear, because, we bring you good news of great joy and this message will be for all people.
It is noteworthy here that the answer to their fear was a message of joy. This was a message that would counter the fear and anxiety of the moment. Even today, it is a joyful heart that neutralizes fear. For that reason, it is hard to be joyful and to be fearful at the same time. The fear I am talking about is the kind that brings bondage and prevents us from any forward movement in life. It is the emotion that for many has prevented them from experiencing life to the fullest. It is a fear of the future. It is a fear of failure. It is a fear of outcomes. It is even a fear of the good that God does. We fear that somehow we are undeserving of His blessing.
Know this fear binds but joy releases. That is why the Old Testament writer said that weeping may endure for an evening but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5). Another writer spoke with conviction when he stated that the joy of the Lord is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Joy is an internal reaction to delighting in Christ. As we delight in Christ, He exposes us to His joy which is already resident in us.
Remember the movie the Wizard of OZ. I know that we all have our favorite movie around Thanksgiving and Christmas. My mom’s was the Wizard of OZ. Watching this movie was an annual event for us. If you have seen it, you will remember the main characters in the movie. There was Dorothy who had lost her way. There was the scarecrow who had no brains. There was the tin man who had no heart or emotions. Then there was the lion who had no courage and was afraid of his own shadow. As you watch the movie, you find that they made it to the great city of OZ where they made a request of the great wizard. They asked that he would give them a brain, a heart, and courage. But what we find in the end, is that each of them already possessed these characteristics, they just needed to allow them to be released into their life.
Today, the enemy of our soul has robbed us of joy and has filled so many with fear. One of the lessons of the movie the Wizard of OZ is that what we desire is often already in us. That is a Biblical principle and I am here to tell you that all that you need is already in you, spiritually. You see joy has come as a child but more than that it is a fruit of the spirit that is resident in our hearts because of the work of the Holy Spirit within us. Christ came, He died, and He sent us the Holy Spirit who would provide us with joy as it is one of the fruit that is resident in us as we receive Christ as our Savior (Galatians 5:22).
Since joy is a fruit of the spirit, we understand that it is therefore a work of grace for us to receive that joy. It might be noteworthy that we find that joy and grace come from the same root word in the Greek. The Greek word for joy is CHARA and the Greek word for grace is CHARIS. You see it is by grace that we have joy, and it is the joy we experience that shows us the grace of God in our life. It seems like a bit of circular thinking, but it is the truth as they are intricately connected in our spiritual being. Rather than walking in fear, we can walk in the joy provided to us by the grace of God. Rather than working at producing or manufacturing joy, we can realize that joy comes to us as a gift of God by way of His son. The fact is we have the potential for a joy-filled life because of God’s amazing grace.
Know this, Christ is the source of our joy. Most exciting announcements bring immediate happiness, but afterward, the emotional high evaporates, leaving us unchanged. However, when we believe the good news of Jesus’ birth and we accept Jesus as our Savior, the joy is lasting and it is transformative in its power. As we abide in Him like a branch in a vine, His life flows through us, and the Spirit produces fruit in us (John 15:4, 11; Gal. 5:22-23).
Perhaps the problem with our joy and the power of fear that overwhelms us is that we are looking to the wrong sources to provide our joy. So, where are you looking for joy? Are you trying to control the events of your life and the actions of the people you are invested in, only to find that the end result is more sadness and pain. How many times have we looked to things to provide us with joy to find that it is only a temporary joy that is easily lost, when the thing we look to is destroyed or no longer available? The reason for this is that joy, true joy, is not something we create but something we receive from a heavenly father that so desire. Listen to this: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope (Romans 15:13). Our joy is a direct result of the relationship we have with Christ.
He is the source of our strength. When the shepherds heard about the Messiah, their elation propelled them into action. They could not keep the news to themselves. Christ’s joy is powerful, and as was true of the shepherds, it should likewise transform and motivate us to serve Him. A joyful life is the most appealing witness you and I will ever display to a lost and hurting world. People are searching for joy in all the wrong places, so when they see us going through pain, trouble, and conflict with calm contentment and peace of mind, the door opens to share the message of a Savior who came to give new life.
Finally, even if your circumstances aren’t perfect this Christmas, do not give up on your joy. It is a precious gift from Christ, and He wants you to live in joy to the full this day and every day. Just remember, Christmas is just a preview of what awaits us in heaven. There we will have uninterrupted and uninhibited delight in the presence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That alone is a reason to celebrate, but we do not have to wait until heaven. We can experience that now through Christ. Are you ready? Is that the life you want to live? Let us pray.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom