Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

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Great Joy

December 2nd, 2012 by Vic

“Great Joy”

Luke 2:10

December 2, 2012


We hear a lot about joy during the Christmas season.  What is joy?  When do you feel the most joy?  How do we get it?  How do we lose it?  What are the benefits of joy?  What are the consequences of no joy?  How can you have tears of joy?


The word joy is used 59 times in the NT.  The word, rejoice, is used 74 times.  When the wise men saw the star (Matt 2:10), they rejoiced with great joy.  Joy is a feeling or mood initiated by an epiphany of God or good news.  There is a paradoxical link in the NT between joy and suffering.  The shepherds had great fear then great joy.  The women ran from the tomb of Jesus with fear and great joy (Matt 28:8).  Jesus says, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad because great is your reward in heaven” (Matt 5:11-12).  Joy is also linked to faith, hope and love (1 Pet 1:8).  Jesus says, “Remain in my love so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete (Jn 15:11).

The Qumran Jews looked forward to everlasting joy in the kingdom of God.  Deut 16:14 says it is the duty of parents to have joy and bring joy to their family and friends during the feasts.


Paul’s joy is to bring joy to the church (Phil 1:25).  He writes (Rom 14:17), “The kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”  Joy is a fruit of the Spirit.  Joy takes form in relationships.  We rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.  Paul says his friends are his joy.  “You are our glory and joy” (1 Thes 2:20).


John relates joy to the harvest (Jn 4:36).  There is joy for the sower and reaper.  The fulfillment of joy is in Jesus who lived in relationship with God.  John the Baptist (Jn 3:29) says he has heard the voice of the Bridegroom and he rejoiced with great joy because he recognized the fulfillment of God’s plan to relate to mankind in a new way.  Jesus promised the disciples that no one could take away their joy (Jn 16:22).  John says joy is all about relationships.  “I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete” (2 John 12).  “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4).


Now pause to think.  In what circumstances do you experience the most joy?  Let’s share a little.


What I want you to notice is stated again in the last paragraph of this manuscript.  Don’t just take my definition of joy and put it in a briefcase and think you have a handle on it.  Joy is bigger than our discussion today.  When you hear the word “joy” this season, think about your relationships and your joy.


The story of Christmas began in the Garden of Eden.  The OT writers kept pointing ahead to a coming Messiah.  Then all was quiet for 400 years.  Unexpectedly an angel appeared to announce the birth of John the Baptist.  The angel appeared 6 months later to Mary and Joseph.  In our reading today Mary has just given birth to the promised Messiah and we pick up the story in a sheep corral.


Luke 2:9-10  God sent an angel to interrupt the shepherds’ routines.  The shepherd on watch was face to face with an angel.  He was probably an adolescent.  His ears had not been dulled by loud music.  His eyes had not been damaged by too much electronic video.  With ears and eyes trained to hear trouble coming, he immediately knew he was in trouble.  Do we know God well enough to recognize His voice speaking in unusual ways outside our comfort zones?  Do we allow Him to interrupt our routines?  Do we rejoice at interruptions?


There was probably one boy on watch, but when he sensed trouble he would quickly shout at the others.  Immediately they were all wide awake.  Their night was interrupted by something that had not happened for many generations.  It had been 400 years since anyone had heard about an angel coming to a Jew.  News about the angel sightings by Zachariah, Elizabeth, Joseph, and Mary had probably not reached the kids in the field.  The shepherds did not get a text, tweet, or you tube about unusual happenings around Nazareth.  They did not listen to late night radio with Art Bell.  Now an angel was standing in front of them.  They were afraid.  They stood alert, surrounded by Glory.  Just as the sheep are calmed by the voice of the master, so when the messenger of God spoke these young men felt peace.  They “feared with great fear” until the angel spoke.  It is common to fear the unknown.


The Greek word for angel is ‘angelos’ and means messenger.  His purpose was to evangelize (eu (good)+angelos) or bring a good message.  An angel is a messenger and his purpose was to proclaim the good message, to gospelize good, to announce to you a great joy.  Wycliff translates this phrase, “I evangelize to you a great joy.”  This is not just joy but a message announcing a super great joy that God is sending for all people.  This message of joy has come because a child has been born.


Sometimes fear is appropriate, but the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, for behold, right now, I evangelize, I proclaim the good message to you.”  It was good news in heaven and the angel is bringing the good news to men.  This is something you can know and appreciate.  God’s intentions are gracious.  This is the time to rejoice.  God is doing something new.  You will have a great joy.


2:11  Your Savior is born.  He is more than just another deliverer like one of the judges of the OT.  The Messiah whom your parents have been expecting has come.  He is Christ the Lord, Messiah.  You have a Savior on earth who has come from heaven.  There is joy in heaven because this everlasting joy is being made available to all men.


Caesar Augustus had claimed to be the savior of the world and offered a golden age of peace with no war, but there was neither peace not the cessation of war.  He did not offer joy.  Caesar may appear to be in charge.  But God is doing something that will precipitate great joy for all people, not just the Romans or the Jews.  Jesus brings everlasting joy and life.


What would have happened if the angel came to your home and your family?


The humble can hear God.  The shepherds had God-sensitive ears.  They did not have a lot of reasons why God couldn’t appear to them.  They were not too busy to listen.  They did not carry an appointment calendar.  The good news was for the whole world.  But the world did not hear.  Are we listening?  Let heaven and earth sing and rejoice.  The angel announcement is a reason to rejoice.  The fulfillment of God’s promise is a reason for joy.  The activity of God is a reason for joy.  Great joy is available to all who receive the message and worship.  The language of heaven is joyful music and praise.


2:12  The Jews were always seeking signs so God prepared a sign for them.  The signs point to something greater than the sign.  The sign is a baby in a manger.  That sign points to something God is doing.   What could this baby in a feed trough be pointing to?  What is God doing?  God sent the non-Jewish wise men a star as a sign, but the Jewish shepherds received a baby in a stall or feed trough as a sign.  What are the signs pointing to?  The signs point to the fact that God is living among them.  This child is identified as the Christ/Messiah.  He is to be more than a deliverer.  He is to be more than a King of peace.  All people should have great joy.  Rejoice with the angels.  Joy cannot be bought, demanded, coerced, or stolen.  It is a result of relationships.


The baby does not demand joy, but he can express joy.  He can receive joy.  We have joy when we bring him joy.  The baby is a sign that more joy and love will be coming.


How did the news of great joy affect the shepherds?  What are they asking themselves?  Is God really speaking to us?  Is God announcing this to everyone?  Do our elders know about this?  Will they believe us?  We have not been to the synagogue for a while.  Maybe we missed the announcement.  We must be dreaming.  Do you see what I see?  Do you hear what I hear?  Why would angels come to an unclean sheep station?


2:13  While they were trying to sort these facts in their minds, an army of angels appeared and announced peace.  God’s army did not have to come.  It just appeared.  Verse 9 said they could see a glow of glory.  Now their eyes were opened and they can see the celestial in the glory.  They had never seen anything like this before.  They had never heard a song like this before.  The night sky was ripped open with joy and praise.


When you have a clear vision of glory and God’s activity, what do you expect to hear?  Praise.  The language of heaven is music and praise.


Real joy is about our relationship with God.  It grows like our relationship with a baby.  God so loved the world He gave us Jesus so we can enjoy a new relationship with God and all mankind.  Let’s go back to our questions.  How do we get joy?  How do we lose joy?  It is all about relationships.  The world was created by the Trinity relationship.  Man was created to enjoy a relationship with God and his family.  The angels brought a message of great joy because of a closer relationship with God.  He was planning a sacrifice for our sins so we could walk with Him in our garden.


2:14  They had a 2 fold message.  1. God deserves our highest praise.  2. Man is now the recipient of God’s good pleasure, God’s gift.  They sang glory to God in heaven and glory to God on earth to people of good pleasure, to people who have a good relationship with God.  To be of God’s good pleasure is to be established in a favored relationship with God.  These are the people whom God has favored.  This angelic hymn of glory and peace is now the same on the earth as it is in the highest heaven, both to God and among men in a favored relationship with God.  Real peace on earth exists only among those who are the subjects of God’s favor, who have an established relationship with God and a love toward man.  People in relationship with God and man have joy and peace.


The angels indicate that heaven is impressed by what God has achieved.  Your darkness can be dispelled and overcome by the splendor of the glory of God.  God is offering a new relationship with all men.  God has come to tent among us.  God wants to walk with us in a new way.  This is the message of joy.  This is what the sign of the manger is pointing to.  In Him we have joy unspeakable and full of glory for we have received the gift of a love relationship.


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