The First Sunday in Advent, where did this year go?
The Christmas movies are on TV, the adverts have begun telling us what we need for a wonderful Christmas and the word bandied about most is JOY. In the 24 or so days of advent we will hear this word used a lot. Thousands of Hymns and popular songs are about JOY, and Joy is used 8 times in the Christmas story.
What comes to mind when you think about Joy? Dont confuse JOY with happiness.
Happiness is transient, it depends on circumstances. I’m happy when my children come to visit me, but the feeling fades when they go again. Its temporary and external.
Joy, on the other hand, is a CHOICE. It’s internal, you can have joy even in grief. If you like definitions JOY is the settled assurance that God is in control of every aspect of my life. We can choose to praise God in all things. It comes with being committed to following Him.
Wouldn’t it be good if everyone had this? No bad things would happen, we would all be kind to one another. But we don’t always have it. Why ? Because it drains out of our lives. We don’t have it because we put up barriers, depleters.
I love Harry Potter books/ films. They show good triumphing over bad. I know they are about magic, so is Cinderella. Harry Potter stories remind us that there is evil in this world and to keep our joy, we have to fight for it. In Ephesians 6 Paul tells us that we are fighting “powers in this dark world and spiritual forces of evil..”
These are destroyers of faith. In Harry Potter there are “death eaters” these shadowy creatures suck out the life essence of the good people.
We have to fight the death eaters in our lives. What are they?
- Anxiety – we get stressed, nervous, scared ,worried. It might be an illness, a relationship, a job or lack of one.
You cannot be fearful and joyful at the same time.
In Luke 1 we read about the angel telling Mary she would be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and give birth to the son of God. If you were 14, wouldn’t that stress you out a bit? She’s engaged to be married – a legal contract in those days. How is she going to explain this to her parents or Joseph? Who is going to believe her story? An angel came Dad and told me I’d get pregnant and give birth to the son of God, imagine if your daughter said that.
There is going to be gossip! We cannot stop people talking about us. It’s a fact of life. Others are always sure that they can live your life better than you, and if you want to know whats going on around here, just pop into the Coop.
We know that the angel tells Mary not to be afraid., even though he just dropped a bombshell. She has every right to be concerned.
Mary makes a CHOICE and that word is important. When she is afraid she CHOSE to trust God and accept his plan.
We are adopted sons and daughters of God , each of us to take part in His plan. We need to CHOOSE to accept it. Whatever we are afraid of, whether its health, finances, job, moving house or even just a new year!
We need to TRUST God and put whatever it is that is sapping our joy into his hands. Lk 1 .38 says that Mary tells the angel “ I am willing to accept whatever God wants”.
We may not understand what God is doing just now but GOD DOES, and if we trust him to take us through whatever is causing our anxiety—- we will have JOY.
2nd death eater…. Resentment/ hurt.
We cannot be resentful and JOYFUL.
Everyone has been wounded by words and it hurts. The world is broken and our rebellion against God causes us to hurt each other. Some of us are deeply offended by betrayal, rejection or jealousy.
Regardless of what it is, we have to deal with it. Bitterness stops our JOY. We can carry a grudge for life, and some people don’t deserve forgiveness as we see it. They may not, but then neither do we. How can we pray “ Forgive us our sins as we forgive others?” If we are not forgiving others?
Matt 1 20-21
Joseph finds out that Mary is pregnant- he is brokenhearted! Why did the angel only tell Mary what was going on? Why wasn’t Joseph in on it too? He goes through agony but God is testing his character, Is he going to be the kind of Father that can be trusted to bring up the Son of GOd?
When Joseph was hurting – he CHOSE to offer grace.
Mary is struggling with fear
Joseph is struggling with anger… often the way relationships go.
He loves Mary though and here is a beautiful example of grace. He still takes her as his wife.
Who has hurt you deeply?
Are you still holding on to it?
That’s how we lose our JOY.
When God tells Joseph whats going on, the bitterness fades and he is BLESSED. God gives him the job. We have a choice, bitterness or blessing? We don’t have the strength to do it alone, thats why Jesus came to save us. Accept Jesus —- Get JOY!
Third and final death eater — Confusion.
When we can’t figure out what we are supposed to be doing in life. We doubt ourselves and where we should be headed. Sometimes we are seduced by fear and lose our JOY.
The more we struggle to sort it ourselves the more we feel lost. We may have unattainable goals, unfinished projects, unfulfilled dreams. Our fears may be real or imagined, physical or emotional. An attitude, a habit, a belief or a memory. Anything standing in the way of JOY, and trusting God fully and relaxing into his control.
How do you know if you have personally encountered Jesus?
Because you feel humble gratitude- the more we get to know Him, the more we understand that He is in control, IF we CHOOSE to let Him. Then we can’t help but be thankful.
When we know what God’s plan is, and it is to send his son so that we can have a constant companion through his Holy Spirit, then we lose anxiety, stress , the wound we have been refusing to let go of, then we feel grateful and want to praise him.
We need help from Heaven, if we didn’t need a saviour, God wouldn’t have sent one and Christmas wouldn’t have happened.
“ I bring you tidings of great JOY that will be for ALL people” the angels told the shepherds.
Whether you consider yourself a Christian, an Atheist an Agnostic or anything else, you need to know that Jesus was born, died and raised to life for you. No matter what you’ve done, how you did it, how long for or with whom. You have a saviour who is CHRIST THE LORD for eternity! Your past, present and future sins are forgiven.
There is no condemnation in Jesus Christ our Lord. He will never force himself on you. The choice is yours.