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Christmas Joy

Notes & Transcripts

Christmas Joy.

Five sleeps to go, is it? Is everybody getting excited, the anticipation building? Or is it only the kids that still get excited about Christmas? Are you looking forward to Christmas? Is it a happy time? That is what the Christmas cards are full of: Happy Christmas! Merry Christmas! [P] Here is one I selected, almost at random – I did choose one that had God in it: “God’s blessing be yours this Christmas! Have a joy filled [P] Christmas! Merry [P] Christmas and a happy [P] new year!” Christmas is a joyous time! We have a DVD at home that portrays the Nativity story; I think it has a NZ actress in it. It is quite good at portraying the scene as it was back then, but it focuses on Mary being pregnant and unmarried – the whole atmosphere is heavy with the stigma, there is no joy. What about? [Luke 2:8-20 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord! And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest! (the shepherds went and saw the baby just as the angel had said, then …..) The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them. ] It was a joyous time. I don’t think Mary was miserable – she had just given birth to the Son of God! Hope had come! Deliverance had come! Redemption had come! Salvation had come! This was the promise of the ages fulfilled! Those who drink too much may have a Merry Christmas, those who get the presents they want may have a Happy Christmas; but for we who know the Saviour, Christmas is joyous [P]. But it is not Luke’s account but Matthew’s that I want to look at this morning: [P] [Matthew 2:1-12 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; For out of you shall come forth a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ” Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.” After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.] Did you hear in verse 10? [When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy!] (ἐχάρησαν χαρὰν μεγάλην σφόδρα) Literally it says: “they rejoiced with joy very great” – although it is written in Greek, Matthew does something the Hebrew does – when you want to emphasize something you repeat it: so instead of saying “very happy”, you would say “happy with happiness”, “holy, holy” means “very holy”. So to show how great their joy was he repeats “joy”; but that is not enough, he says that that joy was “great”! But that is not enough, he says that super joy not only “great” but “very great”! Do you get the idea – they were over the moon with joy! You couldn’t get a greater emphasis on the joy if you tried. Now these who were so overcome with rejoicing, were magi. They were astrologers from the East, learned men who studied the heavens, the stars. They were serious sober scholars making a learned study of events and portents – hardly the ones you expect to be exuberant with joy! Why were they so filled with joy? It says “when they saw the star” – it was because they saw the star. But have a look back in verse 4: [For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.] Herod and all Jerusalem were troubled when they heard about the star. The same thing caused a totally different reaction! They were not filled with joy, they were upset and troubled! We have joy when the world is upset - we have a different perspective, we respond differently – when God acts in end time judgements, men’s hearts are failing them for fear; but what does Luke say? [Luke 21:28 “But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”] Non-believers may be merry and happy at Christmas time, but they cannot know the joy that we have. We have a joy that the world cannot know. Look around at the trouble in the world; terrorism, global warming, faltering economies, decreasing dairy prices – the world has plenty to worry about. Are we Pollyanna optimists out of touch with reality? No. What is the difference? We believe that God is Sovereign, in control of all things; things are not happening at random and by chance, getting out of control. There is One who is in control of history, and He intervened in person in history by being born as a baby in this world. But what caused these magi to rejoice was that they saw the star that they had seen in the East. That is the reason that they had come to Israel. How they made the connection, I don’t know. Now some have speculated that they were from the region where Daniel had been, they had his prophecies, and came in response to them. Interesting speculation, but that is all it is; supposition, clever ideas – the only problem with it is: that it is not what the Bible says! The Bible says that the reason they came (Matthew 2:3), not because we read in the writings of Daniel, but “Because we have seen His star at its rising”. They observed the stars and that is how they knew. But when you look at the stars, they don’t have labels on them – they saw this new and special star rise and their study led them to a conclusion about its significance. But it was just a star, how could they know for sure? It was just a sign in the heavens. But they knew it was significant and considered it worth investigating and pursuing. It took a lot of study, investigation, preparation and travel – it was some two years after the star appeared before they arrived. This was a significant investment of time and effort, all on the basis of a star. What if they had got it wrong, drawn the wrong conclusion? This was walking by faith – going to all this effort and they might be totally mistaken. But then they saw the exact same star again! They hadn’t seen it for months, and there it was again! They had been on the right track after all! Their investigation in Jerusalem directed them to Bethlehem – and there was the star! The vision was fulfilled! [P] – faith had turned to sight! It is a wonderful joyous thing when what you have believed in all along, actually comes to be. We believe Jesus is going to return because that is what He promised – but can you imagine the joy when He actually comes and we see Him face to face?! “And the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was.” This was the exact same star; it appeared and went ahead of them then stopped right where the child was! Amazing heavenly guidance! They spent all their life studying the stars – they had never seen anything like this! For a star-gazer, what a treat! John is into motor bikes, he loves his Harley – but to go to rolling thunder where there are hundreds of them – He is overjoyed! Hannah loves her violin, but imagine the joy of being able to play a Stradivarius! These magi were into stars – this is what spun their wheels – and to have a star put on this personal performance! They were overjoyed at the celestial show, but also because the sign in the stars, the celestial prophecy, was fulfilled! They had received revelation from heaven [P] – the star guided them. God Himself who controls the heavens was directing this star just for them! – no one else followed it, or knew what it meant. They were hearing from heaven, from God! There is nothing more thrilling and exciting! It fills the heart with joy when you know that you have actually heard from God Himself! Not doctrine and theology but God giving special revelation to you personally! There is nothing that can compare with it! Hallelujah! There is great joy when you know that you have heard from the great God of all eternity speaking to you personally! And Jesus being born was the ultimate revelation – the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us! Because this star had significance, it was the star of the “King of the Jews”. This star heralded the Messiah! [P] The magi asked Herod about “the king of the Jews”, and Herod asked the experts where the Messiah was to be born. The Messiah was the promised King – the One who was going to rule in righteousness and justice, restore the kingdom to Israel. For hundreds of years they had held to this promise. There were many prophecies about the Messiah – and here He was! The King had been born! It is exciting when a baby is born – it is an occasion of great joy. I remember when Hannah was born – 5 o’clock in the morning. I had been up all night. I had breakfast at the hospital with Rhoda and then went to church here. I thought: I can catch up on some sleep in the afternoon. No I couldn’t! I sat down at home with a cup of tea but no, I had to go back to the hospital! Sleep was out of the question! I was too excited, too full of joy to lie back and snooze. That was only an ordinary baby – here a baby was born but He was the Messiah, the Son of God! This was God in the flesh – the wise men worshipped, made homage to a baby – because this was God! God had been born here on earth, come to live among us! The greatest, most momentous event of history – the birth of the Messiah is the cause of great joy; still today, it is something to rejoice over! For this Messiah was the hope of Israel, in fact of all peoples. Hope is a wonderful thing, it sustains you through difficult times; but here was hope fulfilled! [P] Hope realised. When what you have longed for and hoped for, for so many years, finally comes to be; there is a great release of joy. The One the heavens announced was here! – the fulfilment of God's promise. Israel had suffered, been through tough times, been oppressed and under the heel of foreign nations for so long. Now what they had hoped for for so long: for deliverance, kingdom, peace, being established and lifting their head high once again – it was here! Not some ephemeral “hope for” that may come about some day, some promise yet to be, a prophecy to come about who knows when. It had finally happened! It wasn’t just religious talk – it was real! Here! Tangible! You catch John’s excitement in: [1 John 1:1-2 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— and the life was manifested, ] revealed! It was tangible! What cause for rejoicing! Here was the One who was born to be King! [P] The King had come! The magi observed the star of the One “born to be King of the Jews”. OK He was still a baby; He wasn’t going to rule for a while yet, but the king was there, the Kingdom was drawing near! Almost there. The anticipation was building. What was the Good News of great joy that was proclaimed? It was Good News that the Kingdom of God is near! That is what John the Baptist and Jesus preached: “Repent for the Kingdom of God is near!” A different regime! Do you ever get a bit disappointed, not to say fed up, with human government? At last a rule based on righteousness and justice, peace. [Romans 14:17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.] This rule produces joy! They were full of joy because the Kingdom of God was at the door! So should we be! We should be looking with hope and eagerness for the coming of our King! This is our hope and it is nearer than when we first believed. [Romans 13:11 Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.] And that is the real cause of joy at Christmas: salvation! [P] A Saviour has been born! [Matthew 1:21 “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”] The King is a Saviour! Our salvation will be revealed when the King comes. And that will be a day of unprecedented joy! This is what Peter says: [P] He is talking about us …. [1 Peter 1:5-6 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, ] You say, “I thought that I was already saved!” And so you may well be, but there is a salvation that will be revealed in the last time – the completed work, new bodies, sinless, spotless, blameless, like Jesus! What joy that will be – even though we don’t have it yet we “greatly rejoice”; even though we have to suffer – and suffering is a major theme of first Peter. Even though we don’t see it now, he goes on to say: [P] [1 Peter 1:8-9 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. ] there is that over-the-top joy again: “greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible” – why? because we are obtaining the salvation of our souls! Rejoicing despite suffering. In fact the suffering is linked with the salvation and the joy. You only get saved, need saving, when you are in deep trouble. You are saved out of something. And the relief that salvation produces results in joy. Have you ever been down the airport and watched people get off the plane. Heads down texting someone to pick them up, looking for the baggage claim, if it’s been a long flight they might be tired – a mixture of responses. But, in a documentary, I saw the people who came out of Entebbe airport – they had been hijacked by terrorists and held hostage; the Israelis executed a daring military operation and rescued them. They were saved! You should have seen the spontaneous, exuberant, demonstrative joy – dancing hugging – they were over-the-moon! They had been saved! And salvation produces joy! If life goes along without any problems, then we may be content; but when there is imminent disaster and we escape, the relief produces joy. The greater the danger the greater the joy; the more wonderful and complete the deliverance, the greater the joy. [Psalm 30:4-5 Sing praise to יהוה, you His godly ones, and give thanks to His holy name. For His anger is but for a moment, His favour is for a lifetime; weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning. ] We have sorrow now because we long to be with Jesus and are separated from Him, we have grief over our weaknesses, failing, sin and the effects of sin in this world. But there is a salvation coming! Hallelujah! Jesus said: [John 16:22 “Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.] We have joy that no one can take away. Why is there joy at Christmas? Because the Saviour has come! The more dire the trouble is; then the greater the joy at salvation. We were dead! – dead in our trespasses and sin; lost, without hope; destined to an eternity of eternal torment! Then God came down in person with the express purpose to save us; [John 3:17 “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.] [John 12:47 I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.] [Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”] Salvation from sin, from death, from decay, the corruption in the world, the effects of sin and separation from God – what joy to be rescued from that! Now I am going to inundate you with Scripture this morning, for which I make no apology; so that you can see the strong link in the Bible between SALVATION and JOY. We know that David was overwhelmed by His sin – he prayed: [Psalm 51:1-5 Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your loving-kindness; according to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. Psalm 51:7-12 Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness, Let the bones which You have broken rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. [P] Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.] A favourite song of Tom Taylor’s was from [P] [Psalm 95:1-3 O come, let us sing for joy to יהוה, let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For יהוה is a great God and a great King above all gods,] And in: [P] [Psalm 132:16 “Her priests also I will clothe with salvation, and her godly ones will sing aloud for joy. ] And it says much the same thing in: [P] [2 Chronicles 6:41 “Now therefore arise, O יהוה God, to Your resting place, You and the ark of Your might; let Your priests, O Lord God, be clothed with salvation and let Your godly ones rejoice in what is good.] And not just priests: [Psalm 40:16 (and it says the same thing in: Psalm 70:4) Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; Let those who love Your salvation say continually, “יהוה be magnified!” ] [P] [Psalm 9:14 That I may tell of all Your praises, That in the gates of the daughter of Zion I may rejoice in Your salvation.] [P] [Psalm 35:9 And my soul shall rejoice in יהוה; It shall exult in His salvation.] Israel suffered under her oppressors, she longed for salvation, for restoration: [P] [Psalm 14:7 (and Psalm 53:6 says exactly the same) Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion! When יהוה restores His captive people, Jacob will rejoice, Israel will be glad.] How great the joy when יהוה brings them deliverance, when they are saved out of their distress!: [P] [Psalm 118:15 The sound of joyful shouting and salvation is in the tents of the righteous; the right hand of יהוה does valiantly.] And it is not just the Psalms: [P] [Isaiah 61:10 I will rejoice greatly in יהוה, My soul will exult in my God; for He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness,] Israel’s waywardness had caused them to suffer at the hand of God. They went through difficult times, real trouble. The outlook looked bleak! Again, salvation is always out of trouble! You do not save someone who isn’t in difficulty! They were going through it in Habakkuk’s day: [Habakkuk 3:17-18 Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, (things couldn’t be much worse!), [P] Yet I will exult in יהוה, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.] I think that you may be getting to discern the pattern! Salvation and rejoicing, joy, like ham and cheese, always go together. When Hannah prophesied concerning the coming king who would deliver Israel, the prophecy pointed forward right to Christ, in fact Mary’s magnificat mirrors it – [P] [1 Samuel 2:1 Then Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in יהוה; my horn is exalted in יהוה, my mouth speaks boldly against my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation.] She foresaw it! The salvation that was coming, and the joy that would be associated with it. Just the seeing of its coming with her spiritual eye made her rejoice. Looking forward to the day that salvation would come Isaiah said; [P] [Isaiah 12:1-6 Then you will say on that day, “I will give thanks to You, O יהוה; for although You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me. “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; for the יָהּ יהוה is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation.” Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation. And in that day you will say, “Give thanks to יהוה, call on His name. Make known His deeds among the peoples; make them remember that His name is exalted.” Praise יהוה in song, for He has done excellent things; let this be known throughout the earth. Cry aloud and shout for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.] God had been angry and punished them with suffering – but now His anger is turned aside. His anger and wrath at our sin has fallen on Jesus! He has borne the penalty. We are saved from God’s wrath! Hallelujah! He has become our salvation. There is an endless supply ever springing up that will never run dry. Indeed God has done great things! Praise His Name! Prophesying the coming of the Messiah Zechariah said: [P] [Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.] Always salvation and joy are together. No wonder the magi rejoiced at the star! – SALVATION had come! Simeon saw it – saw the baby and knew salvation had come: [Luke 2:29-32 “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation, (it was here!) which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, A Light of revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.”] No wonder That the angels announced “glad tiding of great joy” [P] [Luke 2:10-11 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;[P] for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.] We should rejoice at Christmas – not just was a Saviour was born – He was born for you! [Matthew 1:21 “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”]

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