Joy to the World
Joy to the World!
December 21, 2008
Only three more days! Are you getting excited? We, as Christ’s body on earth, should have lots to be excited about as we celebrate Christ’s birthday. Our excitement should bring praise from our lips. The God of the universe came down to earth as Immanuel –God with us. Praise His Name!
Henry Blackaby says: Trying to stop the praise of a thankful heart would be like trying to arrest the flow of a mighty waterfall! God created us to praise Him; praise will be our activity when we are gathered around His throne in heaven.
You should never have difficulty thinking of reasons why God deserves your praise. You should enjoy the times you have to praise your Lord, both privately and You should never have difficulty thinking of reasons why God deserves your praise. You should enjoy the times you have to praise your Lord, both privately and publicly in worship. If your life is not filled with praise, it may be that you have lost your appreciation for God's merciful activity in your life. Never forget what God has saved you from. Never take for granted what it means to have the assurance of eternity with God. Do not disregard the spiritual kinship you enjoy with other believers. Take time often to recount the blessings He has poured out upon you and your family. As you contemplate the boundless love and mercy God has shown you, you will want to sing His praises as Mary did. Spontaneous praise is authentic praise. It does not have to be manipulated or orchestrated. It is a real and personal expression of a grateful heart and wonder-filled life that has encountered holy God!
Please turn with me to Luke, chapter 2, and we’ll read today’s Scripture: At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire.
(This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own towns to register for this census.
And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David's ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancé, who was obviously pregnant by this time. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the village inn. That night some shepherds were in the fields outside the village, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord's glory surrounded them. They were terribly frightened, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The Savior – yeas the Messiah, the Lord – has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David! And this is how you will recognize him: You will find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped snugly in strips of cloth!" Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God: "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favors." When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, "Come on, let's go to Bethlehem! Let's see this wonderful thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." They ran to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. Then the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds' story were astonished, but Mary quietly treasured these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their fields and flocks, glorifying and praising God for what the angels had told them, and because they had seen the child, just as the angel had said.
Let’s go back to that in for a moment. It wasn't much of a place -- but it was his. It had been his father's before him, and his father's, and so on. There weren't many places like this in Bethlehem.
It wasn't much of a town. Just a small town down the road from Jerusalem, but it was the home of King David. In fact, this very inn was built on land that belonged to the family of David. Some said it was the exact spot of the house where David was born. Imagine that! A king being born right here! That made the town special -- but still not very big.
The innkeeper thought about that on this day of all days. People were streaming in -- still streaming in from everywhere. He had never seen so many in his town. Where did they all come from?
Business was good -- almost too good -- at his place. All the thatched rooms were taken. People were even camping in the courtyard. The sights, sounds and smells of people and animals milling about almost drowned out the sight and sound of the coins now tucked away in a safe place.
As he moved about the crowd, he watched and listened. He was still nervous about some of the things he had seen and heard. There was a great deal of anger and hostility in this bunch of weary travelers.
The orders from Rome were being bitterly opposed but grudgingly obeyed. The census was Caesar's way of keeping the Roman boot on the necks of the Jews. No one liked it, but what could you do? The penalty for rebellion was swift and certain. So they came. It was more than inconvenient. It was galling to the proud people who were united in their common hatred of everything Roman.
Those born of the house of David had to report to the home of David -- to this little town whose name meant "the house of bread." “Well,” thought the innkeeper to himself, “if any more show up, there will be no more bread in this house.”
The mood of the travelers had begun to change. There was an almost festive attitude now. He breathed a sigh of relief as he turned toward the gate of his inn. There were still more seeking admittance. Only a few more, and then he would have to turn them away. There was little enough room now, and some were beginning to complain.
Night was falling. He glanced to the distant hills. The glow of the cooking fires meant that the shepherds of the temple flocks were settling down for the evening.
He laughed to himself about the irony of it. Those dirty, profane shepherds tending animals that were destined to be used for sacrifices in the holy place in the Temple. What a contrast: lowly shepherds and unblemished lambs. Those shepherds wouldn’t even be allowed entrance into the temple grounds to see their perfect animals used in the rituals. They weren’t good enough, but their animals were.
“Oh, well,” he sighed, “who said life was fair.’
He turned again to the gate. More travelers. He had already sent some away. His inn was simply too crowded to accept any more lodgers.
Opening the gate, he saw the two of them standing there. They were sagging against the donkey tied to the post. The three of them had the same look about them. Man, woman, and beast were utterly exhausted. In the dim light, it was hard to distinguish their features. But by the swell of her robe, it was obvious that this was a very pregnant woman.
He stepped outside the gate, holding his lantern high. Concern was etched on the face of the man as he glanced at the woman by his side. She was so young!
The man spoke first. "Please, sir. We have traveled quite a distance. Could you provide lodging for us tonight?"
The others he had turned away in the last hour or so had needed lodging too. But, somehow these two were different. It was more than the fact that the young woman was evidently near her time. There was fear, almost panic, in the eyes of the man whom he had taken to be her husband.
The man spoke again. "I must find shelter for my wife -- quickly."
Glancing over his shoulder, the innkeeper thought, "Couldn't I find a corner somewhere, make a place for her?" He shook his head.
"No, there isn't a place .... there just isn't room----."
"I'm sorry," he said, "there is no room in the inn."
It was as if he had struck the man a blow. Almost staggering, the man moved back to the woman and tenderly placed his arm about her.
".... but if he knew who this child is to be ...." the man whispered to his wife.
"No, Joseph, there will be room -- somewhere." She spoke for the first time, and as she did her eyes met the innkeeper's for just a moment.
He was startled by what he saw there. There was no fear, no panic -- just an incredible peace.
"Wait a moment," he heard himself speaking. "There might be a place. It's not much of a place, mind you, but it just might do. Come with me."
Lifting his lantern, he led the way around the side of the inn's enclosure. Pausing at the back of the fence, he turned to the couple. "You rest here for a while. I won't be long. I need to tidy up a bit."
"Let me help you," the man said.
"No, you stay with her. I'll be back soon."
The innkeeper moved quickly, an urgent excitement surging inside. "She could give birth any minute. I've got to hurry." He did not realize the excitement welling up in his breast was God-induced.
He made his way to the entrance of the cave. Someone, perhaps David and his brothers, had long ago carved out and cleaned out this cave to hold field animals. It was still a crude place -- and right now, a dirty one as well. Most of the stalls were occupied with the animals of his guests, but there was one stall right over there. A little fresh hay, some clean water -- it wouldn't be much, but at least there was room at his inn.
Hurrying outside, he made his way to the waiting pair. "Let me show you the place."
The man helped her to her feet and they made their way carefully but quickly to the cave. Stepping inside, the woman placed her hand on the innkeeper's arm.
"This will be fine." There were tears in those eyes.
"I have to get back to the inn now, but I'll be back later to check on you." He stepped out quickly. He didn't want her to see the moisture forming in his own eyes.
"I've got to get back to business. There are a lot of people in my inn. I'd better pay attention to my paying customers." Paying? "I didn't discuss a fee with those two." His mind raced. Why was he so bothered by this whole thing? He had done a kind deed for a woman and man in need. He had helped a woman who needed a place to give birth. "What's another baby in a world filled with babies? Why is this getting to me so?"
He lost himself in the business of running his overcrowded inn. The night dragged on as he provided supplies, helped draw water, even settled a dispute or two. Drained by his exertions, he stumbled to his own quarters to catch an hour or two of sleep. His rest was a troubled one, despite his fatigue. He kept seeing their faces: the man's, troubled and anxious; the woman's, calm and serene.
"I'll get up in a few minutes and see about them," he told himself.
He dropped off to sleep. What was that noise? It grew louder, more insistent. Someone at the gate -- at this hour? Who could it be? What could be wrong?
Now fully awake, he thought again of the couple in the cave. Could something have happened? Quickly getting up, he hurried into the yard, stepping carefully around sleeping guests.
Snatching the gate open, the innkeeper immediately recognized the noise maker. It was one of those shepherds. He knew him. This one he had caught trying to steal some of his feed last week.
"What do you want, thief?" he growled.
The man had a huge, almost stupid, grin on his face. "She has sent for you. You must come and see!"
"Who has sent for me? See what?" he shouted. "Do you know what time it is?"
Grabbing the innkeeper by the arm, the shepherd pulled him away from the gate. "Just come with me. She wants you to see!" It finally dawned on him what the man meant. "I've seen a baby before," he said, "leave me alone!"
"You've never seen a baby like this one!" The shepherd would not be denied. He pushed and pulled the innkeeper, jabbering a wild tale about angels and lights and music and kings, until the innkeeper finally found himself standing outside the cave. The man, Joseph, was there; the fear and panic was now gone from his face. A different look -- just like hers -- now rested there.
"Please .... come in." Joseph gestured.
Peering inside, the innkeeper saw some more shepherds standing, kneeling, watching. And there, in the corner .... the ordeal of the delivery was written on her features. But her eyes told another story: the eyes of a new mother gazing down at a tiny form nestled against her breast, the eyes that now lifted toward him.
She was softly speaking. "Our people, the whole world, we've been waiting a long, long time for this little one. Thank you for making room for Him."
Turning to look into the dirty but beaming faces of the shepherd, the innkeeper exclaimed, "Who is He? What is He?"
The shepherd whispered loudly, "It's what I've been trying to tell you! The angels sang it for all of us .... 'Joy to the world, the Lord has come'!" Is this the song on your lips this Christmas? Joy to the World, the Lord has come! It will be if you know Jesus.
When God comes to a life in power, it is always a time of rejoicing and expectation for the future! Isaiah described this experience as similar to that of a child born to a previously barren woman. The child's arrival changes everything! Life cannot continue as usual! Whereas the dwelling place might have been large enough for two, it must now be made bigger. The child's presence causes the parents to completely rearrange the way they were living.
Isaiah proclaimed that when God comes, you must make room for Him in your life. You must “enlarge the place of your tent” because God's presence will add new dimensions to your life, your family, and your church. You do not simply “add Christ on” to your busy life and carry on with business as usual. When Christ is your Lord, everything changes. Whereas before you may not have expected good things to come through you or in your life, now you should have a spirit of optimism. You ought to expect your life to become richer and fuller. You can anticipate God blessing others through your life. You can look for God to demonstrate His power through your life in increasing measure.
As a Christian, how do you make room for Christ in your life? You repent of your sin. You allow Christ the freedom to do what He wants in you. You watch eagerly for His activity in your life and in your family and in your church. You live your life with the expectancy that Christ will fill you with His power in the days to come and will “stretch” you to do things in His service that you have never done before.
Do you know Jesus personally? Is He your Lord and Savior? He can be today? You can then join with the shepherds of long ago and with us and sing “Joy to the World, the Lord has come!”
God has made a way for you to come to Him. Jesus is the Way. God wants you in His kingdom today. But first, like the shepherds, you must come. Perhaps you feel unworthy, unclean? You are!
Romans 3:23 says "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
- Admit that you are a sinner. We all are!
Romans 6:23a "...The wages of sin is death..."
- Understand that you deserve death for your sin. We all do!
But, Romans 6:23b "...But the gift of God is eternal
life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
- Ask God to forgive you. He will save you. He saved us!
Remember "God demonstrates His own love for us, in
that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us!" (Rom 5:8)
- Give your life to God... His love poured out in Jesus on the cross is your only hope to have forgiveness and change. His love bought you out of being a slave to sin. His love is what saves you -- not religion, or church membership. God loves you! He loves you!
Romans 10:13 says "Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved!"
- Call out to God in the name of Jesus!
Romans 10:9,10 say "...If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation."
- If you know that God is knocking on your heart's door,
ask Him to come into your heart. Just as the shepherds in our story dragged the innkeeper to the Christ child, God is urging you now to come to Him. Come! He’s knocking on your hearts door.
In Revelation 3:20a "Behold I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him..."
- Is Jesus knocking on your heart's door? Have you opened that door and invited Him in? All you have to do is
Believe in Him.
Ask Him to come in to your heart by faith,
and ask Him to reveal Himself to you.
If you agree with what I’ve just read; if you’ve wish to invite Jesus into your heart as your Savior and Lord, just silently say this prayer with me. Bow your heads with me now:
Dear Lord Jesus
I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sin and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior.
In Your Name, Amen
If you said this prayer, you are now His; you now stand like the shepherds in awe before Immanuel – God with us. And know, the angels are rejoicing that another sinner has come in from the wandering hills to kneel before Him (Luke 15:10) Your sins have been forgiven and you have eternal life in Christ Jesus. You have been born again, you are a child of God. Hallelujah! Praise God! The angels in heaven are rejoicing this morning!