Sermons

Christmas JOY:

"Christmas is about Jesus"

Pastor Terry Inman

12-4-16

 

Our Christmas theme at Harbor Light this year is JOY. Christmas is all about Jesus, Others and You! After we chose this theme I noticed, “JOY” Christmas décor on sale everywhere! Plates, plaques, pillows with this three-letter exclamation JOY!

 

JOY is not for sale. You can’t buy real Christmas JOY. Joy is a “fruit” or product of the Holy Spirit. There is a lot of tension in the world right now. We could all use a little more joy! “J” Christmas is all about Jesus!

 

The world Jesus was born into desperately needed his JOY. So an aerial display of angels broadcast the birth of joy to terrified shepherds!

Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you;  he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2.10-11)

 

Today we begin a new study of the third gospel—Stories with Luke. In Luke’s version of the good news, JOY all over the place. Luke a physician was a fervent follower of Jesus. He was a close companion to the Apostle Paul. Luke was also a great storyteller!

 

In a facebook message Sherri Prewitt encouraged me to consider doing a series from Luke, my favorite gospel. I texted her back, “Wow great idea! How about “Jesus the great physician though the eyes of a good doctor”

 

I want to follow Luke around for a few months because is the only Gentile writer in the New Testament. He reaches out to all cultures. His stories are so full of acceptance, mercy, compassion and forgiveness.

 

He is the only writer to include the parable of the Good Samaritan, the story of the Prodigal son and the remarkable encounter Jesus had with a detested tax collector named Zacchaeus.

 

Advent is an adventure. It means coming or arrival. This is a month long anticipation of Jesus coming. He came, he comes and he will come again.

Luke brings Jesus home, very close to us. I want to get closer to Jesus—not just his teaching, or his miracles but His tangible presence in us now.

Here’s how the story begins. “So many others have tried their hand at putting together a story of the wonderful harvest of Scripture and history that took place among us, using reports handed down by the original eyewitnesses who served this Word with their very lives. Since I have investigated all the reports in close detail, starting from the story’s beginning, I decided to write it all out for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can know beyond the shadow of a doubt the reliability of what you were taught. (Luke 1.1-4 NIV)

 

Luke mentions other reporters. He gathered much from them. But he is the only writer that covers the nativity narrative with so much detail.

 

Mark skips it altogether and begins with Jesus’ adult ministry. Matthew opens like a page from Ancestry.com. He traces Jesus’ royal roots to King David. Matthew’s childbirth account is more focused on Joseph, a kind and gentle man. He is a stark contrast to the brutal King Herod.

 

John’s gospel skips the human story and begins with heaven’s story. He presents the pre-existent Son of God as the word that brings light and life.

With Matthew we get Christ’s prophetic destiny. With John we see his divinity. With Luke we touch his humanity. Here God is a bundle of JOY!

 

No one could cover this epic-birth better than Dr. Luke. Who knows—He probably delivered babies. Luke features angelic appearances, the women and their miracle pregnancies, poor sheepherders and homeless parents.

 

This sounds like a doctor—he makes every effort to be historically accurate, investigating eyewitnesses, recording detailed accounts for reliability. His story is addressed to fellow professional named Theophilus.

 

We know very little about Theophilus. His Greek name means, “God friend”. Luke gives him the title, most excellent, (honorable) Theophilus”.

He was certainly a man of influence—a “seeker” possibly a Roman official.

 

Luke’s story is more than historical data. He also introduces us to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit reveals things. His power envelops Mary and she conceives. His Spirit even fills expectant wombs. (Luke 1.14) Wow this says much about the value of pre-born infants! Even old men prophesied!

Joy is all about anticipation or expectation. This first chapter is full of expectation and preparation for the arrival of two miracle babies.  

 

Little children get really excited about Christmas. It’s not the lights, the cookies, Santa or even Jesus--it’s the packages, the presents especially the toys! Christmas is all about Jesus—are we anticipating Jesus?

The best present we can unwrap this season is His loving presence!

 

Our firstborn son was a Christmas baby. Jeremy was actually born on the 26th we just couldn’t get him into this world until after mid-night. It’s not the best for birthday gifts—sometimes they get merged with Christmas.

 

Can you remember when you learned you were expecting your first child? Typically it’s pretty exciting for a young couple. At the very least it’s surprising. Babies bring a lot of JOY!

 

For Zechariah the expectant Father of John it didn’t start out that joyful. Luke says this priestly couple, Zechariah and Elizabeth, were upright in the sight of God”. They were blameless but childless. (Luke 1.5-7 NIV)

Zechariah, an aging priest won the lottery, a once in a lifetime chance to burn incense in the Temple. Crowds were gathered outside in anticipation of this sacred event. Lighting the altar fire was a sign of God’s presence. An unprepared priest may not make it out of this Holy chamber alive.

 

Luke says, suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared to the right of the altar. Zechariah was “startled and gripped with fear”! Authentic Angel encounters can be a bit overwhelming. “Fear not” is a very common conversation starter for biblical angels! This angel had some good news!

 

“Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. (Luke 1.14-15 MSG)

 

Just the arrival of Jesus’ forerunner John brought great joy! The angel said, John would be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth! He will turn many sons and daughters of Israel back to their God. Like Elijah, he will soften the hearts of parents toward children, and get people ready for God.

 

Zachariah was still in shock he had a hard time believing it all. Maybe he thought the smoke was getting to him. He was a practical man. He needed just a little more proof. He questioned the angel. “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” (v.18)

 

He got his evidence it all right. Don’t mess with angels. “I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God, sent especially to bring you this glad news. But because you won’t believe me, you’ll be unable to say a word until the day of your son’s birth. Every word I’ve spoken to you will come true on time—God’s time.” (Luke 1.19 MSG)

 

Failure to trust God’s promises can leave you tongue-tied. But even that was used to bring joy to a lot of people. When he went outside the people all knew something went down in the Temple. He quickly learned sign language. When John was born his tongue was loosed to sing praises.     

 

Elizabeth was pretty happy to hear the good news. Shame was often connected to bareness. When Elisabeth discovered her pregnancy she joyfully said, “The Lord has done this for me. He has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” (Luke 1.25 NIV)

 

Anticipation of Jesus arrival replaces doubt, fear and shame with JOY!

 

Six months into Elizabeth’s pregnancy God sends his agent Gabriel to a small backwater village of Nazareth. He delivers a message to Mary, a poor young country girl engaged to a Joseph an older local woodworker.  

 

Mary’s reaction to the angel’s strange greeting is expected. “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” She was “highly favored” but also “greatly troubled”. Luke says she wondered what kind of greeting this might be. Gabriel assured her she had nothing to fear—she had found favor (grace) with God. (Luke 1.28-30 NIV)

 

Quoting the ancient Prophet Isaiah he said, “You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus. He will be great, be called ‘Son of the Highest.’ The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David; He will rule Jacob’s house forever—no end, ever, to his kingdom.” (Luke 1.31-33 NIV)

Zachariah was in disbelief but Mary was just wondering how this would happen to a virgin. When Gabriel explained it and reminded her of her cousin’s extraordinary pregnancy she joyfully accepted God’s favor!

 

Here’s Luke’s account in the Message. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the Highest hover over you; Therefore, the child you bring to birth will be called Holy, the Son of God. And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months’ pregnant! Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.” (Luke 1.36-37 MSG)

 

JOY doesn’t always come the way we expect it. It can come in some confusing but surprising packages! Mary said, “Yes, I see it all now: I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say.”

 

Some commentaries say all young Jewish girls grew up with the hope that they may someday mother the Messiah. I don’t know about that but Mary seemed to anticipate with JOY the arrival of little Jesus.

 

She immediately packed up and headed off to the hills to stay with cousin Elisabeth who would better understand her awkward pregnancy. She also avoided the small town chatter in Nazareth.

 

Something that would catch Luke’s attention as a Godly Physician is referenced in (v. 41) “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”

 

Both Elizabeth and Mary break out in prophetic songs. This is a teenage girl and an older cousin breaking down the generation gap with joy filled praise. Christmas is all about Jesus. Anticipating his arrival brings JOY!

 

Women may relate to this easier than us guys. But gentleman remember this is a Doctor that wants us men, like the Honorable Theophilus, to make sure we don’t miss any important detail of this incredible story.

 

Luke says Elisabeth got loud and she sang out “exuberantly”, “You’re so blessed among women, and the babe in your womb, also blessed! And why am I so blessed that the mother of my Lord visits me? The moment the sound of your greeting entered my ears, The babe in my womb skipped like a lamb for sheer joy. Blessed woman, who believed what God said, believed every word would come true! (Luke 1.42 MSG)

 

Luke must have like concerts because he records every lyric of Mary’s joyful response. Mary’s song is traditionally called the Magnificat. She magnifies and amplifies the goodness and faithfulness of God.

 

The Message bible catches Mary’s informed and spirit inspired singing.

We don’t know the tune and cant sing it but let’s stand and declare it!  

 

“I’m bursting with God-news; I’m dancing the song of my Savior God. God took one good look at me, and look what happened—I’m the most fortunate woman on earth! What God has done for me will never be forgotten, the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others. His mercy flows in wave after wave on those who are in awe before him. He bared his arm and showed his strength, scattered the bluffing braggarts. He knocked tyrants off their high horses, pulled victims out of the mud. The starving poor sat down to a banquet; the callous rich were left out in the cold. He embraced his chosen child, Israel; he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high. It’s exactly what he promised, beginning with Abraham and right up to now."

 

If the politics or the pressures of this season have you down-- let him lift you up! Christmas is all about Jesus. Advent means, He’s coming. He came, He comes, He’s coming again.

 

With Dr. Luke let’s anticipate the JOY of His presence!