This year at Christmas, at First Baptist Church, Lafayette, we have been on a journey to Activate Advent. We are considering the Advent themes of hope, peace, joy, and love. Sunday, I preached on the subject of joy. Joy and Christmas should be inextricably linked. I urge you to read Luke 1:67-79.
You will recognize it as a song. Before we get to this song, I want to quickly say that there is a whole lot of singing in the opening chapters of the Gospel of Luke, and as well there should be. After 400 years of silence since the prophets, the news of the birth of the Savior is reason for rejoicing.
• Mary sings—“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.” (Luke 1:46)
• Zechariah sings as recorded in Luke 1:67-79.
• The multitude of the heavenly host along with the angel sings: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors.”
• The shepherds glorified and praised God.
• Simeon praised God.
• Anna praised God.
Christmas—the celebration of the coming of Christ into our world ought to bring about unparalleled joy in our lives.
Isaac Watts wrote the words to the hymn, “Joy to the World.” He penned the words not so much as a Christmas song, but as part of a larger work that he titled, Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament. His words are inspired by Psalm 98. Indeed Watts’ words reveal three aspects of Jesus’ advent—that of His coming into our world as a baby, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, and the return of Christ.
It is hard not to think of this hymn when thinking of the Joy of Christmas.
Zechariah illustrated that joy as well. His joy was personal. He had all but given up on having children. “Well along in years” and “his wife barren,” (Luke 1:7) the news of a son was reason for joy. Then, he had been mute we presume for nine months, maybe even more, so there is joy that he is able to speak again. But none of this is the stated reason for his joy. His song has to do with Messiah. God is visiting His people through Messiah being born.
Why joy? The reason for their joy is the reason for our joy.
There is Joy in Christmas because . . .
• Salvation is provided.
Zechariah’s song is filled with references to salvation: redemption, horn of salvation, salvation, mercifully, remembered, covenant, privilege, rescued from our enemies’ clutches, knowledge of salvation, through the forgiveness of their sins, and God’s merciful compassion. All of these words and phrases are allusions to salvation.
The New Testament reveals “The Reasons that He came.” He came to save sinners. He came to destroy the works of the Devil. He came to give His life as a ransom for many. This is why we activate joy.
• Scripture is proven.
I get this out of verse 70. How do we know the Bible is true? Part of the reason is because of Christmas.
The Bible validates itself with the accuracy of prophetic predictions. The prophets of the Old Testament is the correct prophesy of the Messiah—details of Jesus’ birth, life, and death are all prophesied with accuracy centuries before Jesus’ coming.
We can celebrate at Christmas with joy that the Bible we hold in our hands is true. When the shepherds returned from visiting the baby lying in a manger, they are glorifying and praising God “for all that they had seen and heard, just as they had been told.”
We can do the same.
• There is strength for the present.
I get this in verse 74 and again in verse 79. Indeed, we praise God for His salvation. By faith, our sins are forgiven and we have a future in heaven. But, we have strength for the present now. He has not left us alone. He is with us now. Remember—He is Immanuel, God with us. There is strength to serve Him, strength to be holy, strength to live in the age of darkness, and strength to guide us in peace day by day.
So What? How do we activate joy?
• Sing with joy to the Lord.
• Show the joy of the Lord.
Some will convinced by a recitation of facts, but most will be moved by a fascination of our faith expressed in the joy they see in us.
• Share the joy of the Lord.
Let this be a Christmas season to activate joy.
(This post is based on the message “Be the Change in a Changing World” which you can watch at fbclaf.org/video)