Good News of Great Joy!

Luke 2:8-11

8In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 
9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.   10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:  11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.

さて、この土地に、羊飼いたちが、野宿で夜番をしながら羊の群れを見守っていた。 すると、主の使いが彼らのところに来て、主の栄光が回りを照らしたので、彼らはひどく恐れた。 10 御使いは彼らに言った。「恐れることはありません。今、私はこの民全体のためのすばらしい喜びを知らせに来たのです。 11 きょうダビデの町で、あなたがたのために、救い主がお生まれになりました。この方こそ主キリストです。

The traditional themes for the four Sundays of Advent are – faithfulness; hope; joy; and love.  Today happens to be the 3rd Sunday of Advent, which means that I am to cover the topic of joy.

I first thought this was a bit ironic, since in these strange times, I was not having too much problem being faithful, hopeful or feeling the importance of love, but being joyful was not a frequent state in which I found myself.

From my perspective, as one who has been saved by God through the work of His Son on the cross, and having accepted Jesus Christ as my savior and lord, the only path I see for myself is to be faithful.  The Lord has revealed new ways to serve Him through the pandemic, using tools such as Zoom and YouTube, taking advantage of the wider reach we have compared to face-to-face. 

Seeing people come to know Christ, as well as seeing people growing spiritually through these media, it is easy for me to feel hopeful, even in these times. Plus, in difficult times, when so many things are out of our hands, the only thing we can really hang our hopes on is the Lord.

There are so much strife and obvious hate in our society now, it is also obvious that if we are going to make any impact for the Lord, it must be by love and not hate.  We must be able to manifest God’s love to others, regardless of how we feel.  We must act in love and in unity.

Now we go back to joy.  I think that in these times of pandemic and restrictions that we are under, many things that would normally give us joy have been suspended for now.  Getting together with our families who are not part of our household; dining out; going to the movies; meeting together for Sunday morning church services; going on a trip on an airplane.

At the same time, joy can often be very temporary.  The joy of a promotion into a new job can quickly dampen when you realize how much added responsibility and pressure there is and that you do not know what you are doing.  The joy of getting a new guitar can fade when you realize that although you can produce different kinds of sound, it does not improve your playing.  The joy of getting a larger, higher resolution TV wows you at the beginning, but soon that becomes the norm and no longer a source of joy.  The joy of getting a new car can fade over time as you get used to having it and the dents and the scratches start to accumulate.

What about things pertaining to our faith?  Did you feel great joy when you found out that the God of the universe loves you and sent His Son to die for you?  But did that excitement somewhat fade into the background as it became the norm?  What about the sense of joy that should be there when you get to worship God with other believers on Sunday mornings?  Did that also start to feel routine or even a little like a chore you must do?

Let us get back to this morning’s text.  The angel tells us that he is bringing us good news of great joy for all the people.  That includes us.  What is this news that is supposed to bring us great joy?  It is, “To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord”.

The Jews have been waiting for 400 years to hear from God again, since Malachi.  Now not only the silence is broken, with it comes the great news that the Messiah has been born that day.  The one who will reign forever as king of Israel and will come to rule the world.

This would not be such a joyous thing for the non-Jews, but the angel tells us that this good news is for all the people, and not just the Jews.  God is going to make salvation and the cleansing of sins available to all the people, including us.

This is great news – a joy worthy news.  If salvation and eternal life is assured to us, then the big worry about what is going to happen to me after I die goes away.  Then I can start living life boldly for the Lord.  Also, this is available to all our loved ones, so they too can be assured of salvation and eternal life.

Again, the funny thing about joy is that once you possess something that gives you joy, you get used to it and it becomes the norm.  Now things that are worth much less than salvation and eternal life start to take some joy away.  Things like not being able to dine out or get together with friends and family for Christmas, etc.  In our heads and in our heart, we know we should be feeling great joy and appreciation that the Savior was born over 2000 years ago.  But sometimes it is hard to feel the joy.

How can we remedy this?  Because if non-believers keep running into non-joyous Christians, they are going to conclude that whatever Christ offers must not be much, since it is not bringing joy to these people.

We should focus on all the good things God has given us and appreciate them.  We should realize in our heads that the angel was right, and that we should be joyful for what happened that day in Bethlehem, and we should try to change our attitude to be more joyful, at least when we are around others.  We can choose how to act and how to respond – we can do it with the help of the Holy Spirit.  We as Christians can choose to act like joyful Christians, or not.  It is surprising how our outlook can turn positive if we let the Holy Spirit turn it in a positive direction.

Once we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, we should be doing Kingdom work in appreciation for what God has freely given us.  Part of this work is to be previews of the Kingdom.  I am certain that eternity with the Lord and all His believers is going to be a joyful place.  Let’s let the not-yet Christians see that through us.

(The above is a summary of the message shared with us by Shun Takano, during our Sunday morning worship zoom session on December 13th)