He's Still Bringing Us Great Joy [12-29-19]

Updated: Feb 3


Here's where we left off last week.


Joy is here. Joy is sent into our lives. And from the Wise Men we learn a third truth about joy:

JOY IS A JOURNEY.

Joy is a process of life. Joy doesn't happen from one instant to the next. But joy is a journey…it is fluid and mobile. Wherever we go to, there is joy. Whatever we do, there is joy. And as we're making the journey, there is joy.

What happened with the Wise Men? Listen to Matthew 2:1-10:


Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:


“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”


Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.


First, before we get to the joy part, here are some things we know about the Magi:


We don't know how many of them there were. They brought three specific kinds of gifts, but were never told how many Wise Men there were. People like that usually traveled in large groups, perhaps as many as twelve {think Jesus and his disciples}.


The visit probably happened some time when Jesus was between 6 months - 2 years old. Verse 11 tells us that they saw the child with Mary, a word used for a child older than an infant. Luke 2:12 specifically uses the word for newborn baby.


Matthew also says they went into the house.


While Herod knew the baby was to be born in Bethlehem, the Magi deliberately did not tell him where they were going next. Matthew 2:9 simply says they followed the star to where the child was.


So, if you put Wise Men in your manger scene, it is not Biblically accurate. Leave the manger scene up through the New Year, adding wise men after the first week of January.


So the Wise Men have been on the road a long time. And the joy is building, until verse 10 tells us, "When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy."


Notice the process. They just didn't push a button and bam!, joy.


Here's one of the ways the process works. Psalm 30:5 says, "Crying may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning." Even in the tears, God is close at hand. Out of those tears, as you spend time with God, joy shows up. Joy is a journey.


Jesus himself taught this when he said, in John 16:20, "You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy."


What does Jesus mean? How does that happen? You cry your way to joy.

When you know that God is there with you in your tears, in your grief, you find joy in His presence. That's where you find joy that transcends your circumstances.


Here's what happens, though. Some people don't have patience for the process of joy. So they look for the quick fix. They look for the new thrill. Huey Lewis and the News sang about it in their classic 80s hit, "I Want a New Drug." People look for joy in a new relationship. The best relationships are those where each person brings the joy they already have to the relationship. Over the course of several decades of ministry, I've even seen people church-hopping, looking for something new. They don't need a new church. What they need is lasting joy. Joy is about a journey.


When you find yourself drifting away from joy, read the Psalms. Psalm 148:13 says:

Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above earth and heaven.

How good is that? Here's the picture the Psalmist plants in our minds. The phrase "his majesty is above earth and heaven," gives us the sense of God towering over us. No matter what circumstance you're facing, God is towering over that circumstance. Whatever the problem or challenging situation, God towers over it. Are you in pain? God towers over it. Are you feeling inadequate? God towers over it. Has somebody hurt you? God towers over it. God is greater than all those things and He's going to last longer than any of those things. That's the journey of joy.


So here's what you do. You step out into the journey of joy. Christmas - Immanuel - God-is-with-us. God is with you in whatever you're facing right now. That's the joy of the journey.

The fourth truth we learn about joy is from Simeon:

JOY IS SCARY.

We don't know Simeon as well as we know the shepherds and the Magi. Listen to what Simeon says in Luke 2:34-35:


And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed {and a sword will pierce through your own soul also}, so that thoughts from many hearts will be revealed.


So here's Simeon telling an honest truth about joy. There are some people who, when they hear the truth about Jesus, they're going to fall. Others are going to have great joy.


The question is, who falls? I think we all know. Anyone who doesn't welcome Jesus into their hearts is going to have a great fall. Anyone who thinks they have it made and won't humble themselves before Jesus will have a great fall. This is horrible, right? Darkness and despair await those who reject Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. That's what Simeon is talking about.


But the people who recognize that Jesus came to give them something they never had, those are the people who will have great joy.


Here's the scary part for us. In order to have true joy, we have to let go of everything else that we think will bring us joy.


You can build your whole life on a love of money, but that's not true joy. You can build your whole life on an education, but that's not true joy. You can build your whole life around your family, but as wonderful as that may be, it is not true joy. You can build your whole life on a favorite sports team, but that's not true joy. Can you tell where this is going? And when these pursuits don't bring true and lasting joy, what do people do? They invest more energy and time into them. I'll just keep building and building and building.


But here comes Jesus, saying he wants you to have a great family. He wants you to have a great career. He wants you to have great friends. He wants you to have great hobbies. But true and lasting joy isn't found in any of those things. True and lasting joy is only found connecting with Jesus through a relationship with him. And even if you have lousy health or a lousy career or a lousy family, you can still find joy. Because true and lasting joy is in Christ and Christ alone.


Now, are you ready for the scary moment? Imagine you're hanging off the side of a cliff. You're hanging on for dear life with both hands on a branch. The branch represents that one thing you think is going to bring you joy. Whatever it is, you think it's the one thing saving your life.


Then here comes Jesus. He comes along and he throws you a rope. He says, "Grab on. I want to give you joy." But to grab on you've got to let go. You've got to let go with at least one hand. That is a scary moment.


So what's your branch? What are you holding on to for dear life that you think is going to give you joy? In one sense, we all become like gamblers. Just one more pull of the lever. Just one more try. Just one more deal of the cards. Then I'll get true and lasting joy. But it doesn't work that way. Simeon says as much. Some will walk away from Jesus and they will fall. But joy is in walking with Jesus. It's letting go of the branch and grabbing the rope. You were meant to get your joy from Jesus Christ. That's why God sent him into the world. So you could grab on to that rope. Have you faced that scary moment?


I want to close with something Jesus said in Matthew 10:39:

If you don't go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don't deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you'll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you'll find both yourself and me.

Here's what I want you to do. If you were to make line from here to there, with no joy at one end and true and lasting joy at the other, where would you be right now? Wherever you're at, Matthew 10:39 is the way to true and lasting joy. Look to Jesus. Look to Bethlehem. Look to the cross. Look to the empty tomb. Joy isn't found in trusting myself, or in my circumstances or in my situation or in my achievements. True joy is found in Christ and Christ alone.


That's a choice you can make right now. Are you going to connect with Jesus Christ? Let's take a few moments to talk to him…

Amen.

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