Sunday, December 23, 2018

[Matt's Messages] "Great Joy"

“Great Joy”
December 23, 2018
Luke 2:10

I have two favorite Christmas carols. Do you know what they are?

This is my 21st Christmas as your pastor, so by now you might be able to guess.

I have two favorites and they are both because of the rich theology embedded in them.

One of them is “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”

“Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail the incarnate Deity.
Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel.”

That’s some good stuff there on the meaning of Christmas!

What do you think is the other one?

I’m sure you’ve looked at the end of the order of service and already figured it out.

“Joy to the World!”

And that’s what I want to talk about today.

Joy. Great joy.

The angel said to the shepherds (v.10), “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

Good news of great joy for all the people.

In other words, “Joy to the World!”

What is joy?

I mean, we all know what it is, but it’s kind of hard to define.

And the world has so many counterfeits.

What is joy?

At my house, I have Heather Joy, and I have Robin Joy.

They are two of my greatest joys.

But what is joy itself?

Joy is satisfaction.

Joy is a thirst quenched.

Joy is a delight in something that refreshes you.

True joy is delightful satisfaction in God and what He has done.

The theme of joy is all over the Bible.

From cover to cover, you could say that the Bible is a story of joy.

Joy in creation. Joy lost in the Fall. Joy regained piece by piece as the story of redemption unfolds.

Joy in the psalms, especially. Rejoice! My cup overflows!

And then joy restored as the Savior comes.

The angel said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy.”

The Greek of verse 10 is literally, “mega chara.” Mega Joy!

Joy to the World. The Lord is come.

Because of Christmas, because of the Incarnation, because Jesus has come, Christians have every reason to rejoice.

That’s why Joe led us in “Good Christian Men, Rejoice!”

And Good Christian Women and Boys and Girls, too, rejoice!

With heart and soul and voice!

Jesus Christ is born today.


The Bible says that joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit.

It’s number 2 in the list.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy...” and so forth.

Joy is part of the normal experience of every Christian.

The Apostle Peter says, “In this you greatly rejoice...[You believe in Jesus and you] are [currently] filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

Joy has come with Jesus, and it’s better than regular old happiness.

Now, “happiness” is not bad. And it’s not a bad word.

But joy is a better thing and a better word.

It’s deeper and fuller and richer and more meaningful.

Joy! Joy! Joy!

Great Joy Right Now.

Because Jesus has been born, we have every reason to rejoice.

It was joy that led Jesus to the Cross.

Hebrews says, “For the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the Cross.”

Jesus’ joy in God, Jesus’ delightful satisfaction in His Father and what His Father would do for us in saving us eternally was enough to motivate Jesus to die on the Cross for our sins, taking our place.

Joy! We have every reason to rejoice right now.

I think that “joy” is my favorite word when it comes to Christmas.

The close runners up are Love, Hope, Gift, and Peace. I think some years they win over joy.

But joy is right there up at the top.

Joy because Jesus came.

Great joy right now.

That was what Bryanna’s prayer was for Anna Leigh, wasn’t it?

That she would abound in “joy” from Romans 15:13, right?

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Amen.

Notice in our verse that the great joy comes from the good news.

“The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

It’s that good news (the gospel) about Jesus that brings us true and lasting joy.

Even in the middle of great trials and suffering.

Especially in the middle of great trials and suffering!

Earthly happiness comes and goes, it burns off under the sun of suffering.

But joy can exist in the hardest of times, warm in the heart of those who have Jesus.

In fact, the Bible says that we are to have joy at those times when are suffering.

James says in chapter 1 of his letter, “Consider it pure [....what?] joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”

Not that we love the trials!

But that we know that the trials will be used for God’s purposes in our lives, perfecting us. And James says that that’s worth rejoicing in.

Everything is worth rejoicing in because Jesus came that first Christmas.

Now, you might be hurting real bad right now.

A lot of people have great grief at Christmastime.

You’ve lost someone.

The Dobos lost Carolyn this month.

It’s been 8 years since we lost Heather’s mom Linda in December. Robin was just 10.

This can be a really hard time of the year.

And when the grief comes, it’s right to cry. It’s right to mourn.

But Christians mourn differently, too. We grieve in hope.

And a hope that doesn’t disappoint. We can both grieve and rejoice at the same time.

Because we know Jesus.

We miss Carolyn. But at the same time, we rejoice for her.

And we know that because Jesus came, we will see her again.

Because of Jesus, we have every reason to rejoice.

Good news of Great Joy Right Now.

But this is not all that there is. Remember what we learned last week?


This angel in verse 10 was talking about Jesus’ first coming. His first advent.

But Jesus didn’t bring all of the blessings of His kingdom right away.

The King came that first Christmas, but the Kingdom has not yet full arrived!

There is a second advent, a second coming of the King that we are still looking forward to, a second time for Jesus to bring GREAT JOY to the World in all of its fullness.

I don’t know about you, but the more Christmases I experience, the more I think, not about Jesus’ first coming, but about Jesus’ second coming.

You know, that’s what Isaac Watts was thinking about when he wrote the hymn, “Joy to the World?”

If you turn to it in your hymnal (#125), you’ll see what I mean.

We often sing it at Christmas. I remember singing it as a little boy in church. I loved the echo part of the chorus: “And heaven and nature sing...And heaven and nature sing.”

But even though we sing it at Christmastime, it’s not really about Luke 2.

It’s about the return of Jesus and the great joy that will come to the world when that great event happens.

Joy to the World! The Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing!

Can you imagine what that will be like?

Joy to the earth! The Savior reigns.

Yes, there is a sense in which He reigns now. All authority has been given to Jesus.

But His reign is contested now. Remember last week? The weeds are sown in the wheat. An enemy has done this.

But someday soon, Jesus’ reign will be universal and uncontested.

Joy to the earth! The Savior reigns.
Let Men Their Songs Employ!
While fields and floods, rock, hills, and plains repeat 
The sounding joy!
Repeat the sounding joy!

All of nature is going to be happy and delighted and full of joy.

Isaac Watts got this idea from Psalm 98.  He was making a hymn out of the thoughts of Psalm 98 transposed into a Christian key.

This is what Psalm 98 says:

“Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things;
his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.
The LORD has made his salvation known 
and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to the house of Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram's horn–shout for joy before the LORD, the King.

Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.  
Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy;
let them sing before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. 
He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.”

The world is personified as feeling the pains of the curse.

Romans 8 says that the creation groans and waits in eager expectation for the return of Christ.

But when Jesus returns, the whole world (not just His people!) will have great joy!

No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground (The curse from Genesis 3)
He comes to make His blessings flow 
Far as the curse is found, Far as the curse is found

That’s my favorite line in that song.

How far does the curse extend right now?

It gets down into our very DNA, doesn’t it?

There is nowhere that is untouched by the curse.

Life is not as it should be.

Cancer, for example, is not the way it should be.
War is not the way it should be.
Death is not the way it should be!

But Jesus is going to reverse the curse someday soon.

Reverse the curse!

He will make His blessings known as far as the curse is currently found.

He’s going to roll back the curse and make everything new.

Revelation 21

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. [Are you crying this Christmas?]

There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’

He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’

Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’

He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.’”

That’s is great joy!

Joy to the World, to the whole entire world[!], someday soon.

Remember last week? The birds of the air will nest in the branches of the mustard tree. And “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”

He rules the world with truth and grace 
and makes the nations prove
the glories of his righteousness
and the wonders of His love.
The wonders of His love.

Brothers and sisters, we have every reason to rejoice.

And every reason to spread that joy.

Joy to the world in missions.

Let the nations be glad!

Let the nations rejoice!

Because there is good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

We need to live in expectation, in anticipation of that joy.

And to share it with others.

I don’t have more to say than this.

Let this Christmas be a Christmas of GREAT JOY for those of us who know Jesus.

Great Joy to the World, the Lord Has Come!


Astute readers will recognize a good bit of this from a previous sermon, Christmas 2010.

It's just as true today!