Cheney United Methodist Church
Monday, January 22, 2018
Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World

December 17, 2017

12-17-17
“Come Home For Christmas: And Fill Your Heart with Joy!”

 
I hope you are enjoying our worship theme of “Come Home for Christmas!” Today we take a special look at the “Joy” that God gives. God wants joy to be a natural part of our lives. The dictionary defines joy as: “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. “Tears of joy.” Words you might associate with joy are: delight, happy, rejoice, jubilation, exultation, gladness, and exhilaration, and others. Here is the definition I want us to use: Joy a vigorous jolt of invigorating delight followed by increasing levels of unending pleasure!
 
Are you in need of some joy in your life? Something that lifts your spirits, is invigorating and splashes delight and pleasure into your soul! Joy is something that God knows we need--and He wants you to have it!
 
I hope we can agree for this Sunday, here and now that I might use joy and happiness as if they mean the same thing. Having said that, I want to convey the idea that joy or happiness is a choice. Joy can range from “happy hilarity” on the high end of the scale and a calm joy on the low side of the scale. I think most of us experience the calm joy on a more regular basis. Realize this: you are never going to experience consistent joy or happiness until you make a decision to be happy! One might think that the season of Advent and Christmas has joy built right in? The family coming together, the story of the birth of a baby, and then add the tradition of gift giving--why wouldn’t people be happy? This time of year, can also make people very sad. There might be powerful memories and emotions of broken promises, the loved one who didn’t come home, the disappointment in the Christmas that didn’t really happen one year, the birthday that is overshadowed by the celebration of Christmas or the memories of someone dying in December. It can be terribly hard to be happy when your emotions are blue, your heart is breaking, you are trying to hold it all in and someone says: “Smile, be cheerful, it's Christmas!”
 
The Youth read from Luke 2:7-16. In the Christmas story, the Angel comes to some shepherds--and they are terribly frightened to see an angel covered in glory. The messenger says, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” First, I want you to hear there is Good News--Gospel news. News about what God is doing. The good news is that God has sent a Savior! Second, good news, salvation news always brings joy! To hear about Salvation or to recall our salvation always brings us to Joy. The Shepherds had great joy upon seeing the baby Jesus in the manger. I can imagine they had joy in finding everything just as the Angel told them. Joy in seeing their future King, Savior and Redeemer. They must have had joy in being granted the privilege of being chosen to be part of the story!
 
As you Come Home For Christmas: And Fill Your Heart with Joy, consider how you fit into the story. God’s gift is that He sent His One and only Son to be the Savior. If you have invited Jesus into your heart--then you are part of the story. Jesus is your Savior and you have said, Yes to God’s most precious gift! Keep in mind, there is tremendous joy in our salvation! We celebrate our salvation with joy! Salvation and joy belong together. There is joy on the part of God, joy on the part of Christ, joy on the part of the angels, joy on the part of the church and joy on the part of the one being redeemed! There is good news, a vigorous jolt, spine tingling delight of joy in our salvation!
 
As you Come Home for Christmas, what is going to make this one different? What if you let Jesus be the Savior? What do I mean by that? Well, let’s look at Isaiah 61, it gives us an idea of what the Savior will do. The first two verses are what Jesus read in the synagogue in Nazareth as it is recorded in Luke 4. Jesus stood up and asked for the Scroll of Isaiah. Then he unrolled the scroll to read these words: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor,” Jesus claims that these words are being fulfilled as they hear them. Jesus, God’s only Son is saying, “Look the Holy Spirit of God is upon me and the Father has anointed me to bring good news. Let’s look at that much-Jesus is coming in fulfillment that one from King David’s royal line would be king and his reign would know no end. Typically, in the Old Testament only kings and prophets were anointed with oil. In 1 Samuel 16 we read about David being anointed by Samuel, “Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward.” The Spirit rushed upon David. This is a symbol that David was God’s servant, with power, led by the Spirit and given God’s word to speak; now apply all that and more to Jesus!
 
Full of the Holy Spirit, he comes to bring good tidings to the poor--they are not forgotten by God-the Lord will pour out love and compassion upon them; giving them hope and making their lives better! The Savior-Messiah is sent to bind up the brokenhearted--He brings peace, healing and wholeness.
 
Next, the Savior proclaims liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison. In Isaiah’s day these words came to those in exile and the promise of freedom and the opportunity to go home would be glad tidings indeed. Freedom, going home, are powerful images to captives. In Jesus’ day people would have heard these words and expected the Romans to be pushed out of Israel by the Messiah-King and so many promises and prophecies would be fulfilled. Promises of being restored, prosperity in abundance for every Jew, and peace.
 
Today, we hear the good tidings of liberty and freedom and maybe we think: “That’s for someone else--I’m not a captive. I’m not in prison. I’m not bound!” This is when I want to say, “Let Jesus be your Savior!” If you have not made him your personal Savior--
then you are a captive and you are chained to sin. You are perishing and your future looks dark and dismal. But you can have the joy of salvation--Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Don’t turn your back on good news, This is the day of the Lord’s
favor--God is bending near so that you might get a better look and understand how much He loves you. Jesus has done everything He needs to do to make your Salvation possible--all you need to do is to admit that you can’t save yourself. Everything you have tried has failed. His arms are open wide to embrace you and show you a better way!
 
Let’s get back to Isaiah 61, “to comfort all who mourn; 3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.” “To comfort all who mourn;” While they were in exile they mourned for all that they had lost, the Temple, their way of life, cut off from other family, a loss of all their land and property--and in a sense many felt like they had lost God. They mourned their sin and brokenness. In the Jewish custom, when you mourn your cover your head with soot and ashes and you tear your clothes to show outwardly how broken and miserable you are inwardly. Now the Savior says, I will take away your mourning, I will wipe clean your ashes, place on your head the victors garland, and anoint you with the oil of gladness. This is also a reference to filling the believer with the Holy Spirit with joy and gladness. An amazing change has taken place--you were filled with mourning and sadness; now you are filled with the Holy Spirit and joy. Your clothes were torn, now you have a robe of praise and righteousness to wear. You were exiled and lost and despised and you hung your head low. Now in God’s eyes you are oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord. All of this is so that God might be glorified! There is tremendous joy in the mighty acts of salvation--all the angels are rejoicing, and God is very pleased!
 
Won’t you Come Home for Christmas: And have your Heart filled with Joy! You are the reason why He came. It’s time to surrender your heart to Him, and let Him show you what a life lived in His love can be. Don’t wait any longer! Don’t miss out this Christmas Fill Your Heart with Joy!